A fascinating look at the events during the reign of France's Philip IV, and which directly led to the...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
A fascinating look at the events during the reign of France's Philip IV, and which directly led to the Hundred Years War between England and France. A bit dry, but long on detail and intrigue, and with an impressively large cast, The Iron King's influence on later novels, across genres, is undeniable. Widely read and recognized, Druon's epic work has been published and republished in the 50 years since it first came to be, but its story is as fresh and fascinating as ever. Anyone who enjoys descriptive and detailed historical fiction about France, England and the Hundred Years' War will find a lot to enjoy here.
Much has been made of its particular impact on the popular fantasy world of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (or A Game of Thrones if you're solely a fan of the tv show). Spanning seven volumes, with a large, disparate cast - from kings to bankers to heretics - the numerous parallels between Druon and Martin's work are easy to spot. While there are (sadly) no dragons to be found in the Iron King, there are she-wolves, betrayals, family curses, torture, court intrigue, and ambition to keep things interesting. Historical fiction is at its best when it makes you curious about the people and times portrayed, and Maurice Druon captures these particular times and these complex people so well, it's hard not to be inquisitive about them once the novel is over.
A Game of Thrones has rival families: The Starks and the Lannisters. The Iron King has the royal rival families of the French Capets and the English Plantagenets. George R. R. Martin wasn't lying when he said his Starks and Lannisters had nothing on the Capets and Plantagenets. Both families are filled with fools, ambitious men, capable and deceptive women, and more. While the first Accursed Kings book lacks the amount of sheer drama that A Game of Thrones packs into one novel, it is admittedly much shorter (by hundreds of pages!). But, thankfully, the author manages to infuse those too-short 275 with enough machinations and manipulations to make Littlefinger himself proud.
A Game of Thrones has the stalwart and rigidly serious Ned Stark. The Iron King has the severe and authoritarian Philip "the Fair" IV of France. Both men are descended from a noble and respected lineage (Ned - Brandon the Builder; Philip - Saint Louis aka Louis IX of France) and both take their responsibilities as leaders very seriously. The comparisons between the two are inevitable for those that have read both works, and it's easy to see how Ned was inspired (and improved upon) Druon's French king. Ned is easier to like, and more personable than the more remote and dispassionate Philip, but they are two men cut from the same cloth.
A Game of Thrones has a family matriarch with steel and determination in Catelyn Tully. The Iron King has Isabella, She-Wolf of France (and reigning Queen of England with Edward II). You may know her best (and inaccurately) as William Wallace's weepy lover in the 1995 movie Braveheart, but that film does her character a disservice. Cold, calculating, and highly intelligent, Isabella and her actions have more of an impact on the history of two countries than one would guess. Much like Catelyn, Isabella has goals and ambitions of her own - for her children, she will start a war that will kill thousands of people before it is all said and done. Both Isabella and Catelyn are remote and hard to like and can be traced as the initiators of huge struggles, but each are thoroughly fascinating to read.
A Game of Thrones has Cersei Lannister, a woman determined to have the love she wants regardless of the constraints society - and marriage - would put upon her. The Iron King has Marguerite of Burgundy, who, like Cersei, is unfaithful (and eventually found out) to her royal husband, which casts the paternity and thus the rights of her children in serious doubt and helps set off the series of dynastic disputes. SPOILER for later ASOIAF novels: And, like the Lannister lioness, Marguerite finds herself imprisoned against her will, without hope of freedom or redemption. Cersei may be easier to label as outright evil rather than selfish and short-sighted, but the similarities between the two women are apparent.
A Song of Ice and Fire is set to be published in a series of seven novels. Druon's series The Accursed Kings is a seven volume work. They are hard to come across, especially in English, but Harper Collins seems to be in the long process of republishing them in 2013. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the day I can continue this series and see how it all plays out in Druon's version of the Hundred Year's War.
The story that has begun to unfold here in the first novel continues in book two, The Strangled Queen. If it is anything like its predecessor I will be a big fan.
THIS BOOK. This book right here. It just... It wrecked me. It played with my emotions. It gleefully tossed me form the height of happiness to the depths of despair. You know that saying "heart wrenching"? That is Crown of Midnight in two words. I get it now. I am wrenched; my heart is so wrenched it may never recover.
I wasn't expecting to have such an emotional, visceral reaction to this book. I readily admit that I went into it with a lot of trepidation. Though there were things I enjoyed from Throne of Glass (Chaol, strong female characters, hints of magic, Chaol), there was a lot of room for improvement as well. Celaena herself was a bit of trope, she didn't assassinate nearly enough people to back up her incredible arrogance, the mystery tied into the plot was overt and way too obvious, and don't even get me started on the love triangle. But, here in the series' second outing, almost none of those issues reappear. Maas has grown into a much more deft and subtle author; I understand and can empathize with her characters better; Celaena's romantic life is an important facet of the story but not a main focus.
Crown of Midnight may not be technically perfect. I can see some of the technical issues others will have, but my rating is 4 stars for the writing, plot, characters and another star for how much I was engrossed and captivated by the entire novel. This book left me feeling so very many things. Vindication because I called it - a big reveal. Despair because Maas whiplashed me from joy to despair so many times in just 440 pages. Anxiety because I don't have a sequel in my hands waiting to be read. Excitement because Celaena kicks so much more ass in this installment. Hope because I refuse to give up. Envy because this book is so good and I know I will never write like this. Worry because I absolutely can't predict where the story will go from here.
The plot of the novel is more straightforward than the murder mystery/race to the finish at the heart of Throne of Glass. There are some minor questions that Celaena has to work out, but she does, and not dozens of pages after readers have already figured it out. The mysteries are less intrinsic to the plot, and the more subtlety Maas writes with, the less predictable her books and plots become. The solid hints about Celaena's past are also woven into the story with more care, and though I had that figured out before the start of the book, the big reveal at the end was set up very neatly and works well to hint at future plots in the next books.
Celaena was a big obstacle for me in Throne of Glass. I didn't exactly sympathize or identify with her before. Thankfully, I was directed to read the four prequel novellas before embarking on this heartbreak of a book (thank you, Gillian!), and it really adds to Celaena's depiction. I understood her better going into Crown of Midnight, and Maas took more time to flesh out her protagonist into a truly three-dimensional person. I like a flawed, human character better than any paragon of perfection, and oh boy is Celaeana flawed. She's stubborn, arrogant, tends to underestimate anyone without the last name Sardothien, and she makes a lot of mistakes. However, for all her imperfections, this is a great, strong female character. She might make mistakes, but she learns from them too.
Let's talk about love triangle, because it's still hanging on here in Crown of Midnight. Happily, Maas doesn't jerk her main character from love interest to love interest as she did before. Both Dorian and Chaol may have tender feelings for the deadly Celaena, but for all her flaws, the girl isn't indecisive. She makes a choice, and though there are complications between the two, it isn't about what man Celaena wants to be with. I can't say the love triangle is entirely dead (this is YA, after all) but Maas handles it with maturity and I didn't mind how it was used for tension amongst the three principles.
I may have been a tepid fan before, but no longer. I'm fully on board this ship (and the Chaol + Celaena ship), and will be buying copies of this series. I was so entertained by this actiontastic thrill ride; I was heartbroken at some of the twists and turns; I was emotionally whiplashed as Maas kept the reveals and betrayals coming. For better or worse, I am invested in this series, these characters, this world. It's going to be a long hard wait for book three, but I am counting down the days. This is an author that has grown into her story and really impressed me with her sophomore effort.
If you're on the fence like I was, if you liked but didn't love Throne of Glass -- don't give up. Read the prequels. And then read the second because you won't be disappointed. Crown of Midnight is the rare sequel that exceeds expectations and surpasses its predecessor. This is YA fantasy - with a female main character! - done so right.(less)
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts a...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This is just so so good, from start to finish. I'm still having a hard time putting coherent thoughts about it together, but If I Lie made me cry, oh, once every 75 pages or so. It's gripping, and touching, and altogether beautiful in several ways. This is a book that made me feel things (All the feelings!), that made me care intensely about its wide cast of multi-dimensional characters people; all in all, this is a damn good book and I literally have zero complaints. It and the themes and issues explored in those 276 pages brought to mind The Scarlet Letter and another novel I recently read, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, on how inaction and silence can be as harmful as telling secrets. And, however much I was initially reminded of those novels, this is very much its own novel. Corrine Jackson is undoubtedly an author to watch and she more than proves her talent with this contemporary debut. Though I read an ARC of this, I fully plan to buy my own copy when it's available. Heart-breaking in a variety of ways, If I Lie is easily one of my best of 2012 reads.
This book is so much more than the blurb seems to let on. It's not the same tired old highschool angst and melodrama about a girl caught in a cliched love triangle. If I Lie is anything but that. It's heartfelt and emotional. In the end, it's about hope, love, trust, family, and ultimately, what it means to be your own person. It's about growing up, moving on, and learning how to live with curveballs life can and does throw at you. Though I called the secret even before starting, the heart of the novel isn't uncovering what happened those two days before Carey shipped out, but in watching how that secret affects and continues to impact the characters various lives after he's gone.
Main character and chief protagonist Sophie Topper Quinn is one of those few and far between heroines: she's strong, passionate, honorable, stubborn, flawed, and real. I absolutely loved Sophie and reading about her life, through her ups and downs, her stubbornness and her pride. This is the kind of character I can care about, root for and invest in heavily. Her voice is... real, organic -- it gets under the skin and makes you care about her and her life. She has hopes and dreams, is an active protagonist, even if some of what she does is more harmful than goo in the long run. This book is a great example of how first-person POV can be used effectively to make a reader identify closely with the narrator. I felt what Quinn felt, her full spectrum of emotions caught me early. Her inner monologue is just so realistic and further reinforces how authentic and grounded this character is. Corrine Jackson has this characterization, voice, plot all down pat here in If I Life, and I was impressed even as tears were streaming down my cheeks, multiple times.
Though my family isn't nearly as military-oriented as Quinn's is shown to be, I do have a brother who is a Sergeant in the Marines, and who has served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while, thankfully, he has never been MIA or wounded in action, the actions of the characters in this novel really hit home for me. The simple fact of not knowing where they are or how your loved one is is stressful and can lead people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. I'm not just talking about Quinn here (though her case is obviously not the same as others), but Carey's parents and friends as well. While their actions towards Quinn can be and often are abusive, I understand how it is to act out of fear for someone you love but cannot do anything to help. Corrine Jackson's skillful writing and my personal experiences makes it so that I understand them, even if I disagree with how they act. One of the best things, out of a multitude of options, about If I Lie are how human all these characters are, even the antagonists of Jamie and the Breens. They're practically alive with their flaws, mistakes, and errors.
I picked this up yesterday morning, intending to read a few chapters before I went to work out. I ended up pushing back my workout by several hours because I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put this down. If I Lie is compulsively readable, even as it repeatedly shatters your heart and wrangles all your emotions. Though the ending is more open-ended than anything, I choose to see it as a hopeful finale, for Quinn, for Blake, (view spoiler)[ for Quinn and Blake together as a couple after the summer ends (hide spoiler)]. It's perfect. This is a great book. Read it and love it. I can't recommend it highly enough. Well done, Corrine Jackson. You have made a fangirl out of me with just one novel alone and I eagerly anticipate whatever else you publish.
Eventually, I did get to my gym. But first, I went to see my brother and gave him a big hug and a 'thank you' for all he has done. Though the military is far from perfect, I am eternally grateful for what they all - every branch and every individual servicemember - have sacrificed for this country. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several boo...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several books I've read had been frustrating, time-consuming, and often, disappointing. Happily, that is far from the case with What's Left of Me. Though this debut novel is far from being free of all errors, Kat Zhang's first novel in the Hybrid Chronicles manages to be innovative, engrossing, unique, and affecting. I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put it down; this was another one-day read for me. With shades of The Golden Compass, Never Let Me Go and Unwind, all three of which are among my favorite-ever books, this novel is sure to entertain and engage, all the while making its rapt readers think. This is one of those rare YA novels that could, and does and will, hold a wide appeal for readers of different ages and genre preferences.
There's a lot to recommend about this novel. It's action-packed and also contemplative; it's filled with remarkable, highly individual characters and strong characterization; it's a fresh, innovative concept coupled with great storytelling. I love it wholeheartedly, even with its issues. The few things that missed with What's Left of Me only slightly detract from the overwhelming good about it. There are some sections that could use some tightening, some periods where the fluid pacing gets a bit stuck, but on the whole, this is a great book. One I would easily and happily push on my fellow bloggers, friends, and family. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed, with some key plot points left too vague and undetailed (the surgery, the tech, the drugs, etc.), but I was left with a unquenchable need for the second book as soon I as I metaphorically turned the last page.
The dystopian elements of the world shown are bare, and sketched in only slightly more as the story progresses, but I... didn't mind all that much. I often harp on worldbuilding, especially with fantasy and dystopian novels, and while What's Left of Me left some principle explanations missing in action, the characters and the plot of the novel more than made up for the lack. This is a solid, well-constructed novel and while the book's momentum hits a few snags as it moves quickly along, the emotion and relationship I had invested/built in Addie/Eva's struggle for life was more than enough to keep me fully engrossed. The other characters are almost uniformly remarkable and well-rounded, highly individual even in their twinned souls, but it was the two main characters that meant the most to me.
A few other quibbles: I found the main antagonist of the novel to be rather weak, and sadly one-dimensional in his presentation. I wished for more of a presence for him, felt that would have added more of a sense of tension to the atmosphere of the book, and for what he represented for the hybrids, but that never materialized. I also thought that the "twist" revealed at the end was a bit too open-ended and an obvious lead to buy the next book and it felt superfluous to the already-engaging plot of the novel. But like I said, these are minor complaints in the face of all the awesome shown and revealed here in What's Left of Me.
This is a great novel; entertaining and horrific at the same time. It's one that I will be buying a finished copy of as soon as it is available, because rereads of What's Left of Me are going to be necessary. I'm very impressed with Zhang's storytelling ability, as well as her obvious talent for innovative, creative plots and for crafting real, flawed, human characters. Read this book, especially if you're a fan of Unwind, Never Let Me Go and/or The Golden Compass -- for once the hype and the comparisons are dead on. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
Also: I have to note that the cover is completely perfect. Two people in one body? Creepy, awesome, eye-catching. This is not one to miss, for many reasons! (less)
I knew pretty early on that I was really going to enjoy this fairly short novel - and I was repeatedly...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
I knew pretty early on that I was really going to enjoy this fairly short novel - and I was repeatedly proven right while reading this charming debut. Though Hannah Barnaby and therefore Portia's tale is a bit short on action and long on character (like another recently released circus themed novel...), I was hooked from chapter one and Portia herself. I felt that the final conflict lacked a bit of emotional pull or immediacy but nearly everything else from this look into Mosco's Traveling Wonder Show was pure fun to read. I'm happy to say that Hannah Barnaby emerges from her first novel as a solid and compelling storyteller with a flair for the dramatic and the unique - just like her indomitable lead.
Portia is a flawed but very likeable protagonist; though her story is mostly told in third-person omniscient and occasionally oddly features other first-person perspective important characters, Portia is the strongest, most developed character of the lot. While I truly disliked the shifts between first and third perspectives it's easy to fall into any narrative in the story, be it P's or the Jackal, or Gideon or even Mosco. Portia made me laugh, but mostly and most importantly, Portia made me care about her story; made me invest in her happiness and actively cheer for her success and lament over her losses. Her inquisitive nature and love of words ("Stories came easily to Portia. Lies came even more easily and more often." - p. 13 ARC) endeared her to me rather quickly and her adventures with Aunt Sophie and subsequent misadventures at the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls only impressed me with her spirit and liveliness.
While the 'freaks' advertised for the Gallery of Human Oddities didn't quite live up to the hype of the synopsis and blurb, I am not disappointed; rather instead, I believe that is the whole point of Wonder Show - that those who society considers freaks are really just people like us, living the hand they are dealt. In fact, the only truly freakish character within the entirety of Wonder Show is the antagonist of the piece, ominously referred to only as "The Mister" - someone not hidden away and hated on principle but someone trusted with power and the futures of young girls. The other characters, thoguh they don't compel like Portia or creep you out like Mister, each have believable and distinct voices. Like Portia, the population of the Wonder Show is at large on the run from something/time/one they'd like to forget, or change. While no two characters plot was the same outside of Portia I found the Jackal and the deteriorating Marvel family to be the most accessible. In fact, while I was far from a fan of the weirdly switching POV's used to alternate character inner monologues (not person to person but 3rd omniscient to 1st), I wouldn't have hated an even longer look into those characters.
Though I was expecting to be more involved and invested in the ending, I felt it was solid but very much not the climactic, epic tête-à-tête I had been craving because Mister needed his ass kicked anticipating. And I have to admit that though this is a middle-grade novel, it doesn't read like one and I feel that people of all ages would enjoy the adventures and marvels that make Wonder Show so fun to read in the first place. This is a quick read with a large reward for your minimal efforts; full of charm and adventures, Wonder Show is welll... quite wonderful indeed..(less)
Thoughts upon finishing: emotional. touching. infuriating. lovely. Full review to follow but I knew this was a 5-star read for me early on - Craig and...moreThoughts upon finishing: emotional. touching. infuriating. lovely. Full review to follow but I knew this was a 5-star read for me early on - Craig and especially Lio have forever a place in my heart.(less)
The final fifty pages of this book had me contradictorily unwilling to finish and anxious for resolution to several characters I was invested in. The...moreThe final fifty pages of this book had me contradictorily unwilling to finish and anxious for resolution to several characters I was invested in. The Wicked and the Just is a very character-driven novel, but thankfully, both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar are both more than capable of bearing the weight of this 350 page novel. Though this is in the mid-300's, this reads both easily and quickly due to the complimentary and contrasting natures of both main character's narratives. Full review to follow but a rewarding read. (less)
This is one hell of a twisted, emotional ride. Slightly subpar from the first (I blame all the focus on romantic subplots), but still an engaging, int...moreThis is one hell of a twisted, emotional ride. Slightly subpar from the first (I blame all the focus on romantic subplots), but still an engaging, interesting vision of a particularly dark apocalypse.
Humans will be the hunted. Love will be tested. Vengeance will be had.
I need this book. This sounds amazing, based on just the first sentenc...morePre-read
Humans will be the hunted. Love will be tested. Vengeance will be had.
I need this book. This sounds amazing, based on just the first sentence of the synopsis. I want it, precious, and I must have it. That, added to the fact that Elizabeth May seems to be made of pure awesome only makes me covet this as much as I wanted Daughter of Smoke and Bone last year. 2013 can't come fast enough - when can I pre-order?! Gimmegimmegimme.
"An unexpected delight" were the immediate words to pop into my head upon my all-too-soon completion of...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
"An unexpected delight" were the immediate words to pop into my head upon my all-too-soon completion of this historical remake of America in the Dust Bowl - with fairies! Teaching me once again that assumptions are flawed from the outset, both early and often Dust Girl exceeded my expectations. I got a thoroughly developed and humanly flawed heroine, a likeable rogue for a possible love interest, a fresh envisioning of the oft-used Seelie/Unseelie Courts of fae and a very unique background in which all these elements operate: Oklahoma, 1935 right in the grips of the Dust Bowl. From the first page I was taken completely by the story Sarah Zettel has crafted so skillfully and truthfully? I didn't want to end - the potential for awesome shown just in the creativity behind the ideas extends itself as well to the contents of the book.
Calliope referred to as "Callie" and her mom are barely making do in their dying town of Slow Run, Kansas. With a long-gone dad and a struggling mom, Callie is older than her age, mature and self-aware. Her personal evolution progresses right along with her travels to both find her mother and figure out her future - the more Callie sees and understands the more she matures and figures things out independently. She's a smart protagonist and it's easy to root for her with such a sympathetic voice. Callie is also one of the few non-white main characters in YA I've come across lately (Shadows on the Moon's Suzume and The Immortal Rules's Allison are the only others I can recall), but thankfully that is not the forefront of her characterization. Callie's mixed race does play a part in the plot of the novel but it by no means defines who she is as a person or character. (I also wish cover more accurately portrayed how Callie is described... )I also appreciate the subtlety in which Callie's race was used as a reminder of the horrendous state of American prejudices without Zettel overdoing it. But what else doesn't define Callie? Her offbeat and thoroughly charming-in-a-rogueish-way love interest, Jack.
Jack is a great addition to the story. He balances out Callie's personality traits with flair, history and wit of his own. I have to admit one of the things I liked best about Jack was that he's not immediately introduced as some swoon-worthy love-interest, nor is his and Callie's connection all about teenage fluctuating hormones. In this very action-packed novel, Jack and Callie make for an unusual but oddly complementary pair. They work well together, despite the occasional bickering (who hasn't been "ready to kill him stone dead" referring to someone they care about?), and I liked them for one another... not that anything progresses to that kind of crux. (view spoiler)[They are two people used to hiding who they are: Jacob for his religion, Callie because of her multiple hidden heritages. They make sense for one another: they don't have to hide but can freely be themselves. (hide spoiler)] Those looking for a romance-charged YA novel, this is not that book. And I love Dust Girl even more for not going that predictable and inevitably boring route. If anything, what happens between the two main characters is more of an age-appropriate "puppy love" than anything else and it is adorable, and doesn't rely on cheap tricks love triangles to create affecting problems for the two..
The atmosphere/background of the novel is complete and stretches to every aspect of the book. I thoroughly believed I was in the 1930's, and the dialogue reads like how I would expect for an impoverished girl/boy at those times ("I got nothing." "A crazy Eye-Talian", etc.) It feels authentic without patronizing. Zettel also has a unique and charming way with words to paint a vivid but not overdone tapestry of locations throughout Dust Girl. As Callie and Jack move across the dust-covered lands, each different locale springs to life with very tactile but not overly descriptive prose. It's obvious that research has gone into crafting as authentic a representation as possible and Zettel succeeds with flying colors. I also liked the sprinkles of other mythlogies and lore within this tale of fae and fairies: Baya the Coyote familiar to many Native religions, and even Callie's own real name "Calliope" was a player in ancient Greek mythology. These inclusions don't feel odd in the middle of such an America-centric novel, but rather more mesh seamlessly within the larger scope of Zettel's novel of magic. The 'magic' aspect of this could've been expounded upon more (and one of the reasons I rated this a 4 instead of 5 stars is because it wasn't detailed to my satisfaction) but what was there, was serviceable. And creepy. (view spoiler)[Particularly the Hopper family. I have a fear of grasshoppers (don't judge me! My brother used to hide them in my bed under my covers.) so as soon as Callie figures out what's so odd about the hungry family I got majorly squicked out. (hide spoiler)]
The other main reason why this a 4 star review and not a 5 like I'd love it to, is that the ending leaves a little to be desired. While there are two more novels left to conclude this series, everything seemed a bit too easy and simple at the resolution. It was satisfying in the most part, but I expected more about the fae/magic/the Midnight People. I guess I will just have to be patient and wait for book #2.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved stor...moreRead This Review & More Like It On My Blog!
It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved stories can easily attest to how hard a feat that is to accomplish. Happily, that is so far from the case here with Catherynne Valente's second foray into her magical, modernish fairytale series with The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Told once again in the same wistful, cheeky tone, and with the same immediately immersive feeling as the first one, but with a more mature September and a more convoluted journey, Catherynne Valente once again proves how imaginative and capable a storyteller she is. Set a year after the first novel wrapped up, readers will have all new marvelous adventures, new anthropomorphic creatures, more wondrous and weird locales to sink into as they go along with September in her fight to once again save Fairyland.
These two books have been absurd, funny, poignant, and filled to the brim with odd, hard-won wisdom. The second adventure with September in Fairyland and Fairyland-Below has lost none of the originality or charm that so defined the first. Without a single doubt, this newest novel from the author is another winner from prosemaster Catherynne Valente. I loved this. Even more than the first, which I would've bet wouldn't've happened before I got a chance to read an ARC of the eagerly-awaited second.
With the same narrator, who frequently breaks the fourth wall to directly address his audience about the goings-on of September and her "new" motley band of misfits, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is as highly imaginative, and uniquely told as its predecessor. Though told in the same inimitable and thoroughly cheeky prose brimming with deeper meaning, Valente has a subtle way of intertwining hard-won wisdom amid her world of absurd and wonderful creations. With just as many quotable sections as the first, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... benefits from a larger focus on plot than the novel before. The novel still reads more like episodic vignettes than a straight-forward novel, but the overarching need to save Fairyland from Fairyland-Below drives September ever on.
The first September novel came across as an original and compelling mix of a modern fairytale, with a lot of ideas and events borrowed from the ages-old Persephone myth. The forced return for eating food, the regular mention of pomegranates further reinforced that feeling for me as I progressed in my read. Here in the second, I caught vibes of the Orpheus myth - someone sent into the underworld to retrieve something vital to her/others. Though in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland..'s case, it is not someone but something that must be retrieved. So far, both novels in this hopefully-ongoing series have uniquely and successfully blended adult themes, ideas into an easily readable and immensely enjoyable, highly original take on fairy tales. This is a series and book like no other.
More mature, and darker than the first novel, September's journey shows how much the main protagonist has grown and her battle with her darker self will appeal to readers of all ages. Filled with "mad and savage beasts", September's journey to save the world and put herself right easily blends classic fairytale ideas with new, more modern adaptations. With hints at a third, and more secrets than previously imagined, I anxiously hope that this is not the final adventure with September, Ell, Saturday, and everyone else. Full of brilliant prose, multilayered meaning, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is another winner from a very talented and original author. These books -and this author - are nothing short of remarkable.
"The sky glowed deep blue and rose, and a little yellow star came on like a lightbulb in the warm evening. That's Venus, September thought. She was the goddess of love. It's nice that love comes on first in the evening, and goes out last in the morning. Love keeps the light on all night."
"[September] did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery and boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms – and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too – end up in their shadows.”
"A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door to another place and another heart and another world."
Pressia Belze lives in a harsh and hard world, a world wracked by wars and detonations, separations and hatred. Outside of the Dome that protected the...morePressia Belze lives in a harsh and hard world, a world wracked by wars and detonations, separations and hatred. Outside of the Dome that protected the city and people inside from the world-ending Detonations of nine years before, everything is warped, twisted, fused, changed. Pure is definitely a striking and original dystopic debut: twists, turns and betrayals come and go and always turn out different than expected, harder parts of life are not glossed over, and the omnipresent feeling of danger and being watched all lend themselves to an engrossing, enveloping and often disturbing read. Pressia and the story of her struggles are one of the better examples of these two genres (dystopia and post-apocalyptic) I've read and is a promising beginning to a series. Through its occasional and minimal stumbles, Pure's plot is addictive and striking: this is not a novel that you will want to put down and continue later.
One of the things I liked best about this novel and author was that Pure is a very developed and thought-out novel. This is a world that is utterly destroyed and ripped apart in a frighteningly possible way, very alien to our current situation and yet it doesn't take too much of a stretch of imagination to believe in Baggott's harsh and unyielding future. The dystopic elements of the darker novel aren't just for show or used as an accent like curtains on a window. No, the controlling forces and people within Dome/the militaristic OSR outside are the main driving forces for the plot and the events throughout Pure, and are happily used well within the frame of the story. This is one of those young-adult novels that features a romance by-plot: it doesn't stop the show to focus on the touchy-feely emotions of the teen leads. I just wish it had been a first person novel: the events of the past, the action, the characters all feel slightly removed thanks to the third person perspective used. With so many shifting, main perspectives floating directing around the story (at least five that I can remember), and with several of those feeling rather unnecessary in the first place, it's hard to feel a concrete connection to all the goings-on at times.
Pressia herself is likeable, if distant for the reasons mentioned above. She's strident and tough: a survivor in a harsh reality where millions simply vanished, or were horribly affected by the Detonations. I also really like that Pressia isn't perfect: not in looks, not in attitude, not in her actions. She fumbles, she falls, she makes basic mistakes, but Pressia does not give up or give in: this is a protagonist to respect. What made me happiest is that she is never a stagnant character: she grows, matures, learns and adapts to new information and situations. At sixteen, Pressia is on the run from the violent and bloody leaders of the people outside, Operation Sacred Revolution, her own government. Being in her narrative is a constant whirl of emotion and thought: Pressia is not one to sit idly by - ever. Take her conflicted relationship with the "Pure" Partridge: it's a constant flux of guilt, curiosity, anger, shame, jealousy, and opportunism. It's real and believable. Forced by her own "government" to kill or be killed, Pressia is a girl with limited to no options given to her, so she does what few do and creates her own path. What resonated with me most about Pressia and her life was the unique but clever treatment of memories from Before as currency: I thought that spoke rather elegantly and ingeniously of each characters individual wish and desire for better times, a reminder of hope and love in this dark painful life to get them through the Dusts/Beasts and other terrors.
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.(less)
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 Wild...moreReally 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.(less)