I was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott LyI was pleasantly surprised by winning Hulick's Among Thieves in the Good Reads First Reads giveaway. I was told by a friend it reminded her of Scott Lynch and I can clearly see why. There are shades of Locke Lamora in Drothe, but only that, shades. I was reminded of Joe Abercrombie's Logen Ninefingers, perhaps. Either way, Drothe is a singular character, one that you're never sure what he's going to do or how you will feel about it. He is clever, he is desperate and he is amusing. He's also a dangerous, murderous member of the underground. He's not snow-white as a protagonist and that makes him a more interesting and thus more fun to read about for 400 pages. Hulick's writing is clever, descriptive and best of all, very engaging. He has created a thriving world, a unique Empire, an interesting theology, different magic system, culture and history. The book was exciting, interesting and wasn't too predictable for fantasy fare. There's very little reliance on magic to solve all Drothe's problems, and I was reluctant to finish as fast as I did. The magic system is fairly straightforward, but is unlike others in fantasy I've read and it was a pleasure to read a new idea on glimmer, as it's called. I highly enjoyed this first novel in his work, and I look forward to picking up the rest of them as he publishes (which I hope is soon!) More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a sRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Without a doubt my absolute favorite of these four books, The Iron Knight was a fantastic finale to a series I've come to love. Though it was strange initially for me to not read Meghan's internal thoughts and concerns, the switch to Ash's POV for the final volume was a brilliant decision; one that allows the reader to once again see the Nevernever in a completely different light. It's a bold, fresh take on a well-loved and familiar world. It certainly helps that Ash was my favorite character (with the possible exception of Grimalkin), but the transition between the two differing viewpoints/characters was smooth and handled well. In this fourth novel, Ash is faced with the impossibility of being with his love in a realm poisonous to his very being. Determined fey that he is, Ash sets out in The Iron Knight to find a way to his love.
I have stated in previous reviews that I was tremendously impressed with the character arc Meghan had over the three books centering on her. I have to admit I was even more impressed with the depth, and care with which Ash has emerged from a shallow, silent killer into a real, conscientious being. Ash's own personal evolution takes place over a much shorter time than Meghan's (though he started to defrost in The Iron Queen) but it is rich, believably filled with pain and hope. Through Ash and his struggles, Julie Kagawa openly explores what it means to be human. Is it loving another beyond caring for oneself? Is it expressing regret and atoning for the wrongs committed? Ash must face questions unknowable with hard answers and repercussions if he is to be with his Queen in the Iron Realm. The once unassailable Winter Prince is revealed as human after all (forgive the saying). His moments of weakness, remorse, sorrow and joy are all spelled out in ways unseen in previous novels. This lowering of the wall of Ash's solitude makes him a far more real character.
This is a series that has improved with each successive novel. Each time the plot grew more complete, the atmosphere more enveloping and compelling, the characters more vivid. This is no exception: even the dialogue between frenemies Ash and Puck is at the best its been. There's a perfect balance of humor to level out the emotional and platonic tension. The interplay between both, without Meghan referring, is also an exposition minefield. Finally, more details on life before Meghan emerge: the reader can see the former closeness between the two fey, as well as the latent hostility. Even the mysterious figure of Ariella does not remain nearly as much of a cypher as she was before this book. The pacing was also top-notch, with a firm nod to a more creepy feel than the previous books; the numerous, varied adventures the band stumbles through were diverting and kept the pages moving at a steady pace. Kagawa's great talent for storytelling, along with the easy, smooth flow of the novel creates a story and world the reader is reluctant to put down.
Though missing several players from earlier stories, and adding a few completely (read: JAW-DROPPING) additions, the Iron Knight is not to be missed. Ending a well-loved story/series with delicacy and care is a hard accomplishment. Thankfully, Julie Kagawa can be grouped with J.K. Rowling as authors who were true to their characters, their world, and their fans. This book gets a very well done from me, along with the melancholy knowledge that I will never again have an Iron Fey novel before me. I highly recommend this series....more
This is a novel that crept up on me. It exceeded my expectations - a rather hard thing toRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.75 out of 5.
This is a novel that crept up on me. It exceeded my expectations - a rather hard thing to do with a book about a SUPERVOLCANO (get ready, I love volcanoes so any time it is mentioned it will be in all caps) - and I also enjoyed it more than I had anticipated from the first chapter. This is the story of Alex, a 15 almost 16 year old typical teenage boy. The generation after "the 9/11 generation" Alex's life takes place in the somewhat-but-not-too distant future in America. The first person perspective was an interesting experience for me in this novel for one reason: I don't read a lot of male teen perspective in YA. Other genres, sure but in the past I've had issues connecting and caring for younger, angrier male main characters. Happily, no such issue with Ashfall. Mullin weaves a believable young man in Alex: one a 24 year old female has little to no problem caring about and rooting for throughout the duration. It was a refreshing choice and nice change of view for me personally. I knew Alex was kid after my own heart when he said of shelving his history and sci-fi books alongside each other: "I just thought of it as past and future history." A sentiment I found totally appropriate from a kid in a nearly-impossible apocalyptic future. He's a nicely normal, regularly immature and self-centered 15 year old boy that grows into a more-than-capable young man. The voice is easy, readable, though it might occasionally come across older than the aimed-for 15.
In Alex's world, everything stopped on a Friday. The "pre-Friday life of school, cell phones and refrigerators dissolved into this post-Friday world of ash, darkness and hunger." With a SUPERVOLCANO (duh duhhh duhhhhhh) 900 miles away in Yellowstone, whose explosion and noise could he heard all the way to Alex's home of Cedar Falls, Iowa Mullin had my attention from the start. I'm a sucker for survival stories and adventure and boy did he deliver with the surprisingly realistic Ashfall. On Alex's 100+ mile trek to find his family in another state, there is adventure, human cannibals, bad ass older gay men, awesome hot older bald chicks, and more. Mullin certainly doesn't waste anytime launching the reader right into his story and it's a wild ride from start to end. Mullin does a credible job of keeping the tension and emotions high: even the hours of darkness and unending ashfall are tense and riveting rather than boring or pedantic. This is a pretty straight-forward advenure/survival tale: Mullin doesn't add many elements from other genres. Though be warned: it can be pretty decently gory and unexpectedly violent. Beware the human cannibals and rabbit skinning scenes - they're pretty well-done but very unsettling.
The world didn't stop when it ended as everyone knew it. On his travels Alex happens upon a wide variety of human nature. No character is completely good, completely evil or even safe from a (usually gory, abrupt) death. From brutes who loot, to rapists and murderers to evangelical Christians on the verge of mass suicide, Mullin doesn't hide the darker side of human nature: the ones who use disaster and pain to gain something, like doomsday prophets preaching more fear. Alex says upon realizing the bad outlook: "The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own." Happily the author doesn't stint on the good side of people either: it's a well-balanced depiction of what life in America could be life if this SUPERVOLCANO actually existed. The differing types of encounters Alex has serve more than adequately keep his day-to-day trek interesting if still necessarily and understandably repetitive. One issue I did have: Alex mentions "precusor" eruptions/vibrations MONTHS before the actual eruption... but no one did anything? A catastrophe so enveloping half the United States in "red zone" with no assistance and the government knew... and did nothing? It struck me as an oddly glaring detail for such a seemingly well-thought-out and researched novel. One of the elements of the novel I also enjoyed was the lack of info Alex had on his situation. Sporadic and unreliable information is hard to come by in this darkened world, leaving Alex devoid of info and entirely in charge of all his decisions - just as he wanted "pre-Friday" to his chagrin.
The wide range of characters also worked in Ashfall's favor. From the bad ass older gay men to the hard-nosed and honestly a bit too perfectly brainy Darla, each was different and dynamic. Darla, the older woman in Alex's young life at 18, sees Alex at his weakest and as an unnecessary risk, but helps him repeatedly if begrudgingly. She's by far the most intelligent/resourceful character in the novel, but maybe a bit too much to be entirely real. I'm all for the girl being the best, but I find it hard to believe an 18 year old handbuilt a well-pump, an innovated bathroom/toilet arrangement, or a bicycle powered corn grinder all by herself - when no other character in the novel is shown to be half as proficient - even Darla's parents! Where did she learn this, Autobody High School for MacGyvering Your Way to Life in the Apocalypse When Everyone Around You Dies? That deux ex machina lost some points for previously high authenticity factor. I did like that Darla and Alex worked well together, with an easy but sexually-charged tension between them. Working in tandem works better for both than independent efforts alone - an overaching theme for the entire novel. More is accomplished with cooperation than coercion, a point subtly made and proven with Darla and Alex. Their slight romance is sweet and mostly off-sceen: no distraction from the main story of survival and family.
If I enjoyed this so much, why only a 3.75 out of 5? Well, besides the issues with the precautions and Darla's hidden identity as Inspector Gadget/MacGyver the pacing suffers occasionally. Not on Alex's trek: once he reaches a government camp my attention and interest began to wane. The novel truly succeeds with Alex, out in the ash - not hemmed in and cooped up. I also found the final confrontation with a major antagonist to be rather flat and bland - not at all what I had been led up to believe would happen. Note as well the final conclusion - it failed to be stirring emotionally and felt more like an obvious ploy to ensure continued reading in the sequel, Ashen Winter. I fully intended to read the next volume, but I felt cheated by the abrupt and unfulfilling end to the first after the extensive buildup of 450+ pages. Mullin is a more than decent storyteller with a hell of a story to get out, but pacing issues and deux ex machinae (?) plague the middle to last quarter of the tale.
What I Was Absolutely Sold On:
-the disaster of the SUPERVOLCANO itself - Mullin does a fantastic job of selling it, realistically, scientifically -Alex himself - immature, capable, determined and a great refreshing change of perspective -Darla - minus caveats from above. She is the second-most developed character: naturally evolving into a kinder, more vulnerable but no less capable/badass girl -the experiences Alex has on the road to Darla/his family
What Lost Me:
-Darla's super abilities -plot holes: government warned and did nothing, east of Mississippi okay but no relief to breadbasket of America? -Camp Galena - terrible pacing, lost the flow of the earlier chapters
All in all an ingenious, imperfect but completely fun survival story hampered by a few issues. Mullin doesn't stint on the details, even creating diseases ("silicosis") and such from the ash to contend with more mundane issues of food, shelter and family. His SUPERVOLCANO is a great hook and a great idea for a post-apocalyptic duology - I hope the sequel improves upon this already impressive first effort. ...more
Right off the bat, let's get this out of the way: I won this on a goodreads giveaway. I am so glad I did, because otherwise it would have been aaaagesRight off the bat, let's get this out of the way: I won this on a goodreads giveaway. I am so glad I did, because otherwise it would have been aaaages until I managed to get around to it in my tbr pile and I'd have no idea what I was missing. This is a dense, multi-layered book that is easily one of the best novels of the year. China Mieville has done an outstanding job with creating Embassytown. The story is told with a distinct voice, that of immerser Avice Benner Cho. She seems world-weary, almost distant in the beginning pages and chapters of retelling the extraordinary events of her life in Embassytown, on her home planet of Arieka. Though she travels to many places on far distant planets, Avice's story focuses around Embassytown and her life in it as a child and adult. As a young girl, Cho was made part of the Language of the Ariekei, an important event she doesn't understand yet but will impact her future the most. An Ariekei (singular form of the native sentient life found on Arieka) is a completely original, alien lifeform. China Mieville calls his writing "weird" science and it shows in the original, creative and crazy lifeforms he created. The Ariekei Language is a huge and intricate part of the novel: first of all, they cannot lie. Before humans came to their planet, they did not even conceive of the concept of a lie. Their speech is also very limited, and thus humans like Cho become living similes, examples (the girl who ate what was given to her, the boy who swims every week) for them to facilitate more Language for the Ariekei population. Additionally, each Ariekei uses two mouths so to speak, the Cut and the Turn both speaking simultaneously. Humans cannot communicate with the Ariekei; they lack the second voice sounding with the exact same intent and focus as the first voice. Thus the Ambassdors began. Human mutations/clones or doppelgangers are what they are called and they are always from Embassytown itself. They are raised and trained to speak with the Ariekei population for the rest of the humans in on their planet. When an Ambassador is sent in from the home world of Bremen instead of grown in Embassytown itself, the colony wonders what prompted this strange, unlikely occurrence and how the Ariekei will respond to their Language. When Ambassador EzRa appears and things take an unprecedented turn in human/Arikei relations, Cho has to figure what the truth is and how to turn the tide. This is a very good book. It was slow starting in the beginning for me because it is a personal pet peeve of mine when nothing is explained and new terms and phrases are floating in every sentence and I have no idea what anything means. However, comprehension soon dawns and with it a realization of the depth of the world Mieville has created. An alien species that thinks as well as a man, but utterly unlike one. A hostile planet with a sentient species with Language far more pure than our own. Bioengineering, where "herds of factories" produce household goods in the wild. It is wildly imaginative and ridiculously good. Avice as a narrator grows and changes and becomes a much different woman from the almost beaten-down, inescapably weary woman in the opening of the book into someone completely different. I loved this book and recommend it highly. More of my reviews here: http://bibliophileanonymous.blogspot.......more
Good, but not great. Has a few moments where the narrative excels, but for the most part, the magic of the earlier (but later in the chronology) booksGood, but not great. Has a few moments where the narrative excels, but for the most part, the magic of the earlier (but later in the chronology) books is largely missing. ...more
Mercedes Lackey is an author that is evidently growing better and better with age and output. I've read her novels since I first started3.5 out of 5.
Mercedes Lackey is an author that is evidently growing better and better with age and output. I've read her novels since I first started getting into reading a lot of fantasy as a genre at about age 13, and this most recent foray into her splendid imagination was even better than my first reading experience 11 years ago. Her fairytale/myth/legend inspired Five Hundred Kingdoms series has a level of fun and whimsy present in every volume that I truly enjoy (a quick mention of "Jenny Pluck Pears" as a nod to our world's "Jimmy Crack Corn" made me laugh within the first three chapters) and wish was present in more novels these days. I just have fun with these books; it's practically impossible not to. They're not perfect, but I often enjoy the experience of reading them more than enough to forgive many issues I might have. I've had a great time with each of the first four in this unique and original world of Godmothers and Tradition (I've yet to read number five, The Sleeping Beauty) and Beauty and the Werewolf was, happily for me, no different. An engaging mix and remix of Red Riding Hood as well as Beauty and the Beast, I sped through this latest magical offering from Ms. Lackey and loved every minute.
Unlike previous novels in this same series, Beauty and the Werewolf is told from the sole, first-person perspective of the heroine, Bella. While I liked the back-and-forth of the first four with the switching POV's from male to female, I relished the chance to really connect to Bella, without interruption from another viewpoint. Due at least partly to this, I liked Bella intensely - she's up there with Andromeda from the #2 novel One Good Knight, as my all-time favorite woman in this series. Unlike the other leads from the series, Bella and her life, are largely ignorant of the Tradition - and I liked the switcheroo from the others. It's a nice refresher on the rules and ideas of this fantasy world after more than a few months away. Lackey doesn't go overboard and drown the reader in an infodump, however, Isabella just learns as she goes. I liked Bella immensely: she's smart, she knows it and she uses it. Yes, an actual heroine with a brain. Much more down-to-earth and "modern-day" for lack of a better term, than her stepsister or stepmother, she's the most "normal" character of the novel. I liked that while Bella is quick-thinking and capable, she's not the most martial of heroines: she is a character that favors brains over brawn anytime. She's a very logical, coolly smart woman who doesn't rush into anything, including relationships. . . leading me to . .
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me soRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Though not nearly as hair-pullingly irritating as its predecessor The Red Queen, (which irritated me so much I didn't even review it. Who wants to read four+ paragraphs of "UGH" and "WHY DOES SHE DO THIS!" and "Shouldn't Margaret of Anjou be the Red Queen NOT Margaret Beaufort?") The Lady of the Rivers has its fair share of problems. This time the story follows Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, historically remembered most as the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV of England. This novel has an additional focus on witchcraft/charms/herbs that the previous novels lack (exception: The Queen's Fool [Tudor Series #4] has a supernatural element for the main character as well, but less hackneyed and also less of a deux ex machina) - and a move I cannot fully support. Using the legend of the mermaid-like Melusine/a as an ancestor to Jacquetta's House (a "fact" which was repeated ad nauseam - one reviewer was keeping a count of mentions and I stopped paying attention after #20) to justify this fantastical element, Jacquetta is shown to be quite adept as well as having considerable powers. I felt that reducing Jacquetta's hard-won influence and knowledge to a charlatan-like propensity to "read the cards" did the character a serious disservice. If the author wants to write a strong, determined historical fiction about a woman in the 1500s - by all means do so! But don't reduce her accomplishments and feats by flavoring the success with "magic". I also was out off by some inconsistencies within the novel (I am not even touching historical inaccuracies) such as Richard being referred to as a squire, a knight, and then a squire once more without any mention as to a knighting ceremony or why he would've been reduced to the status of a squire after achieving knighthood.
Self-important and strident, Jacquetta is not the typical woman of her times (the novel begins in 1430) and the message that she, and strong, commanding women like her, are not welcome and face death for their knowledge. Gregory uses several famous women to illustrate this point - repeatedly - throughout the novel. Joan of Arc(!), Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester, and the even the proud Cecily Neville are all brought low before her eyes, seemingly just to teach Jacquetta caution. I can't say I cared too much for this version of Jacquetta, though I did warm to her particularly in the last fifty pages of the book. She rarely demonstrates a feeling or idea, most of this entire novel is "told" rather than shown. Having married her first husband's squire (Robert Woodville) for love, I found a sad lack of chemistry between the two. Example: how do I know Jacquetta loves Richard? She says she does. That's it, that's all; no real emotion or demonstrances of genuine affection. Stiff and awkward dialog along with clunky exposition do the two lovers no favors either. The first-person perspective was well-used, and Gregory even manages to show a battle scene without randomly/abruptly changing perspective and locales. It also helps that Jacquetta, though often annoying and slightly ridiculous is far easier to read than Margaret Beaufort's cold arrogance in The Red Queen.
Gregory does a fine job with the atmosphere of the story, as she usually does. There's a decent amount of tension constantly teeming around Jacquetta: her witchcraft/magic abilities, her illegal marriage, her husband is far sent away (again and again), birthing 16 (!!!!) children, running from battles, her fear of persecution, etc. For all my complaints, I will say that this is far from a staid novel; the kickoff to the War of Roses is excellent fodder for suspense and ridiculous amounts of tension between royal houses. The frequent and bloody battle scenes add much to the feel of the novel, creating a dark and foreboding air. Intrigue among the court is what Gregory does best and the novel succeeds the most when it is within the confines of the scheming court. While the writing itself can be stiff and overly formal, I noticed less and less over the book. Whether it's because the quality of the writing itself improved or I adjusted to Gregory's "style" is up for debate. I do find the random jumps in the chronology (a year here, three years there) to be very distracting from the flow of the narrative and also FULL of info-dumping. Short, very pointed chapters explain away the missing years but left me feeling very dissatisfied. For instance after Jacquetta marries Robert without permission (a rather big no-no for a Duchess), the story completely skips over the intervening years of poverty and struggle and instead flashes forward to when the newlyweds are re-welcomed at Court. I felt slightly cheated by this particular jump; Jacquetta struggling to earn a living versus the entitled pampered life she led before would have provided a nice dichotomy between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor of England.
A novel that both entertains and irritates, Gregory uses a lot of the same "tricks" that so many deride her over. There is the constant repetition of names with titles, of past accomplishments, who is related to whom... as if she has no faith in her readership to tell characters apart. Added to explanations of "why" and "how" people do things instead of showing them, Gregory can be frustrating to read. I know it's frowned upon to quote from an ARC but this passage exemplifies many readers issues with Gregory:
"'Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset...'
'You mean Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset? The man who lost us Normandy [...] but for the King's unswerving belief in his kinsman and the Queen's misplaced affection...
'I'll be commanded by the man who gave away Normandy. '"
Instead of just using "Edmund" or "Beaufort" or even "Somerset", the man's name has to be supplied twice, along with his title and his most recent accomplishment in the novel. Furthermore, the author even explains why the Duke is so beloved instead of showing so and trusting her readers to pick up on the plotline. Gregory clearly buys into the "Somerset + Margaret of Anjou = Edward, Prince of Wales" theory so why not try to SHOW such instead of having a character narrate the information? I understand this is a historical fiction, so dates/events might get mixed around and changed but underestimating your readers to the point you have to hammer in every title, every detail is insulting.
The ending felt, to me, rather abrupt and uneven. The finale of this novel transitions to the very beginning of The White Queen: with Jacquetta's beautiful daughter Elizabeth Woodville standing by the road looking to enchant King Edward IV. I had hoped for more time with Jacquetta. I would've preferred less focus on the early years in order to see what Gregory would do with this character later on in the century; I was much more interested in what would happen after the Rivers family switched from Lancaster to the York side. I also wonder why this novel was published third, when it would make the most sense to read first in the series. Not only is it chronologically first,but it is a stronger effort than The Red Queen or The White Queen. I think I may be running out of time and affection for Ms. Gregory. I loved her Tudor novels when I first read them sixish years ago (though I'd probably not in a re-read now) but this series has so far done little to make me fall in love. With such a drama-filled, absolutely interesting and dynamic era, I can't help but feel there should be more substance and less drama/dresses to The Lady in the Rivers. ...more
Really a 4.5 but I'm rounding down. You'll see why probably tomorrow, whenever I get my review finished.
A great, sprawling epic of a novel, The WildReally a 4.5 but I'm rounding down. You'll see why probably tomorrow, whenever I get my review finished.
A great, sprawling epic of a novel, The Wild Rose concluded the fantastic (and fantastically outrageous) Tea Rose series exactly as it began: outlandish, touching and utterly compelling to read. In this series, I started out just merely liking the introductory novel The Tea Rose, and absolutely loving the second The Winter Rose; the middle of those two emotions is how I feel about the finishing tale of the Finnegans and their extended, varied family. There were parts I utterly loved, as well as parts I wanted to kill every character upon the page. In this woeful tale of Seamus Finnegan and Willa Alden, there are: German spies and spy networks, Lawrence of Arabia, women's suffrage in England, extramarital affairs aplenty, World War I, the Spanish flu, Turkish prisons and torture, and the hardly-worth-mentioning now, star-crossed lovers.
This novel had a slower start than the previous two. In the other novels, the plot shot out like a rocket from the first chapter. In this installment, there is a lot more buildup, more tension added to the atmosphere of the story. Told expertly in third person omniscient, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to get into the mind of whatever POV character (and there were quite a few!) was narrating. It almost feels like the author took the first hundred and fifty pages to simply set up the scenario, and the characters in minute detail. However, once the war starts, the book really begins to move along and becomes an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel. While it was nice reading all the back story of Sid, Fiona, etc. of the intervening years between the books, I found myself impatient for the outlandishness to begin. The narrative once again jumps many years in between parts. I for one, find these time lapses occasionally jarring; I'd much rather prefer a more linear story.
As Fiona's tale was told in The Tea Rose, and Sid's was in The Winter Rose, The Wild Rose tells the long-winded and often tragic story of Seamie Finnegan, the last of the Finnegan children met in the first book... To read the rest of the review, click here....more
Even better then Eon. Complex, intricate worldbuiling, with obvious Asian influences, a strong, conflicted and above all, realistic main character madEven better then Eon. Complex, intricate worldbuiling, with obvious Asian influences, a strong, conflicted and above all, realistic main character made this easily one of my favorites for this year. I'm seriously impressed with Alison Goodman and how much she grew as a writer over the course of these two novels. I was so riveted, wracked with emotional whiplash over the course of the novel that I finished this 630+ page novel in one day. It's consumingly readable.
All admissions forward: I won this ARC in a goodreads giveaway. This is a polarizing novel. The content of the story is dark, depressing even, and theAll admissions forward: I won this ARC in a goodreads giveaway. This is a polarizing novel. The content of the story is dark, depressing even, and the characters are more of the same. It's told in a very dry, almost apathetic voice; the prose is tight and direct. The author does a great job of reinforcing the intransigence of Kate and Colin with the style of her writing. Like the plot and the characters, there is nothing frivolous or lush about the writing. I very much liked how the story was told as opposed to the story itself. The beginning starts off innocuous and fairly normal, but quickly escalates into a picture of a suburban nightmare. I was reminded a bit of Richard Yates' brilliant and disturbing Revolutionary Road, as both stories feature a young couple that meets, marries quickly, has two children and must deal with the disillusionment that follows the achieving "the American dream". Kate and Colin are both selfish, difficult people. Both assume the other should make life better for them, rather than taking any imitative on their own terms to seek happiness. I have a greater antipathy towards Kate rather than her husband because she is the main character and the evolution of her nature is truly sad, and often enraging. Her attitude toward her husband and eventually her two daughters is often out-of-control and unfathomable. I never connected to Kate, even during flashbacks to a kinder, less complicated Kate. Colin is more removed/distant from the story than his wife; we never see a chapter from his point of view or get in his head like we do Kate's. In fact, he is almost a nonentity, he moves around his family like a satellite orbiting a planet for most of the novel. This is done on purpose, I feel, to give an illustration of how lonely and bereft Kate often feels with Colin as her partner. I'm not sure if I liked this novel, whereas I lovedRevolutionary Road, but it definitely managed to get inside my head. To dislike characters that intensely means that they at least have struck a chord within the audience, and that is a feat to be applauded. It was a brilliantly done novel, it truly showed the deterioration of a once-happy marriage and all that implies, but just so bleak and uncompromising I cannot see myself recommending it to a friend to read. ...more
Cinderella gets a cyborg twist in this eye-catching and sci-fictionish tale- but that's not all the funRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Cinderella gets a cyborg twist in this eye-catching and sci-fictionish tale- but that's not all the fun nor all the new changes author Marissa Meyers offers up in her first novel. While absolutely recognizable as a clever retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella, Ms. Meyer manages to place her own unique and interesting, updated spin on the ages-old folk tale. This is one of the first of several such retellings I've either gotten to read (Ella Enchanted, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, The Fairy Godmother) or bought and have waiting (Ash by Malinda Lo, Ember by Bettie Sharpe) or am on the look out for (Before Midnight) to buy. Cinder is original and inventive both with its location, time, technology and twists. Overall, I thought that this was a very clever and fun read, worth both the hype and the endless, obnoxious ads on GoodReads.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg: the new form of servants/underclass in the world of Meyers making. Even peddling basic mechanical repairs, Cinder is forced everyday to deal with being the most outcast, feared, hated and nearly shunned person at the Market. In a city of millions, it's easy to feel isolated and alone, but not the extremes that Cinder is forced to by the very culture of her own home. There are constant reminders how just how little worth Cinder is considered to be: from her stepmothers constant verbal reminders to the city-wide draft of cyborgs for scientific experimentation research. These are thinking, feeling people treated as though they were no more human than the all-mechanical androids. Cinder is a decent protagonist to start with at the introduction of everything - the world is foreign (but just slightly familiar) so it's hard to assimilate her situation at home, outside, with her stepsisters, with her stepmom, etc. all at once. Only 36.28% human, Cinder is obviously not one of the favored class, and her struggles are hard-fought and won. She easily gains trust and likeability as her situations unfolds more clearly and in detail, and her stubborn but smart personality has a chance to grow as well. She's kind, giving and unconcerned with status - all typical of Cinderella in Cinderella tales, but this one has a few traits that set her aside from the norm. I won't spoil them here, even if they can be predictable in the novel, but this Cinder is and has a unique personality. Cinder has a faulty foot - resulting in her needing a new mechanical/cyborg foot instead of the typical and expected slipper or footwear and it seems appropriate for this slightly-skewed but eventually likeable protagonist. There's a lot more to Cinder and mysterious history than let on, and I liked the slow uncovering and piecing together of her trajectory to New Beijing and into Kai's life.
I wish I could say I liked Kai as much as I did the rest of the novel - he's certainly attractive, in that perfect book-character-type way - but he isn't the most fleshed out, or personalized of characters. He seems fairly cookie-cutter for paranormal YA, though without any of the control/dependency/stalker issues so many others suffer from. I sadly found that lack of individual dimension to be the case for most of the supporting cast: the stepmother Adri, one of the stepsisters (Pearl) just seemed carved from the typical Cinderella-story cast, with no updated, fun twist on their typical roles. I had hoped for something more original to be done with the two (three if you count Kai) of them, but that is not the case here. I did like that the family dynamic was switched up: Garan and Adri are the natural parents of the 'evil stepsisters' with Cinder being the adopted, biologically unrelated addition. Most of the twists and subversions of the Cinderella folk story are centered directly upon protagonist Cinder, or tangentially connected to her, like the orange beat-up gas car for a pumpkin. As for Kai and Cinder's romance, happily it is neither the main focus of the narrative nor the driving force behind the plot or Cinder's life. It's sweet, light and adds a subtle flavor of love, hope and yearning to the bouquet of emotions that run through Cinder's downtrodden life.
My main problems with Cinder were the first half: there's a lot of detail, information in the first pages, aka a lot of foundation. While that is by no means a bad thing - give me a well-thought out society any time - it makes reading slow going with undynamic characters. Once Cinder and Kai get a littler more..lively... it's a much faster, fun book but the first half suffers. The flipside of all the details and worldbuilding of the first half is just how utterly complete and solid the society/world of Cinder feels to the reader. Like I said earlier, Meyer creates a world that is both recognizable and totally foreign. Ages-conflicts and issues are still present (xenophobia, the urge for independence, duty versus desire), still eternal but Meyers has crafted a new world and spin for these stories to emerge and play with.There's a vague but consistently Asiatic feel to the culture, vocab, lifestyle of the people within the Commonwealth - appropriate as it possess a capital city called New Beijing - but I'm glad it wasn't a half-assed, weak job. Just like the society ruled from beyond its walls, and like Linh Cinder herself, the palace of New Beijing is a mix of both nature and technology.
Meyers is an able-to-good storyteller. I wish the first half hadn't been so laden down with detail, though I am very appreciative of the thorough nature of both her imagination and the world of this novel. However, once the ball gets rolling on the plot, this is a submersive and hard-to-put-down novel. Cinder leaves me excited and very eager for the next book in the series, Scarlet, due out....... 2013. I think it's quite unfair to leave me hanging in the admist of that admittedly AWFUL cliff-hanger, but sadly that is typical of paranormal YA today. I won't gripe overmuch, as the good/fun outweighs the bad by a large margin. This is one those novels that though I've already read an ARC, I'll be hunting down my own copy to have and love. ...more
Darker Still was a lot of fun for me to read, from beginning to end. Witty, charming and full of magicRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Darker Still was a lot of fun for me to read, from beginning to end. Witty, charming and full of magic most foul, this is a young-adult foray into the supernatural that succeeds on many levels. Charming, real, fleshed out characters commingle with an intriguing plotline and an original hook to make for a read that is nearly impossible to set down. This is a novel to be devoured in as few sittings as possible; I raced through every chapter, eager for more. Though clearly an homage to famous works and characters (The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the best comparisons, and I honestly don't think the Pride and Prejudice comparison is warranted at all), Ms. Hieber's Darker Still can stand firmly on its own two feet as a charming and clever novel with oodles of promise for the same in its incumbent sequels.
Set with the backdrop of alluring 1880's New York City, Darker Still is the vehicle of Natalie Stewart. Natalie is known as an "unfortunate" of the times, known better today as a mute. This middle-class ball of spunk is an auburn-haired and smart young woman: headstrong but not foolhardy. She's just as a young-woman of the times should be: scheming, determined and dramatic. I had a lot of fun with Natalie, though obvious from the "mute" label, she is not an ordinary, run-of-the-mill protagonist. Natalie possesses a hidden steel to her character that I hadn't expected and thoroughly enjoyed. She's also pretty handy with a weapon, and I love a main character that can defend herself ably, without degenerating into the unbelievable "Waif Fu" of Vin in Mistborn, or Lisbeth Salander. I also enjoyed that the novel itself was written as a personal recollection of Miss Stewart's. As a mute, it was a subtle reminder of how limited the narrator's communications were: only Natalie's thoughts are shown and examined. It was a nice period-appropriate touch, with contributions from letters/notes/etc. pertinent to the case added in for extra clarity, reference or emphasis. What also helps the atmosphere of Miss Stewart's first-person tale are the mixed-in touches of period-appropriate terms ("histrionic ward" "not all the lamps were on in my attic") to keep the reader firmly in the mindset of gentler, more refined time in history.
Jonathan Whitby, Lord Denbury, the man caught inside the painting, takes longer than Natalie to coalesce into a three-dimensional character (I made a pun! Go me!) Jonathon is also an interesting character because, as hinted both by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray in the synopsis blurb, there are two Denbury's operating upon the pages of Darker Still: the one imprisoned (the "soul" of the man if you will), and the one corporeal and mobile (the body, possessed by another). The "demon Denbury" is dark, murderous and quite adept at ratcheting up the tension of the novel. But for all his dark allure, it is the painting of the man that catches the attention of the reader, not his evil counterpart wreaking murder and misery through New York. I loved Denbury: from the outset of his appearance in the novel, he is charming and tormented, caring and compassionate. I quite honestly loved Denbury with Natalie: theirs is a relationship that brings out the best in the other, while managing to be completely cute and age-appropriate.
I for one totally bought into the odd but charming romance between the painting and the mute teenager. Natalie, like Lord Denbury inside his painted prison, has sat and watched her life be decided for her, with no input or decision-making power in her own hands.Once she makes the decision to help Denbury, a real change is present in the character - Natalie breaks free of her own self-induced apathy and takes charge for the first time. I do think "love" may have been introduced premature as part of their relationship's natural arc, but they two grow into it and I accepted their commitment before too long. (This was probably helped by my largely fangirl favorable impression of Jonathon himself...) I liked the more background characters of the novel as well, but though they suffered from a slight lack of personalization. Evelyn Northe is an intelligent, wily older society lady of New York and I wish more had been provided for her character: she seems to pop up when most needed and recede to the background until a drastic measure must be taken. Mrs. Northe's niece Margaret has the same issue, except that she's trotted out to cause possessive and romantic issues about the painting and later, Denbury himself. I wish these two ladies had more flair of their own, and were less dependent on Natalie to carry the novel.
Darker Still's magic was also creative and interesting. Incorporating many and vaired themes and items from various cultures across the world, the forces of Darker Still are seemingly quite powerful - and often awful in nature. From the nasty Crenfall (which is a name reminiscent of Dracula's Renfield, no?) to Mrs. Northe herself, the reader is never sure who possess what powers and the intentions for them. I liked the varied and intermingled aspects of the curse/spell/power that imprisoned Denbury particularly: the severing of the soul from the body is a visceral and cringe-inducing act, illustrating the cutthroat nature of the supernatural in Ms. Hieber's alternate history. In addition to the magic most foul, the writing and style of the novel itself do much to present a dark, mysteriously magical facade. "The plot has thickened and how. Lives, sanities, and the very fabric of reality remain on the line..." is just one of many possible examples of Natalie's harried and excited style of narration.
My few complaints include the rather rushed ending to a finely drawn out story. I adored the connecting threads of religion, power and magic, but felt that they were thrown too hastily together for a tidy, easy conclusion. Still, I enjoyed Darker Still enough that though I read a free ARC from the publishers, I still want my very own copy to have and love. (Who could resist that cover, anyway?) I look eagerly forward to the continued escapades of Natalie and Jonathan and hope the sequels meet the high bar set by the series impressive and lively introduction. This novel, in the most simple terms, is just fun, enjoyable and completely individual. Pick it up when you spy a copy, you won't regret the purchase....more
Enjoyable and fun history romp. Full review later.
Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first of the author's planned trilogy about the woman baptized asEnjoyable and fun history romp. Full review later.
Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first of the author's planned trilogy about the woman baptized as Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna of Austria, but remembered and historically vilified as Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Chronicling her all-too-short years from adolescence to her ascension to the throne of France in 1774, a well-rounded, human version of the woman emerges from the pages of this easy-to-read historical fiction. The later books in the series (Days of Sorrow, Days of Splendor is the tentative title of book two) will focus more on the time Marie reigned alongside her doomed husband, Louis XVI.
While this novel can be historically uneven (the "nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen” stated on the back blurb is untrue because really, all she had to do was be born at the right time, to the right family; the author has her struggle to learn French but Marie Antoinette spoke French fine as Vienna was a multilingual city, however she had poor reading comprehension and writing skills) and take liberties with facts and dates, I more than enjoyed this look into a younger Marie Antoinette. Beginning when the petite archduchess is only ten, the novel chronicles several tense years as she tries to cement with marriage an alliance the Empress Maria Theresa desperately needs.
Thrust between two all-powerful monarchs (the aforementioned Maria Theresa of the Holy Roman Empire and Louis XV of France) in a then-prevalent way of forging peace between warring European states, Marie has to please her mother and honor Austria all the while making France her country's ally. By trying to remain true to Austria all the while attempting to win the unfriendly French to her side shows the sheer impossibility of Marie's position in life. Amid impossible goals, treacherous relatives, scheming courtiers and her own impossible husband, it was remarkably easy for me to feel quite sympathetic for this character. Using this constant national game tug-of-war between the powers frequently creates a great deal of tension and pressure for the young girl for the entire novel. While she might be dauphine and first woman of France, Marie never is free or independent, nor truly, exuberantly happy. She attempts sex and/or affection many times with her husband, but he is painfully shy with her, almost a recluse. Marie, coming from a huge family of fifteen siblings and parents who married for love, is understandably upset by his lack of feeling and thus isolates herself from her one true ally for much of the novel.
I've not read many Marie Antoinette historical fictions, or even ones centering on the Gallic world. I tend to stay amongst the British and their Plantagenet, Lancaster/York, Tudors, Stuart families, etc. Winning this novel on goodreads.com has opened my eyes to a new, creative writer with a fresh take on this centuries old parable of overindulgence and moral decay. Happily, in this novel of hers, Ms. Grey does not immediately launch into the salacious and popular tales of the archduchess. By showing Marie at her most charming and vivacious in her young carefree years at home in Austria, a subtle foreshadowing of her tumultuous life in France is immediately brought to mind. I was very interested in her large, fractious Hapsburg family (fifteen siblings! Maria Theresa was a woman emperor -- in her own right! her parents were a love-match!) and thus the days at Shonbrun or the Hofburg, a palace that boasted a serving staff of 2,000 people alone!, were the most interesting for me. Another thing this novel does well is dispense interesting facts and tidbits without interrupting or displacing the flow of the plot or Marie's development.
Contrasting sharply with the long-held opinion of this Queen, Marie is shown to care for her Austrian subjects (and even her French ones when their own King does not!) as well as generally kind and loving nature. Hints of the troubles Marie will face later on in her noble are present as well; a certain disregard for consequences and rash actions/sayings is prevalent, though perhaps a bit too heavy-handed for my taste. Ms. Grey conveys the thoughts of the noblewoman better when she subtly alludes to Marie's less appealing traits. However, in the world of France, which was governed by the strict Salic law of its time, Marie does quite well in claiming what power she can and using it, all while doing what she can to influence her husband, to future king-to-be and thus a very strong potential ally for her family and home. The extreme disparity of life in the Hofburg, where the royal Hapsburg family was far more relaxed, dressing in far less formal clothing and even playing with 'common' children, the strict and rigid way of life in Bourbon Versailles is a constant reminder of just how out of place Marie feels for most of her teenage and early twenties in France. Constant reminders of how she does not fit in ("l'Autruchienne" being a clever if vulgar pun on the French words for ostrich [Austria] and for bitch) help to keep her off-balance and thus constantly caught between monarchs.
In the end, the novel boiled down to this single question for me: Is this a Marie Antoinette I liked enough to read about for three novels (and if the second two are as large as their 444 page predecessor) and 1350 pages only to have her die at the end? And that answer is a loud YES. While it is not perfect, it IS an enjoyable and new look into one of history's most maligned women. Grey's writing is original and clever enough with familiar material from historical class to make it less learning and more experiencing life as Marie navigates through her life with Louis -- what she has of it left.
Kristen Painter breathes her own version of supernatural life into the genre with Blood Rights, the first in a planned urban fantasy series, and it isKristen Painter breathes her own version of supernatural life into the genre with Blood Rights, the first in a planned urban fantasy series, and it is lively indeed. With a convoluted culture and three-dimensional, fleshed-out characters this was an interesting twist on the human/vampire relationship shown so often in this (and, really, paranormal romance as well) type of genre. There's a lot to take in and enjoy from Ms. Painter's crafted world of vampire geisha, corporeal ghosts and hidden assassins. Blood Rights is the kind of novel one would plan to read for "just a minute" but actually ends up in the same place but two hundred pages, numerous escapades and several hours later. With her kick-ass female protagonist Chrysabelle and reaaallly tortured male protagonist Mal, I found a lot worth mentioning from this introductory but by no means boring first novel. Intensely readable, Blood Rights is definitely in the running for my favorite (adult/non-YA) vampire read of the year.
Moreso even than the characters, the world that the author has so intricately created is impressive and far-reaching. The comarré themselves are a creative addition: closely related to the kine (humans) of the world, but longer-lived, faster, and infinitely more desirable. The signum of the breed is also interesting: it allows for instant identification much like the facial tattoos/uploads of the GENs from the YA dystopia Tankborn. The comarré are always very aware of who/what they are and where they stand in the vampires' view. I found the interactions and dependency between the comarré and the vampires to be vastly interesting. Each side benefits uniquely from the arrangement: the vampire receives increased power/life from the blood of the comar/comarré and the gold-gilded almost-humans receive longevity, increased strength, speed and self-healing capabilities. I liked that it was a give-and-take between the both species; it certainly makes it easier to buy Chrysabelle's more martial nature further on. It's a fairly level balance of power that keep the comarré from being just slaves or indentured servants to the undead nightwalkers (and that's not even mentioning other obvious talents of the comarré. . ). While the vampire half of this symbiotic relationship isn't as revelatory and new as the comarré aspect, Painter does go so far as to imbue her novel with different types of vampires: fringe and noble, each descended from a vastly different source. I do wish clarification about terms/culture of this world had been provided much earlier: it's vexing to try and figure out what "fringe" or "anathema" means in relation to these vampires for 250 pages.
Obviously, Blood Rights has a very complete and complicated, alternate world. Though similar to this modern one we live in, locations like "New Florida" or "Islamic Republic of France" are subtly dropped into coversations, ensuring the reader is aware that 2067 is a very different world. Even the swearing is different, and even theme-appropriate for a vampire book ("son of a priest!" also? just hilarious.) With vampires in a very regimented patriarchal society, organized by Family/talent (I also loved the nods to first purported vampires Vlad Tepes and Erzsébet Bathory inserted into the novel) Elders and Dominus, Painter's social stratification is omnipresent, even among species, not just between them. Not only are vampires and comarré either reinvented or completely created, but many types of fae (wysper, shadeux, others), and other creatures, are present as well. Hidden from humans because of a mysterious "Covenant", Chrysabelle's world has other such nasties as Nothos, or hellhounds created from human and vampire stock. I love the constant touch if originality for Painter's supernatural creations: she even re-imagined shapeshifters as her varcolai. Not much was explained about the varcolai, with only one character belonging to that race, but with three novels to follow in this promising series, I'll trust the information is en route.
I had high expectations before going into this novel by young Ms. Kluver. When you hear of a teenage "phenom" publishing a popular 500 page fantasy toI had high expectations before going into this novel by young Ms. Kluver. When you hear of a teenage "phenom" publishing a popular 500 page fantasy tome, it's hard not to imagine the feast of imagination awaiting your pleasure. And while Cayla Kluver has some talent, and definitely shows room for improvement with practice and experience, a fourteen year old girl simply lacks the empathy, the experiences and depth to create an authentic and real feel to a novel. Particularly concerning the romance of the lead character Alera, aspects of the novel never appeared genuine or believable. A feel of just "something missing" is present in the novel: it simply lacks the polish and finesse an older author can instill in a story.
Age gripes covered and aside, Legacy starts off quite slowly. The first hundred or so pages dragged along with little within the book to distinguish it, taking sheer determination for me to muscle though to the interesting parts. Far too much time, detail and description is laid out for clothes, feasts, the appearance of the palace, what Alera is wearing, etc. The plot, the pacing and the characters are completely mired in extraneous, superfluous details for much of the novel. Adding to those woes, at times the story itself seems trope-ish and stereotypical of a fantasy novel, with forced arranged marriage with an insufferable military man, the mysterious, dangerous youth/foreigner with hidden powers, ridiculously impressive/resourceful bodyguards, a stalwart sidekick, etc.
This uniquely imaginative and intelligent novel was a terrifically melded blend of mystery, science ficRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This uniquely imaginative and intelligent novel was a terrifically melded blend of mystery, science fiction, fantasy and young-adult genres. Told through the eyes and life of Alison Jeffries, a seventeen year old girl, Alison is both a very unreliable narrator and a hugely sympathetic character. R.J. Anderson truly achieved the voice, and attitude of a sullen, hurting young woman. Alison is a living, breathing, three-dimensional character filled with flaws, virtues and humanity. As Alison, the narrative is filled with passion and viable emotions and thoughts. Her wry (and often self-deprecating) humor were dead on the mark for a teenager who has been taught to be ashamed of all she is and can do.
This is a novel that was crafted with delicacy and much planning. It is laden with clues, subtle hints, and hidden meanings deep in the imagery-heavy, sensory-rich prose. I do not feel that revealing Alison has synesthesia as a spoiler -- it's out mentioned in the in the ads. Words, numbers, sounds all have personalities, colors, smells thanks to her possessing five different kinds of the phenomenon. Alison, while driving in a car states, "[...]I wanted to hear the landscape, taste its contours, and smell its hues," as only she can. Her amazingly vivid condition fits the lush style of the writing well: it's as close as the reader will ever get to experience life the way Alison does. I was so interested in this very real condition that I researched it online and I am beyond impressed with the depth of research and history Anderson went to in order for this story to work on the levels it does.
I enjoyed the fresh scenery: I've not read any hardly any novels set in Canada and the change of scene was a nice harbinger of the individuality to follow. The atmosphere of the story was completely enveloping. Even necessary the parts of the novel (for example Part One was The Scent of Yesterday, chapters are titled Zero(Is Translucent), One (Is Gray), Ten (Is Vulernable), etc.) are subtle reminders that hearken back to the most fascinating aspect of the novel: Alison's abilities. The first part of the novel focuses much more on the mystery aspect of Alison's story: what exactly did happen to Tori, and was Alison in any way responsible for Tori's death/disappearance. Part one was intense and impossible to extract myself from as the pieces were slowly revealed. The more Alison pulls herself and her memory together, details about the mysterious event are doled out like nuggets of gold. The true events of the mystery are parceled out so stingily, for the first hundred pages I genuinely could not decide if I believed Alison was sane or not. Now that's an unreliable narrator: one who does not even trust herself or her recollections. Part two (Present Sense) suffers just a bit from a rushed, slightly uneven tempo, but happily the problem was short-lived: part three (Touching Tomorrow) managed to be well-rounded, nicely executed and soulful conclusion to a delightfully surprising novel. The ending is more bitter than sweet, but is entirely appropriate and fitting for Alison's journey. There are a few opportunities and plot-lines left open for exploration in a possible sequel, one I can only hope is written soon.
his is definitely more of a plot-driven novel. The rush to figure out what happened to Alison, to Tori, to be placed under her own cognizance, moves the characters more than romance or friendship. There was a deft touch with the tension in the novel: it builds slowly, marginally and then ratchets up to 11 in the final scenes. I hardly minded the plot-focus because I was entirely caught up in the uniquely creative language and prose. Descriptions like "his hair was the color of a thunderstorm reflected in a mud puddle" will win me over any day of the week., especially if interpersonal interaction is not a strong point of the author's. And, to be honest, some of the love/emotional scenes were a bit too saccharinely sweet for my taste. However, I do love creative, innovative writers than can make their words and ideas pop: R.J. Anderson is definitely one such author.
This is a novel that more than lives up to its advertising byline: Everything You Know Is Wrong. But you'll only know why if you read this novel. Its unique premise, gorgeous prose, full of quotes to love, and more than helluva twist more than recommend it.
"I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a piercing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song. Even the hurts that seemed most senseless, the mistakes I would have done anything to erase--nothing could make those things good, but good could still come out of them all the same, and in the end the oratorio would be no less beautiful for it."
Joan of Arc is a far-famed and widely recognized name, especially if you're a. Catholic or b. French. ARead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
Joan of Arc is a far-famed and widely recognized name, especially if you're a. Catholic or b. French. As a rebel, as a saint, and even as a peasant, this young girl captivated an entire country, following her 'voices' and fighting the English for freedom. Taglined with "the girl who led an army, the peasant who crowned a King, the maid who became a legend," Cutter sets the stage for her version of the world famous knight right from the get-go. I did have to do some reading up on the Hundred Years War during and after reading this because a few details were blurry in my memory and I wanted to check the validity of the events in this novel (medieval France is not my historical forte). Happily, and incredulously I might say, I found much of this novel to be factually correct, all the while maintaining a snarled plot and a brisk pace. Even the most incredible events from the book are recorded as fact (Jehanne's predictions of a defeat at Rouvray, telling Charles "Use me. I will last little more than a year"), and Cutter does a fine job of meshing the facts of the past with her interpretation of the person. She also steers clear of the inane repetition of titles and names of the nobility that some other historical fiction authors cannot seem to avoid. I thought that this was a well-told tale, and Ms. Cutter a more than able storyteller. Never dry, or dull, I was swept up in the story from beginning until the end and her Jehanne is more than believable: she is three-dimensional and vibrant.
The story is told by Jehanne herself, explaining her life up to capture by the English to her seemingly sympathetic jailer in a brisk, almost unfeeling reminisce. With the Hundred Years War raging from 1337 (before her death) until 1453 (twenty years after her execution), Jehanne begins and lives her entire life directly in the tumult of this dynastic warfare, and it leaves a lasting impression on the girl. With the third person perspective in use Cutter is deftly able to weave a complete - and devastating - picture of life in English-controlled France. And it is a harsh, unyielding picture full of mostly misery. With the external pressures of a mad father, a murdered sister and a devastated country, it is not hard to see why she turned to prayer for solace and then began to hear voices. Though The Maid plays the voices as if they are actual saints (Michael, Catherine and Margaret to be specific), it is not hackneyed element nor a podium from which Jehanne preaches. I did find the pet names from the saints to Jehanne a bit off ("cabbage" and "darling"? I could see "lamb" I suppose, as in lamb of God, but it wasn't used) and it threw me when one of the three would reference Jehanne with one of them. Jehanne was also never full of herself, simply stating she was "a lamp in which God had chosen to burn for a short time." Her humility rang true, and remained the forefront of personality for the duration.
Moving at a brisk pace, the novel shows Jehanne through five parts, divided by age or events within. Jehanne's early life was surprisingly compelling for a peasant in medieval France, and Cutter shed light and personality upon the mostly-historically-ignored family that brought Jehanne into the world. The abduction and murder of her sister Catherine at the hands of the "Goddons" (English), though one of the fabricated events, served as a nice foreshadowing of Jehanne's future treatment by the same nation, and also served to explain more of Jehanne's reasons for her calling. Her relationship with her father was severely troubled, a symptom that reappears in almost all Jehanne's later interactions with men and possibly the reason for such issues in the first place. Jehanne is shown to be a full, complete person: she doesn't survive of religious fervor. The author took care to craft a well-rounded personality who can feel and express doubt and fear instead of an unfeeling zealot: her latent feelings and romance with the Duke of Alencon, her struggles with violence, and even nostalgia from home.. these are all problems with which Jehanne must wrestle and overcome. Jehanne grows into herself: from a shy girl turned away from the dauphin, she becomes a ferocious general, dealing with insubordination and mistrust with ease. Cutter does an admirable job of showing a human side to a saint venerated for her supreme piety. Slowly, her Jehanne is revealed as a woman that is much admired, but sadly not liked within her support base.
Jehanne represents much more than just resistance from the English. She took a dynastic struggle lasting decades between nobles and kings and made it about the country itself. She is a living symbol of the peasantry, fighting for their freedom rather than a King defending his inherited lands. While her prowess at Orleans could be laid at the feet of "surprise", I tend to think Jehanne's natural abilities were the cause. The excellently described, gory battle scenes were a high point for the novel as well: each seemed alive and different than the preceding fight, practically thrumming with excitement and action. All in all, this version of Jehanne was utterly compelling and engaging. Though the end cut off before her execution, the timing was perfect. It felt like the end; there was no need to see read her execution at the hands of the English. A nicely well-rounded and plotted historical fiction, alive with tension and fear... this was one of the better historical fictions I've read so far this year. More than enjoyable, and though not astounding, The Maid is a great historical fiction novel for anyone looking into a fun read about Joan of Arc....more
Theodora was one of the most influential women of her time. As a poverty-stricken dancer,Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
3.5 out of 5
Theodora was one of the most influential women of her time. As a poverty-stricken dancer, as the most celebrated actress/whore in Constantinople, as a penitent nun in a commune in the desert, and as the wife of the most powerful man in Christendom, she commands attention and vast amounts of interest. Defying social strictures and traditions of her day, Theodora rose from a common birth and life to the most exalted position available: Augusta of "New Rome" also known as Constantinople, the "sparkling gem in a Christian crown" in in 527 AD. Stella Duffy writes an easy-to-read and well-crafted and rounded tale of the infamous woman in one of the most interesting periods of the Roman Empire.
Born the second daughter of three to Acacius and an unknown woman, named Hypatia for this novel, Theodora was born into showbusiness as it was then. Her father was the bear trainer at the infamuous Hippodrome of Constantinople. It is the Hippodrome that is the most important place in Theodora's life: her earliest memories, the death of her father at the hands of his beloved bear, and eventually the site of the greatest triumph of her life: her coronation. Duffy writes Theodora as a determined, intelligent and capable young woman. Not the best singer, not the best dancer or even the prettiest girl, Theodora commands attention and awe from her presence, her wit, her spirit and her sheer ambition. Though the novel begins at age eleven for the protagonist, it is never immature or boring: I was captivated from the start.With a singer for an older sister (Comito) and a beautiful younger sister (Anastasia), Theo turns to her true talent: comedy. With it she makes a name, a fortune and a life she always believed was beyond her. I liked Theodora a lot: I actually wished this was a first-person novel rather than third, though I did get to see and enjoy insight into Justinian as well. She was the only female character I enjoyed, the rest seeming rather hard-bitten and begrudging of Theodora's success, even her sisters. I enjoyed - and believed - the growth and maturity Theodora grows into, especially on her travels from Constantinople. She learns humility, grief and even experiences for the first time a sense of equality while in the desert. For the first time, regardless of her sex or past professions or infamy, Theodora was what she has always sought to be: an equal. It's also terribly interesting to read about a indomitable woman who experiences such a wide range of life: from a whore to a penitent nun in an ascetic community, Theodora remains herself and full of fire. From failed love affairs, to child abandonment issues, Duffy presents Theodora as a complex woman. There is no easy answer to the hows and whys of what Theodora did historically, but the reasons Duffy fabricates/infers are more than adequate and totally believable for her version of the Empress.
Let's talk about Justinian, the Emperor. Presented as a bookish, scholarly but kind man, I initially didn't invest in the relationship between the two. Born Flavius Petrus Sabbatius, he was not from Constantinople, an ambitious "foreigner" with a thirst for power "born of a desire for change." A man of strategy rather than force, Justinian quietly emerged as a strong and very likeable character. While their marriage is portrayed initially as more of an alliance to harbor amity between both sides of the religious debate (they were on openly opposing sides of the heated religious debate), it grew into a nice, steady affection and love. The two characters brought out the best in each other: I liked their dynamic and relationship more and more as the novel progressed through their lives together. There is a nice dichotomy between the eventual August and his Augusta as well: Theo is of the City, poor and therefore "one of the people." Justinian represents the other classes of the varied, multi-national Empire: foreigner of the City, rich and royal. Justinian helps Theodora evolve from anti-government to actually being the government, an interesting and hardly believable tale based on fact.
This is a fairly easy read for a historical novel. I found the prose to be a bit stuffy and overloaded from time to time, the dialogue occasionally stilted and unrealistic, but neither issue overwhelmed my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Constantinople itself was one of my favorite parts of the entire thing: it springs to life as much as Theodora and considerably more than the rest of the characters. It is a vibrant city, teeming with life. Contradictorily the Christian capital of the world but still fighting an internal battle over divinity of the Christ, Constantinople is in a constant flux of religious dogma, a microcosm of the entire empire. With the Western side extolling the belief in Christ's humanity AND divinity and the Eastern parts of the Empire contesting He is wholly divine, a schism seems imminent. Between the religious debates and the constant political turmoil and maneuvering of the Blues and the Green, it's easy to see the cracks in the foundation. Duffy does a more than admirable job of explaining the different opinions/beliefs and the reasons for the tensions in the novel without a massive infodump. I will say I didn't like the jumps in the chronology at all: the barely glossed over times ("in those two years....." "For the next three....") because I was interested in a lot of the events/times skipped over.
Love her, hate her, despise her for her less savory acts but you cannot deny Theodora had an impact. On the world, on her Empire, and on religion. An influential woman who refused to stay in her place and do what she was told, I think many historical fiction fans will have fun with this easy-to-read, easily enjoyable novel. Her life began and ended at the famed Hippodrome, but Theodora's legacy and memory still reaches out over 1500 years after she died at the age of approximately 48....more
I had my eye on this novel for a while before a copy of it fell into my greedy, cover-loving, teenage-sRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I had my eye on this novel for a while before a copy of it fell into my greedy, cover-loving, teenage-steampunk-heroine craving hands. Dearly, Departed is indeed a great read for most of the novel, lively with NeoVictorian humo(u)r and futuristic themes, though it is hampered sadly by two (maybe three) too many POV's and overly-cartoonish and cliched villains. Dearly, Departed tries to do a lot with its 384 page length, with an eclectic mixing of a multitude of dramas and an inter-life relationship and it succeeds for enough of them - which is why I kept reading in spite of apparent issues early on in the novel's narrative. I liked the mix of a horror flair with the steampunkish nature, as I'd read a series with a similar bent but felt it lacked the urgency of a real zombie novel and I had a disconnection with the characters - a situation I hoped to find remedied in the intermingling of the genres here in Dearly, Departed.
I'm personally quite a large fan of steampunk novels and have been for about three years so this recent upswing in production of young-adult and adult novels with a Victorian bent and sly British humour is deeply appreciated when done right. And happily enough, one of the things that Lia Habel's series introduction Dearly, Departed nails on the head is the steampunk aspect of the freshman novel. With a mix of advanced tech and old-school steam function-ery (digidiaries, ID Chips, holographs, the required mention of "aether" with "Aethernet" ) in conjunction with highest (read: primmest) manners and ideals of the Victorian age, Dearly, Departed excels at creating a viable, evocative atmosphere with an original yet familiar locale. It certainly feels that the author researched and thought out everything about her society reborn from the ashes of destruction. Though the recent destruction seems ferociously apocalyptic in nature (massive climate issues, catastrophic storms, destroyed nations, new diseases and pandemics, a Second American Civil War, nuclear destruction, a SUPERVOLCANO!!, etc.) humans have survived and in this time of panic, they turned to manners, extreme social order and conformity. It's understandable and admittedly clever way of the author to authentically introduce such an anachronistic lifestyle into the year 2193.
Nora Dearly is a student at St. Cyprian's School for Girls. I really wished for more from this character, but on the whole I found Nora Dearly is a decent-to-good protagonist for this novel. I occasionally wanted to ask what the hell was wrong with her, but I didn't find her emotions and actions as off the rail as other reviews seem to have. Nora is definitely all over the place - the girl has the emotional range of ten people - but she goes through a lot in this novel. I didn't mind her rapid moodswings because they were within reason and not hysterical whining and crying. Nora wasn't my favorite POV by far, that honor belongs to the charming and dashing and dead Captain Griswold, but in this novel of FIVE POV's she's not my least favorite, either. With both good zombies and bad zombies out for her blood, Nora's hesitation to trust is understandable and leads to a real friendship to blossom with the aforementioned Captain. I liked Nora best when with Bram (or maybe I just ignored her more ;]), and I loved their sweet but slightly cheesy and predictable romance. It worked for me, even though he's dead and she's a little bit self-centered, and a whole lot of crazy. I also wish the plot-line with Nora's girlish and silly "enemy" Vespertine Mink had been explored more: it seemed haphazard and random. . . and I loathe the cliched, overdone "popular blonde girl" with a random hate-on for a main character. I wanted some reasoning, some valid explanation besides fomenting drama and girlfights.
Now, the other four POV's. We, as readers, are treated to insights not just from our erstwhile and goofy young lovers Nora and Bram but to: Victor (Nora's father), Pamela (Nora's best friend), and Averne Wolfe (the Commander in Charge of Bram's unit/division). Of these, I would say only Pamma's actually contributed much worthwhile to the plot of the story, and that was emotionality and mostly humor. I think Victor's perspective, endearing though it may have been, and Wolfe's should have been left on the editing room tables. They all ultimately end up feeling like filler, like a purposeful delay before returning to the more pertinent and relevant POV's of Nora and Bram. I actually quite enjoy Miss Pamma: she brings a little diversity into a whitewashed society and a little female ferocity to the table, but I couldn't look past her less-than-involving pages. I also found Averne to be quite comical - but probably not in the way (if she meant to at all) the author intended. His tirades and monologues to/at Bram were over-the-top and quite obvious. But Bram! I love Bram! I loved Bram's POV from the moment he appeared - the first page, the first paragraph. His is a prologue that is heart-wrenching, foreboding and appropriate. I loved his gentlemanly and refined interactions with nearly everyone: he may be dead, but he is still a gentleman, thank you very much. Though Bram is from a hostile country/territory to Nora's, they have far more in common than they do in differences. I would've enjoyed the entire novel so much more if it had been from this character's eyes alone.
I also admit to finding the zombie department of Dearly, Departed to be a bit wanting. With that prologue and the multiple, often intelligent, versions of the "Grays" (crawlers, lone wolves, bands of mindless flesh-eating machines. . .) I expected....well, more horror. With such a thorough background into the details and effects of the "Laz", I wished the author had conjured up a little more creepiness into her creatures. I liked the whole original and fresh idea of the origin of the zombies and the quest for the cure, but I wasn't impressed with the author's execution of them, particularly later in the novel. It seems that Nora is at least trying to duck the murderous degenerating undead for the first half and then. . . the attacks slow, trickle out. . . and, in the end, leave a lot of suspense to be desired. I never felt the urgency, the anticipation of the first part and that made finishing the latter bit a little harder than anticipated.
Dearly, Departed is, admittedly, quite far from perfect. It's also a lot more fun than I can seem to let on, and there are numerous aspects of this novel that I quite enjoyed. I just wish more had been trimmed so that Nora and Bram coudld shine a bit more, and that it had more chill and creepiness to it. I will certainly still definitely be seeking out the sequel Dearly, Beloved as soon as it is available, and hope that the steampunk gadgets and NeoVictorian charm have not worn out. ...more
I'm of two different minds about this novel. I'm typically not a huge fan of angels as a race/species/what-have-you in fiction, but they seem to be prI'm of two different minds about this novel. I'm typically not a huge fan of angels as a race/species/what-have-you in fiction, but they seem to be pretty inevitable, especially in the young-adult paranormal genre. I've even reviewed (and genuinely liked) Addison Moore's Nephilim-friendly Ethereal, but on the whole it's a niche I'd usually try to avoid. To me, it seems that there is a fine line between incorporating the celestial as an aspect of your novel for ingenuity and using it for subtle (or not so subtle) metaphor preaching at your audience. While Mephisto (for the most part) stays far away from that pet peeve of mine, it did hit upon a few others.
I personally, am not a fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. I try not to rant on about it as it's genuinely not horrible not the worst thing out there (Eragon, I AM LOOKING AT YOU) and it got a metric ton of people to read that normally would not (and it's been out forever soo been there, done that), but on the whole, I find Twilight bland, derivative and cringingly laughable. At times The Mephisto Covenant sadly reminded me strongly of the same vibe I get from Twilight. We've got a bland, perfect MarySue Alexandra "Sasha" Annenkova. She's described as "insanely beautiful" more than once, and much time is spent waxing philosophic on her many, varied attributes. Thankfully, Sasha grows and changes, but only with (and here is another problem of mine in 3, 2, 1. . .) . . . .
to finish this review (be warned SPOILERS ahead!) click HERE! ...more
Glow is set in the semi-distant future, when mysterious circumstances have made "Old" Earth practicallyRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog
Glow is set in the semi-distant future, when mysterious circumstances have made "Old" Earth practically unlivable and humans can barely survive, much less thrive. In order to save the species, two inter-galactic ships, The New Horizon and the Empyrean are the only hope of the colonists and Earth to cross the galaxy to find, settle and repopulate a new home. One ship, the New Horizon, consisting of the more religious/Christian settlers and left a year before Empyrean. While the latter spaceship launched after with a more multicultural/politically varied aspect to the passengers, the differing views and launch times keep each ship an island, with no communication passing between the populations of each ship.
Told in the third person perspective, the narrative of the novel jumps between two main characters, usually after a stretch of chapters in the same POV. Those two are Waverly and Kieran, two of the first in-space live births, two of the upcoming generation, slated to take over in time and continue to "New Earth". Because these young people are two of the first humans born in space, and thus supremely important to the mission of Empyrean, they are the crux at which this book hangs. In order for both ships to successfully navigate for all the space and time needed, each ship had to supplement its original workforce: children of the current crew would be needed to run the ship after their parents. When the New Horizon cannot successfully reproduce, they attack their sister ship, kidnapping all the young-women. I loved the premise of this plot - it's original and striking in its creepiness. There's a genuine feel of desperation often in Waverly's dialogue and thoughts, which is to be expected, but it's handled well; building successively every time the narrative shifts to Waverly's POV. The split narrative of Waverly/Kieran/girls/boys is a brilliant move for Ryan's storytelling: each side carefully balances between the fast-paced action and more cerebral plotting.
Though I hate the new trend of constant comparisons to The Hunger Games (The most riveting series since The Hunger Games! is sprawled across the back blurb [AND THIS IS NOT A DYSTOPIA]), I think that readers who enjoyed Katniss' ferocity and determination will have a similar reaction for Waverly (I don't have the problem with her name that a lot of reviewers seem to have. But I read a lot of fantasy so maybe my weird-name tolerance is high.) Both are young-girls who no "powers" to speak of; only their wits and resourcefulness can help them. Both are strong young-women who don't rely on a man to save them or rescue them; Waverly's independent and so determined she doesn't even contemplate just waiting or hoping for the best blindly. She's a determined, clever and resolute without being overbearing or controlling: all things I love in a female protagonist. The word that srpings to mind for this character is brave. The focus is never on how Waverly looks, but completely on how she thinks, what she does. Though Waverly, like Katniss Everdeen, suffers from the Mysterious Missing Parent Syndrome so popular in today's teen literature, the mystery of what happened to her father is a subplot that caught my curiosity almost as much as the main story. Waverly herself is a strong character; she commands attention when she's on the page in any chapter.
The other main character, that of Kieran Alden: wonderboy, future Captain and Waverly's love interest, wasn't nearly as interesting to me. Though he seemed mostly fleshed out and internally conflicted (understandable as a member of one of the only religious families on Empyrean) this character never connected with me. He is seemingly perfect (though not a Larry Sue [or whatever it is for male characters]) but his personality came across as hollow and insincere. Even when he's at his most "human" - making mistakes, breaking down - he is remote and cut-off character. Maybe that is because he's always in charge, in control; I just didn't root for him the way I normally would. When the (inevitable) love-triangle rolled along I couldn't even pick a team: Team Seth or Team Kieran. Both are passably flawed and virtuous; neither is as compelling a protagonist as Waverly. Another possible reason for my distaste for pretty much all the men in the book is their collective attitude toward women and young girls. The atmosphere feels possessive, controlling and calculating whenever a young woman is mentioned. Several slight allusions to past problems with the male population throughout the novel furthered this distaste and apprehension.
With dividing the two ships into religious/non-religious crews, the author has set the stage and tension within the first twenty pages of the novel. The subtle hints and allusions of the characters themselves make abundantly clear that the differences between the two ships (and their respective crews) are both problematic and ambiguous. Though the author takes considerable time and care to both demonize and humanize each side of the religious debate, the reader is left with the relevant question, "Does religion hurt? Or does it heal?" The leader of the New Horizon is an excellent villain and symbol: a pleasant face, calm demeanor masking the horror inside a Pastor's machinations and mind. On the Empyrean, the symbol of that ambiguity-in-power is that of the Captain: supposedly beneficent and kind, but possessed of the same chilling attitude as most of the males on board. Another interesting dichotomy is the reaction of the two main characters: Kieran tries to boldly run the show from the outset and the results are mixed. Waverly, quietly and carefully, resists from the shadows and bides her time.
Some of the actions of the religious ship New Horizon (the kidnapping itself, the murders, attempted brainwashing, the egg-harvesting, the imprisonment of crew from the Empyrean) are egregiously horrible and disgusting... until later on when more sides of the tale are told (and those are not all favorable for the erstwhile population of the Empyrean). No side is perfect; no side is innocent in this deep-space drama. There are several dark, unsettling undertones to this novel - when the girls are stolen, the parents of the rest of the ship are locked away from the remaining boys. Those boys devolve into a more bestial, harsh rule; several critics have hearkened their actions to those in The Lord of the Flies, with a more military bent. The comparison rings true: the boys self-determined leadership is cruel and harsh, almost murderous. Though it was an interesting and fresh idea, I was never as completely involved with Kieran, Seth, Arthur as I was with the stolen girls. The girls story arc over on the New Horizon was completely different, but so disturbing I thought about it even when I was not reading the novel.
The ending is not final and complete (it is a series after all); several important threads are left hanging, characters left in limbo, etc. I fully intend to keep reading; the mystery of the exodus and colonization, who to believe/trust, Waverly's father's accident, reaching the final destination.. these are all compelling storylines I'm eager to read already and it's technically not even a published novel yet. Quick, easy to read with a GREAT hook, Glow is more than worth checking out. Ms. Ryan's inventive writing sucks you in before the first chapter is out, and then the mystery and tension does not let up.
While I've read more than my fair share of Elin Hilderbrand's breezy, easy summer novels (Barefoot, The Castaways, A Summer Affair, The Island, SummerWhile I've read more than my fair share of Elin Hilderbrand's breezy, easy summer novels (Barefoot, The Castaways, A Summer Affair, The Island, Summer People, Nantucket Nights) this was by far the most emotional and affecting yet. Usually, along with Jennifer Crusie, Hilderbrand is my go-to gal for a light, beachy, often romantic read I can finish in a couple hours. This novel was a slight change in tone from the previous novels I'd read, because those books too dealt with heavy, tough issues, this seems like a much more personal novel, especially when Meredith reflects on her relationship with her late father.
The book beginning finds Meredith, the titular "silver girl" of the book, grieving for the life she believed she had for the last thirty years. Her "economic whiz" of a husband Freddy had "commited financial genocide" with a Ponzi scheme of $50billion, cheating thousands (including most of their friends) of their hard-earned cash. Knowing nothing of his heinous crime but disbelieved and blamed by all of America, Meredith can only turn to a friend she'd spurned years earlier because of Freddy. Read the rest of this (mild spoilers) review RIGHT HERE!...more
The cover is by far the most appealing aspect of the mess that is Tris & Izzie.
Simply and best put: the cover is the best part of the complicated mess that is this novel. I'd heard of a few other novels by this author I have wanted to read (mostly Mira, Mirror) so when I saw this on netgalley -- with that gorgeous cover -- I couldn't wait to read it. Sadly I was disappointed and frustrated by this retelling of the classic Tristan and Isolde legend.
The writing itself is very awkward and clunky from the beginning pages. Paragraphs like
"Mom said it was too painful to stay where all the memories were. Dad died just after I failed the test for magic that was supposed to figure out what kind I had. I guess magic can skip a generation or even fade out completely. No one knows the reason, but that's why there's less magic in the world now than there used to be. It's hard to live without magic surrounded by people who do, Mom says."
are prevalent and just as heavy-handed and meandering (this is on page 12, where the author is explaining her life now she has moved and then randomly we're learning about the state of magic in her world) throughout the entire story.
There's a LOT of exposition early on in order to catch the reader up to speed with the events and principles of this particular world. Rather than show the audience anything, every last detail is explained in monotonous dialogue or the vapid inner monologue like that quoted above of the main character, Izzie.
Izzie, or rather Isolde as she's called only by her angst-magnet Tristan, is not a character I cared about very much. Vapid, vain and entirely too boy-crazy to accurately represent a girl I'd like, Izzie is pretty clueless to top it all off. When warned by her witch mother Gwen (multiple times, over many years with her own life as an example of a true love philtre gone wrong) Izzie DRINKS a real love potion intended for another instead of you know, spilling it and thus making her fall in love with someone other than her 'perfect' boyfriend of a year. And then, after Izzie knowingly stole said potion with its intent and accuracy, and put it in a bottle of Sprite for two people who had NO IDEA what she was doing, and then took it herself, she COMPLAINS ABOUT THE RESULT. (Girl. YOU DID THIS. You were going to take two people who did not know each other and make them obsessively love each for all time and then when it backfires, YOU DRINK IT AND COMPLAIN? Are you kidding me.) Instead of ruining someone else's life (her ahem best friend was the target...) Izzie ruined her own. Instead of inspiring sympathy from me, I felt it was justified for a girl so supercilious as to decide who should fall in love without any awareness of that fact.
Speaking of Izzie's best friend and perfect boyfriend, all the characters in this felt very wooden, and fairly bland. None sparkled with individuality or flair; Mark, her original boyfriend, was so unassumingly bland I forgot Isolde was supposed to be conflicted half the time. And while these are supposed to be teens in high school, the conversations and overly-loaded dialogue felt way out of place. Izzie casually mentions Mark "the king of the school" (also, real subtle allusion to the real story, there) willing to "exile" another classmate for offending Izzie. I'm sorry, but teenagers do not talk that way. It's unrealistic and laughable, not to mention anachronistic for a generation unconcerned with history.
The plotting is glacial and very hard to get through. The odd moments of humor (Tristan to Isolde: "You see things" Isolde: "What, dead people?!") were intermittent, and while I did find them occasionally humorous, it wasn't enough to save my failing opinion of the style of this novel. I just cannot support a novel that has 16 year old teenagers discussing how they have found their soulmate, and how perfect him/her they are at length. The constant back-and-forth tugging between Tristan and Mark was extremely wearying, especially since I did not care who the author went with in the end: a fresh ending with a new twist or a new take on the old familiar. I just did not care.
Clearly this is a predictable story, one that has been told many times by many different people for a long, long time. But sadly, here in this novel, I saw little to distinguish from any other genre, run-of-the-mill retelling. I had hoped for an individualistic and clever take of forbidden love in a modern age, and instead I got genre popcorn. 1/5 and just not for me. ...more