I read Khanani's book Thorn and loved it, which is frankly the reason we're here today. I don't mean here in the world, I mean here reading and writinI read Khanani's book Thorn and loved it, which is frankly the reason we're here today. I don't mean here in the world, I mean here reading and writing this review, respectively.
At first this story felt incredibly familiar. I was happy with the diverse cast, but the story itself was not very original. Our young girl, Hitomi, wants to prove herself, wants to fight against the tyrannical leaders of the city, has hidden magical powers, attempts to prove her worth to her rebel-leader, but it goes wrong and she's captured. It was a slight variation of a tale we've probably all read before... but then it changed.
After her capture everything goes wrong, of course, and Hitomi finds herself thousands of miles from her city, alone, frightened and in a real freaking mess; trapped in a tower with a very hungry something. From there on out it wasn't at all what I expected, and despite its brief length (only 140 pages), Khanani manages to create a complex world and a compelling story. She keeps it simple, but forceful, and very realistic despite the fantasy setting. This was something that impressed me with Thorn as well. Despite having a protagonist who's clearly got immense powers and is Very Important, it never feels over the top. Hitomi is sympathetic, resourceful, and clever, but she makes mistakes, and she's allowed to make them, to ponder them and learn from them - something not nearly enough fantasy protagonists do. Taking her from the very familiar city-setting Khanani keeps the story from stalling and becoming cliché.
The friendship that grows between Hitomi and another character is one of my favorite things, and a huge part of what made it a memorable reading experience. It was less a story of epic battles (difficult to fit into 140 pages in any case) and more about Hitomi growing as a person, no doubt we'll see her perform daring heroics in the next book, but this was a nice, unassuming start to the series.
Abandoning its familiar premise it turned into something unexpected, but delightful. It was fun, surprising and well-written, and as with Thorn I couldn't put it down. Khanani starts fast and doesn't waste time. Definitely one of the better takes on YA fantasy, and I can't wait for the next book to come out. ...more
”Sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the ext(You can also find this on my blog)
”Sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.”
Mike is not The Chosen One, nor are any of his friends or his sisters. In fact they’re all pretty ordinary people with ordinary, trivial lives. They just so happen to live in a town that sometimes has some supernatural trouble, you know, ghouls, vampires and this time Immortals. Fortunately the real chosen ones, they call them the indie kids, take care of all that. Mike just lives here.
This sort of book was bound to pop up sooner or later. As amazing as it is to read all that YA dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi etc., we’ve probably also all realized by now that we’re not the chosen ones either, and we’ll (probably) never be called upon to fight hordes of the undead or sacrifice ourselves for the greater good. And this is of course the question, because what happens to those people when shit goes down? Where are their books?
Well, this is one such book. Patrick Ness tries his very best to answer the question of what happens with the ordinary people standing in the shadow of those more extraordinary than themselves, and his answer is a really, really good one.
Every chapter starts with a few lines outlining what the indie kids are up to, what threat is looming, how they’re trying to cope with it, all as a delightful, hilarious parody of a narrative we know very well, before the real chapter starts and we are told the story of Mike and his friends, Jared, Mel, Henna and Nathan. Compared to a story of kids battling Immortals and trying to save the world this other story ought to be boring or trivial, and the beauty of it is that it isn’t at all.
“I reckon there are a lot more people like me than there are indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies”
In fact, Ness weaves a tale that had me crying through most of it. It’s not that it’s particularly sad, it’s just that it hits so right and is immensely relatable. I know I’ve a great desire to feel special, and not just feel special, but to be special, to possess something unique that sets me apart from everyone else, that makes me one of a kind. I also happen to know that this is not the case, that few, if any, humans possess something like that, and yet the mistake is to assume that because of this we aren’t special or important. We are. I am. I’m important to the people closest to me, perhaps even to people very far from me. My life is extraordinarily ordinary, but I find great joy in it. I will never save the world, very few people will, but I’ll still see friends, go to university, hang out with my family, volunteer, read, and laugh a lot. It’s meaningful to me, even if it looks very tedious written down. It’s not a lot but it’s something.
This is, I think, what Ness wants to show with this book. It’s funny, lovely, sad, and real. There may be indie kids running around battling Immortals, but the struggles of Mike, Jared, Henna and Mel are common, we can relate to them. And we realize that doesn’t diminish their importance, on the contrary.
I’d also like to thank Ness for giving us a rather diverse cast, especially in terms of mental illness, which – as far as I know – he portrays rather accurately. They’re not perfect, any of them, they’re each of them broken in different ways, but they love each other and they make the best of what they’ve got. It’s a wonderful book, not just because it’s well-written and engaging, or because it tackles issues others might have ignored, but because it reminded me of some of my deepest insecurities and made me feel a whole lot better about them. That’s not easy, and I’m grateful. Oh, and for the beautiful portrayal of sibling relationships, that reminded me so much of my own brother and me and why he’s still one of my favorite people on the planet.
“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense, but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”...more
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy (even though the publication date was in 2012/13). GO READ THIS BOOK.
“I have before me now a newThank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy (even though the publication date was in 2012/13). GO READ THIS BOOK.
“I have before me now a new life, if I choose to take it. I feel a ripple of something sweet and wonderful wash through me. I am done with that, I think. I wonder if it is joy I feel.”
With fairytale retellings popping up everywhere, it’s easy to think they might not be worth your while. But this one is, I promise you.
Other than being a standalone book, which is rare enough, it’s somehow manages to avoid most of the clichés you’d expect – and that I did expect from it. The plot is not “heroine is saviour and saves the world”, there’s no love triangle and hardly a love story ((view spoiler)[ although the growing relationship between Krestrin and Alyrra is both lovely and heartbreaking it ends more with the possibility of romance (hide spoiler)]), the protagonist is well-written and not the type of character I expected at all. She’s self-aware, flawed and at times frustrating, but always reasonable.
There’s magic, yes, princes, queens, there’s the fairytale atmosphere, but with a dark, realistic edge, and you can sense the classic fairytale tropes somewhere underneath it, but it’s just that, a sense. You can see where the story comes from, but Khanani takes the source material and makes it her own.
And I’ve had it, honest to god, with those feisty heroines who have such an inflated idea of the value of their freedom that they fight any and all authority that they perceive as trying to restrict them in any way. I’ve had it with heroines who just ‘need to follow their own path’ and everything will work out. No, you have responsibilities, especially if you hold power, no matter what that power may be. There is of course value in doing your own thing and thinking for yourself, and there's value in a narrative about someone distrusting authority, but constantly assuming you know better than others and never listening? It’s dumb and I’ve had it. So you have to understand how grateful I am for Alyrra, because she doesn't charge in without thought and consideration.
Having grown up with an abusive mother and even more abusive brother, she’s learned to stay passive, hidden and out of the way. She befriends the servants, because they treat her kindly, and she accepts her fate of an arranged marriage for political gain, because it’s her responsibility. It’s what she’s required to do for her family and her kingdom, and at least it’ll get her away from her family. I was actually impressed with how well I think Khanani handled having an abuse victim as her protagonist, and I’m forever grateful to her for letting Alyrra react as she naturally would. She doesn’t fight back before men losing their temper, she cowers in a corner, she flinches when they raise their hands, she’s terrified. It’s the demon she can’t outrun but will have to face and unlearn. And it’s not something you unlearn through violence, but with kindness, patience and good friends, who can remind you of your self-worth.
“Dangerous is cutting your finger on a rusty nail and getting lockjaw. Dangerous is walking behind a skittish horse and getting kicked against a wall. Dangerous is walking anywhere in this city at night. Dangerous is not helping someone stay safe.”
Can you really blame her for not instantly fighting it when her identity is switched with someone else? Finding herself in a different body, she has to decide if she’ll fight to get her former position back or perhaps start a new life, without the responsibilities of a princess. A life where her family can no longer get to her, where she might finally be safe.
Of course, the world is cruel and unkind and men are bastards no matter where you go. That’s why you have to fight them, for those who can’t or are silenced when they try.
For a fairytale retelling this book tackles some really heavy subjects. Such as abuse and rape (only referred to) and violence, and if justice is really worth anything if it isn’t for everyone and if it has no room for mercy. As well as illustrating how much of a difference it makes what kind of people hold power, and that those who hold power, are responsible for how it’s used.
“I know I cannot leave Valka as my successor; that, having been born to power, it is my responsibility to see it handled well by myself, by those who come after me.”
There are, all along the way, unexpected turns, roads you didn’t think Khanani would dare travel, but suddenly you’re there and you realize this is no fairytale at all. Khanani takes what could have been a superficial and clichéd story and gives it depth. It’s a fresh, original and unexpected read that left me satisfied and excited (because it’s so GOOD), but also sad to be leaving it behind. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Also, look at that cover. Beautiful. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book left me with a lot of unanswered questions. It’s in many ways mostly historical fiction, with a"Slavery was a long slow process of dulling."
This book left me with a lot of unanswered questions. It’s in many ways mostly historical fiction, with a fantasy twist that primarily exists to make the story possible. It’s the story of Dana and her husband Kevin. At the beginning of the book Dana suddenly disappears from her living room and turns up somewhere where a young boy is in danger of dying. She saves him, and is then held at gunpoint by the boy’s father, at which point she goes back to her living room. This happens six times all in all. At first she doesn’t understand what’s happening, but quickly she realizes she’s not just transported somewhere insignificant, she’s transported back in time, to Maryland in the early 1800s, to help save her white ancestor Rufus whenever he’s close to dying. Why she’s sent back in time, why it has to be her, why it has to be now and not when she’s 10 years older or younger – none of it is explained. The time-travelling is just there.
It doesn’t make any sense. And suddenly I understood that it’s not supposed to make sense. That Butler doesn’t even try to explain it for a very specific reason: it’s not important. Those why’s are not the point of the narrative, they’re not what this is about at all. There’s no scientific, satisfying reason why she’s called back into time. As a reader I simply had to accept it as necessary to tell the kind of story that needed to be told.
‘Kindred’ is the clash between now (well, the 1976s) and then. It’s what’s called (apparently) a neo-slave narrative, a story written in first person about slavery although the last people who experienced slavery have passed away. It’s a reflection on the past, specifically a past so many people still suffer the consequences of, but have never experienced.
Dana is not transported across the sea, to be sold to some white slave-owner, but she is transported back into time, away from her home, to try and survive in a world that values her kind very little.
It’s a narrative full of complexity. Danas relationship to Rufus ought to be, I gathered, full of contempt and hate, he’s the son of a slave-owner (will grow up to be one himself possibly) and a racist, but it isn’t. Their fates are tied together, they depend on each other and that makes hate a difficult emotion. Both Dana and her (white) husband Kevin spend time in the past, a very long time. And whatever atrocities they witness while they’re there, they also experience an adjustment. There’s a constant struggle between what they know to be their own reality – not just 1976, but also equality between races, between genders (to a larger degree at least) etc, - and the reality they’re forced to live and pretend to understand for most of the book. In the end it’s difficult, for them and for us, to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not real, the past and the future become equally important. Maryland becomes a kind of home to them, especially to Dana, even though she’s forced to live there under nearly the same conditions as the slaves. She believes herself free, but slowly realizes that back then, in such a place, that is not the case at all. The time-travel become a wake-up call, to Dana and Kevin to remind them what their reality really is, and to us to remind us it’s fiction.
Dana’s position in the past is slightly better compared to those of the other slaves, due to her relationship with Rufus and Rufus’ warm feelings towards her. It’s also due to her experiences from living in a society where she is equal to whites and this is what marks her as different. She didn’t grow up to think of herself as a slave, her freedom something she had to fight for, perhaps with her life, her childhood wasn’t wrought with nightmares of being sold into slavery. She doesn’t have those experiences, no one born today or in the 70s did, which I think is what Butler is trying to highlight with this book. It’s a reflection of experiences her ancestors had to go through, but that she herself doesn’t share. And despite being pushed into the midst of it, she is still removed from it: her life is not really this life, she gets to go back to the future, she gets to understand herself through the lense of the future, and yet, the past will leave scars.
‘Kindred’ mixes fiction – very obvious fiction; time-travelling – with history, with facts, because that is one of our best ways to deal with the past. Any piece of history will have an amount of fiction to it, because events can never be told as they truly were. We reconstruct and re-imagine. Butler has chosen an original way to incorporate the fictional element. She accepts the element of fiction, makes it obvious via time-travel and uses it to create a sense of urgency and discomfort, to leave the reader confused as to the purpose of it, without ever explaining why; it’s bold and it works.
It's also a story about survival, about a brutal and horrendous past, about coming face to face with that cruelty and have to live through it. It's about what we'll do to protect, not only our lives, but our sense of self. Giving enough time human beings can adjust and accept any reality, and Dana is saved from accepting the reality of slavery but her own resilience, and time-travel. She's jolted back into the future and her travel back and forth makes her question who she is and what she'll fight for, it takes her past endurance and yet she endures, trying not to lose herself. It's powerful.
However, there were things that didn’t work for me, but they were minor, somewhat insignificant things. Some of the flashbacks felt forced and unnecessary, as they weren’t really made important at any other point in the story. It does, however, and this is clearly why it's there, give us the knowledge that in the 70's racial issues are still very much a problem. It could have been incorporated a lot better though. The ending felt clipped as well, too many questions left unanswered, but again, I think that’s perhaps on purpose. It’s not a story meant to comfort and leave every question pleasantly answered. It’s meant to unsettle and whirl us around till we’re confused as to what’s real and what’s not real. It’s more about the experience, than the ending.
The past will leave marks, whether we travel back into it or not. ‘Kindred’ highlights this very well, and the importance of reflecting on the past, to accept those scars as inevitable and hope they fade in future generations.
A perplexing, unrelenting and thought-provoking book. I wish we were reading it at uni, I’d like to understand it better. ...more
“All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the(I was provided with a copy via Netgalley.)
“All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
Jackaby is the most fun I’ve had reading a book for a long while. It’s a lighthearted mystery and detective novel, heavily inspired by the well-known Sherlock Holmes, with a dash of the paranormal and inexplicable. Well, it’s not that inexplicable when you’re like Mr. Jackaby and gifted with the ability to see supernatural creatures and phenomena.
Of course, being a daring, eccentric detective is hard work, so enter Ms. Rook, newly appointed investigative assistant and a headstrong, perceptive and adventurous young lady. She’s our point of view, our storyteller, and her character does a wonderful job of maintaining a grounded curiosity, that we, as readers, easily fall into, and suddenly you’re hooked.
I genuinely enjoyed this book. It isn’t often I’m capable of just sitting back and enjoying the ride, but I completely let go this time. The first few pages were a bit heavyhanded and over the top, as if William Ritter wasn’t quite sure how to begin, but the moment the supernatural entered the scene he truly hit his stride and I was swept away by a myriad of curious descriptions and remarkable occurrences. It’s a well-balanced mix of folklore, common mythology and supernatural creatures we’re familiar with or have likely never heard of before. All centered around a gruesome murder.
The murder-mystery is slightly predictable, I’ll admit, but I still ended up sitting at my computer and reading this at 1am after my boyfriend had fallen asleep. Not because I was dying to know WHO had done it necessarily, rather because I so caught up in the adventure and was eager to continue it.
I am confident that the next books will have much more intricate and complex mysteries – they’ll likely also grow darker – but for this first book, what we were given was an interesting murder case, and some wonderful establishing of characters, relationships and worldbuilding. The force of this book is not the case they’re on, even though it keeps you reading, it is getting to know our characters, being introduced to the remarkable, magical and quirky life of Jackaby, and seeing exactly how well Ms. Rook fits into it. More than anything I was surprised and delighted at how well William Ritter manages to blend together the paranormal and the normal. I love that, by making Jackaby one of the only ones with the ability to see ‘behind the veil’, we only get glimpses of this entirely different world that exists right beneath the fingertips Ms. Rook, and all other ordinary people. It charms and intrigues, because it isn’t entirely open to us. Add that to the always pleasant setting of 1900th century England, you’ve created something that is certain to draw people in.
At least it did me.
If you’re looking for some lighthearted, quirky and well-written fun, with the occasional brutal murder and magical creature, then this is a very good place to start. ...more