It is as though Stephen King: 1. Took me out to an arid, deserted sepia-toned no-place 2. Lit a sputtering campfire that quickly faded to embers 3. HandcIt is as though Stephen King: 1. Took me out to an arid, deserted sepia-toned no-place 2. Lit a sputtering campfire that quickly faded to embers 3. Handcuffed me 4. Sat me down Indian-style across from him 5. Proceeded to narrate to me in a hoarse, bored drawl over a series of three-to-four weeks the world's longest, most uninteresting story while my head lolled back, my lips grew dry with thirst, and my bum ached
If this book had been written by any writer other than Stephen King, it would never have been published. I firmly believe that an editor, or any discerning eye, never even glanced at this book.
I will say that the only redeeming storyline in this entire book is Don (Pere) Callahan's tale. In it, King writes some surprisingly beautiful prose. Callahan's tale - which is interspersed throughout the main storyline - moves in a pace that a story like this should move - like hurried steps on a Manhattan sidewalk, like a nervous glance backward as though someone might be following you. Because guess what? Someone is following you - me, the reader! And if I'm following your little ka-tet through the boring, desolate redneck wonderland of the Calla for 925 freakin' pages - you better move! However, how much does Callahan's story actually move the plot? Very little. It seems to serve two purposes: to reinforce coincidence as "ka," and as an example of the quality of writing of which King is capable, but which you, reader, are being denied throughout the rest of the narrative.
Besides the sheer grueling pace of this beast, I had a couple of serious problems with this particular book in the Dark Tower Series:
1. Speech Mannerisms: The language of the Calla is annoying. When Roland's ka-tet continue to use these annoying speech mannerisms in their own "palaver" - it comes off as completely ridiculous. Not to mention - exhausting for the reader.
2. Repetition: Certain tropes (Nineteen, for example) are repeated too often. It is bad writing, simply put. While I do not yet understand the "significance" of Nineteen, it has been implied that it is significant. So, so significant. Yawn.
3. Mia: Susannah already has three personalities. Giving her another one is simply a rehashing and reheating of King's own once-interesting characterizations.
So, if the pace is slow, the plot overdrawn, surely in 925 pages there is room for some serious character development, right? Wrong! Besides Jake Chambers doing a little "coming of age," the rest of the characters remain stagnant throughout the narrative - to the point where they seem like thoughtless renditions of themselves. Even Mia - a brand new personality! - is derivative of Susannah's older personalities and is largely uninteresting.
I will also say that I find the subplot of the Callahan's meta-fiction interesting. I find it easy to believe that a quest that traverses time/place/universes, can surely traverse the border between reality and fiction. This development of a fiction-bridging reality could be spectacular if done correctly. Or it could fall off, and go nowhere. I cannot say I have faith for the former.
My enjoyment of Callahan's tale is the only reason I gave this book more than one star.
That said - I won't give up now. Not with thousands of pages of this series already read. I mean, I have to get to that Tower. But, God, God God - I want to give up. God, this Wolves of The Calla book was long. I felt like I was reading it for nineteen years....more
I had low expectations of this book, which were mostly based on the synopsis ("Libby finds herself right back where she started – on the run from a kiI had low expectations of this book, which were mostly based on the synopsis ("Libby finds herself right back where she started – on the run from a killer." Lame! What sadsack publishing-house-intern wrote that poopy synopsis?).
I don't read "mysteries," and while they probably constitute a rich and complex genre that I am missing out on, I just picture them as formulaic, whodunnit-y, that-guy-in-the-parlor-with-the-motive-that-was-foreshadowed-on-page-eleven-y. And I don't dig that crap. Not in movies, and not in books. In thinking Gillian Flynn's Dark Places was a mystery, a mystery with a shitty-sounding synopsis, I was skeptical about reading this book. But, it came highly recommended by a friend, so I gave it a chance. And I am really glad I did.
So, I guess it is a mystery. But, that is only part of the reason why it was so intriguing. Because, most of all - Dark Places was a gorgeous character study. By gorgeous, of course, I mean horrifying and slightly sickening, definitely twisted, and (as the f*ckin title suggests) dark. But, gorgeous, nonetheless. I don't think that a lot of readers can get on board with Flynn's writing style and subject matter.
But, if you aren't afraid of the dark, then hop on! This is an excellent book.
We start of in the POV of Libby, a nihilistic, ultimately depressing character who's existence, it seems, originated from - and hinges on - a constant state of victimhood. Her family was killed in one of those popular "Oh No! A Satanic Cult!" murders of the 80s and 90s, and she is a survivor.
But, NOT a "survivor" in the Beyonce sense. No, no. As in "she survived, now what?" At first, as a reader, I was put off by her "voice," her whole character in general. And just when I thought I didn't want to read any more about her, the plot became more intriguing, and the intrigue grew and grew. And as it did, so did the character Libby and her sense of her self.
Eventually, there are shifts in narrative points of view. The shifting narratives lead us to the truth behind Libby's past, and also the truth about Libby's dangerous present.
The narrative shifts present an excellent respite from Libby's negative voice, and they increase in frequency in the latter half of the book - pulling the pace along with them (no going to bed for you!). Eventually, you won't be able to put the book down.
But, the real success of the author is in the writing style. Sometimes Gillian Flynn is gritty and filthy and all you can think of when you read this book is tasting blood under your fingernails. Other times, she is tender and beautiful - making your heart ache for these characters - and if you think I'm just piling on the cliches, here, think again - because I was shaking my head with tears in my eyes at one point.
Finally, one last thing that I enjoyed about this book: The main character Libby befriends "A Guy." The two of them bond. They understand one another. They are there for one another. And guess what? No romance! I didn't think it was fucking possible for a writer (a female writer, no less) to construct a boy/girl "detective team" with no sexual tension or romance. But, she did it. I kept waiting for the moment when the two of them would "hook up," and it never came! I walked away from the book feeling ultimately satisfied and refreshed by this: I realized that it made much more sense for them to be friends, since they are both so emotionally fucked anyway. Cheers to Gillian Flynn for smashing my (stupid) expectations. Imagine a woman going a whole book without a romance....more
This is a great book for those who like their YA on the paranormal-side, sans vampire love triangles, with the slightest touch of romance.
For the mostThis is a great book for those who like their YA on the paranormal-side, sans vampire love triangles, with the slightest touch of romance.
For the most part, the novel takes place in Victorian England at an all-girls finishing school. If the words Victorian England usually frighten you away from books, have no fear: the girls of Spence Academy ring truer as modern-day characters than Victorian characters any day.
For those purists who titter with excitement at the words Victorian England: approach with caution, these characters could infuriate you (see Reviews).
And for those spec-fic/paranormal lovers who insist on good world-building? Forget it. This world was built, I imagine, by an author flying by the seat of her pantaloons. But, its okay... I love Libba Bray and her nonsense pantaloons!
Gemma starts the book with a bratty (not to mention somewhat racist) sensibility, but she loses her mother and her imperialist sense-of-entitlement quite early on in the book, and quickly forms into an intelligent, witty character with a good heart - albeit one who is incapable of recognizing foreshadowing (you, reader, will always be a few steps ahead of darling Gemma).
The girls at school are very much like Victorian Mean-Girls, and just when I honestly can't see the appeal of winning them over - they turn into characters with multifacted personalities. Eventually, they become likeable.
You'll notice that I've only given this book 3-stars. That's because
1) I liked it (and that's what a 3-star rating stands for, dammit) 2) All the things I did not like about the series take their fall in my rating of the first book.
See, A Great And Terrible Beauty is the first in a trilogy about Gemma Doyle and her "magical powers." The other books in the series, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, get higher ratings from me. And one of the reasons is that all of the things that annoyed me about Bray's anachronistic characterization ((view spoiler)[a girl who cuts herself?!?!?! O-come on! If that's not a 20th Century Teenage Epidemic, what is? (hide spoiler)]), her shoddy world-building, or her "I'm-equating-whiteness-with-beauty" physical descriptions, either paled away in the second and third installments or stopped bothering me.
Otherwise, I think that this is an engaging and exciting read about the power of friendship. It is an F-you in the face of the ladies-in-corsets Victorian agenda. I mean, this book has plenty of girls rolling around in the dirt and drinking booze in a cave, or girls being vexed and distraught by the choices they never even get to the chance to make...
Since Libba Bray is writing 110 or so years after the period, she injects some commentary into the mix, but does so without being didactic or uptight.
I frequently troll the rec-boards seeking people who are fans of "paranormal romance" who have not yet read this book. I recommend it to all the ladies out there reading Twilight and Twilight knock-offs, hoping they can see a world where magic exists, where girls have almost no rights of their own, but claim them anyway.
And especially, I want them to read a book where the sexy love-interest waits patiently in the background while the main character takes care of all the other shit she has to do... like saving The Realms....more