This book starts out by comparing a land full of virus-infected, bestial people to Africa. And then it manages to go downhill from there.
There were so many problems with this book, they drowned out the good parts. The premise for this story was fairly good, if you can accept comic-book-science, and the plot line was exciting and engaging. It’ll keep readers interested, even readers like me who are busy rolling their eyes the whole time, so that’s actually impressive. The amount of romance-to-plot was handled nicely. Yes, there’s a love triangle, but it doesn’t take over the story until the end and the romance/lusty bits always get slipped in at appropriately calm moments, so there’s no sense that the plot was put on hold for it. A lot of the creatures encountered in this book were creative and horrifying, and I did have fun with the mash-ups. I even liked most of the characters. So there are people who will enjoy this book, because it does have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment.
But in a way, that makes all the bad stuff just so much worse. Clearly there’s potential here, but some ill advised or just plain poorly executed decisions ruined the book for me.
First of all, while the premise of having half the country quarantined and a big wall keeping everything apart was a good starting point, it was sloppily applied. The more details we got about how that whole process happened, the less sense it made. For instance, there’s a deadly virus over there, but only one guy is bothering to even try to find the cure. And also, he’s not allowed to break the quarantine in order to get tests subjects.
That is so utterly ridiculous I don’t even know where to begin. That’s like building a hospital and only letting in healthy people. I understand that this is a super-deadly virus that most people are afraid of, but the doctors dealing with it directly should have a more rational view on it than the average citizen, and also everyone else should want it cured, too, so saying the doctor is hamstringed like this is utterly ridiculous.
And then there’s the idea of ‘Fetch,’ people who cross the wall into the virus zone in order to retrieve lost works of art or personal possessions for a high cost. Awesome! What? They’re illegal? …book, do you realize that we currently kill small children for common rocks just because they’re shiny? We send people into dangerous situations for the sake for the sake of stupid shit all the time. I don’t care how many people died in that virus, I would bet everything I own that ‘fetching’ would be sanctioned. Hell, the government has helicopters and the virus can only be spread by biting, so it’s not like you can accidentally bring it home. We’d be sending in Seal Teams to clear out museums on a regular basis!
Oh, right, the ‘official’ military is a joke in this world and only private company militias are still around. Why? Because so many people in the military died during the initial virus outbreak and quarantine. Um…armies recruit, book.
But hey, let’s talk about these private armies. They’re evil. Or at least, the one that we see is. Why? Beats the fuck out of me. They’re tasked with guarding the wall and making sure no one crosses it, because if an infected anything crosses the wall, you get massive break-out and death again. So these guards are very strict and deadly when it comes to making sure no one crosses the river to even get an attempt at the wall. And this makes them…bad? How? One of them even ends up infected in the line of duty. These guys are putting their lives on the line to make sure that the virus stays contained, and the book has the utter gall to call them evil for it, and I have no idea why! Every tepid excuse it tries to give me makes me cry out “but that’s a good thing, you moron!”
This book has a lot of weird morals to it, frankly. It seems like it wants the ‘feral’ people to stand in for either racial minorities or AIDS victims, and it switches between the two frequently. There’s a common attitude throughout the book that anyone who is ‘anti-feral’ is akin to a racist, and they’re bad people, and how dare they be so mean? There’s just one problem.
THESE MUTATED ANIMAL-PEOPLE WILL TURN INTO MINDLESS KILLING MONSTERS AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Yeah. That’s how the virus works. You turn partially animal, but act human. For a while. Then the virus finishes eating your brain, and suddenly you want to eat your kid’s face. There’s no warning, just BOOM daddy’s deadly.
So what are you saying, book? That black people are all ticking time bombs that could turn around and shoot you with no notice? Or that AIDS people are actually a threat that could wipe out 40% of the population? Because you can’t take the prejudices experienced by them and apply it to a group of people who are actually, legit deadly.
Because this book takes a “wah, why you mean to the poor virus-infected timebombs?” approach, the main character ends up looking like a cartoon of the worst PETA stereotype. She’s all about protecting the things that have a 100% chance of killing her, and if you try and do anything about that, you’re a bad person.
That last point alone was enough to make this frustrating enough to hate, but sloppy science and the way it so clearly wanted to a fantasy (complete with a castle in the middle of Chicago. Not something just called a castle, an actual castle) made it even more so. There’s more (the lust standing in for love, the utter failure of the heroine to live up to her ‘I’ve been training for years’ statement, the fact that most of the ‘bad’ human-creatures have distinctly ‘nonwhite’ names...) but this review has gone on long enough, and you get the picture.
This was a galley copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review.(less)
If the writers of the old Captain Planet TV show had been tasked with writing a book for ‘grown ups,’ they probably would have come up with something...moreIf the writers of the old Captain Planet TV show had been tasked with writing a book for ‘grown ups,’ they probably would have come up with something very close to this. Simplistic views on environmental issues, cheesy lines all over the place, powers that make no sense, plot lines that spiral off into nowhere, completely gratuitous scenes that require way more tact than this book is capable of… If you can’t tell, I wasn’t a fan of Captain Planet.
But that show, much like this book, had such an interesting premise that I can’t help getting sucked into every new piece of work that follows it, in the hopes of finding something that lives up to the awesomeness promised.
First of all, this book needed a lot more spit and polish than it received. Transitions between scenes were clunky at best, and conflicts were picked up and dropped at random. The book felt like a bunch of strung-together concepts instead of something whole. For instance, there’s a scene in an airport where a security guard walks up and randomly demands that Kaitlyn follow him. She’s saved by the smooth talking love interest, but…who was that? Why did he want Kaitlyn? Was it for a real reason? Did she do something wrong? She was just standing around looking lost, but that guy acted like bad news; was there some nefarious intent behind his actions? WE’LL NEVER KNOW! After they leave him behind, no one gives him a second thought. Nearly every conflict in the book that wasn’t romantic was treated the same way. Kaitlyn got kidnapped! Why? Just because. She was drugged and tied to a chair and injected with stuff! What stuff? Psh, it was stuff, we’ve moved on to hot boys now, keep up.
The powers in this book were spotty at best and confusing at worst. Kaitlyn learns how to use hers with ease, and then after that, they’re described as…just…doing whatever she wants. There’s very little in the way of structure or guidelines. It’s just ‘energy’ that does stuff. What stuff? All stuff.
A lot of stuff isn’t properly explained in this book, for that matter. What do the Seven do? We don’t even get a hint of that until 3/4ths in, and mind you, Kaitlyn had already agreed to work with/for them at that point. She didn’t know either. She went on a mission without having a clue what their ‘missions’ normally entail. When we do find out what they entail, it’s pretty tame stuff. Most of the book actually has nothing to do with the main organization or their missions/purpose/anything. They could be a random group of teens playing with powers and having sex and nothing else, and the plot could have carried on 98% exactly the same.
The environmentalism in this book is extremely simplified and makes use of flimsy strawmen to argue against. None of the real thorny issues of environment vs consumerism are addressed, which would have been fine if the book hadn’t included scenes that should have addressed them. There’s a scene where a fruit farmer doesn’t know how to use a compost heap. Really, book? That’s the man’s livelihood, and you think he doesn’t know how composting works? The issue is a matter of the efficacy between compost and chemical fertilizers, and comparing the cost/benefits of both based on how much fruit he has to sell to cover his overhead, not that he’s too clueless to work a compost heap. There’s another scene where they’re trying to convince an airport board of directors to join a water conservation group. The directors’ arguments against it? “We won’t get praised or paid for doing this.” What? How about the added cost of it, costs that would have to be passed on to consumers, which could put a severe pinch on an industry already hemorrhaging money?
If you want to just run around saving baby animals and nothing else, then do that. If you want to address complex issues, at least do it right.
But for all the promises the book makes about powers and saving the planet, in honesty, most of the book is just people interacting at this one house. That made the plot plod along at an excruciating pace, and I didn’t like most of the characters anyway. The villain was obvious and one-dimensional, and the romantic couple fell in love based on…magic eyeballs?
And then of course there’s all that rape. The book did give a trigger warning, and I said I’d give it an extra star for that, so I did. But still. Kaitlyn’s love interest tries to rape her as a training exercise. He says he was doing it ‘to add distraction and stress.’ Really, you couldn’t think of a single other method of making her stressed? Not one, you had to jump right to rape? Kaitlyn does get properly upset about this and refuses to deal with him for a long time after, but the other characters try to convince her to forgive him because he was just trying to step up her training. FFS, no! Someone who can’t realize that ‘rape’ is not a training tool is someone who shouldn’t be around other people! That, in itself, is a problem. He does not have a proper understanding of what’s acceptable and what’s not, and that needs to be addressed. It isn’t.
The last 25% of the book is more rape, and it feels like it was thrown in just to make the bad guy badder, but to be honest I kind of expected that part. There are people who fetishize stuff like that, and as long as no one says the bad guy is okay and it’s warned for, YKINMK.
A free copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.(less)
It takes quite a bit for me to DNF a book once I get past the first chapter. A merely bad book won’t do it; no, the book has to actively piss me off before I’ll put it down halfway through.
Hourglass pissed me off.
It was an accumulation of things, really. A line here, a subplot there, a logic hole over yonder. Each by itself would have made the boom mediocre, but as they all piled up, my patience wore thinner and thinner until seething rage just boiled over. I was so annoyed by the end of my reading and a mere misplaced comma could make me go cross-eyed with fury.
So, join me on this journey from mild interest to frothy rage.
The book started out well enough. It was readable, had a decent set-up with Emerson seeing “ghosts” and the promise of a “consultant” coming in to help her with that. Ball got rolling right off the bat, and Emerson’s narration actually made me chuckle a few times.
I quickly realized that the writing in this book is a kind of…intermediate fail. It got the basics right, and even did them well. On a line-editing level, this was good stuff, so it was easy to read and get sucked in. But when it came to stuff like pacing, characterization, plots, showing vs telling, all that stuff you learn after you get the basics down? Fail, fail, fail, fail. It tricked me into thinking it was well written, the sly little devil.
The first thing that pissed me off was the rampant ableism and misuse of a mental illness subplot. At first this was just confusing, with lots of conflicting details so that I couldn’t quite tell what was going on. Emerson said she was committed for talking to a ghost in public, says she was on drugs that put her into a stupor, several times admitted that it was all hallucinations, and then went ahead and treated her ghosts like ghosts? It took a while to shake out, because the book couldn’t decide what it was doing with that subplot and it really felt like the whole thing was written more on the fly than a season of LOST, but the final version as I understand it was this: Emerson got depressed after she lost her parents, was committed to a mental institution because of depression + visual hallucinations, and then her medication (either antidepressants or antipsychotics, depending on what page you’re reading, it kept switching) made her stop seeing ghosts. Eventually she got out of the institution (because…she was better? Left because she felt like it? Brother pulled her out? Fuck you, this book doesn’t care) and then stopped taking her meds but didn’t tell anyone.
Oh, so, so, so many things wrong here. First of all, the book has no fucks to give when it comes to displaying mental health care in…any sort of realistic light. Positive, negative, fuck it, that whole committed thing is just in her backstory for sympathy points not to be examined or anything. Second, who the fuck decided to drug her? With what drugs? If it was done for the depression, then drugging someone into a stupor for depression seems counterproductive and would only be done if the person was a danger to themselves or others. If it was done because of the “hallucinations” then fuck off right now because 1) you need more than one symptom to be diagnosed with a mental illness and 2) antipsychotic drugs are no joke and wouldn’t be given to her based on what we know about her symptoms. There are times when you really want people to stop hallucinating no matter what, but those times tend to be “when the voices tell them to kill the president and they actually listen.” If Emerson can tell the difference between reality and her hallucinations, and can ignore anything the hallucinations tell her to because her reasoning skills still work fine, then there’s NO reason to drug her into a stupor over it. We don’t give people these drugs because having hallucinations is icky, we do it because it interferes with their ability to function. If you can still function while seeing ghost people, then a doctor should go “oh thank god, we don’t have to kill your liver, let’s get you into therapy and see if we can’t figure this out or come up with coping techniques.”
This book has no fucks to give on that point, because this book can’t even be arsed to keep straight what drugs she was on, much less treat the matter with respect. Drugs = bad, so drug backstory = instant sympathy and that’s where the logic behind this subplot keeled over and died.
And if we go with the “depression” version of the story, then she stopped taking antidepressants and…? Yeah, she stops taking her medicine, and NOTHING NEGATIVE HAPPENS AT ALL. She’s not depressed, not even mildly. Apparently she was bad enough off to need the drugs and they’re still being prescribed to her, but not really? That whole plot gap makes it especially obvious that the book didn’t give a fuck about its mental illness handling.
And that’s on top of all the really, really disturbing statements about “crazy” people in this book. If Emerson wanted to self-identify as “crazy,” that’s fine, but it didn’t really get that impression from her, and also she gives us lines like this: “crazy people don’t generally get to claim self-control as a personality trait.” “could capture me and hold me prisoner while performing experiments on me. Not unlike a mental hospital.” “At least he didn’t have to be inside his mom’s crazy.”
So that set the groundwork for me to really hate this book, but then it just kept going. We had the standard “impossibly gorgeous guy” as the love interest, and any hint of progress was replaced with endless gushing about how he made her hot and tingly all over. Supposedly this was ‘justified’ because their complimentary powers made them get the horny for each other, but that strikes me as less justified and more fanfic sex pollen. An excuse to write the same tropes as everyone else is not a justification, it just means you put more effort into excuses than into doing something original.
The pacing dragged on and on and on and on. The first 40% of the book was just Michael not telling her stuff while she got mad at him for not telling her stuff. Then when he did tell her stuff, there was no actual reason for him to have been withholding that.
But one of the biggest problems for me was the absolute slap-dash way the whole book was put together. Too many times were things just stated and accepted. “You can time travel!” “Okay, got it, and also I have no questions, nor do I want to test this claim or require any proof.” “The buy guy is evil!” “What has he done?” “He’s evil!” “OMG, how terrible! Even though you didn’t answer my question, I will never ask it again.” “Hi, I’m a weird almost-ghost boy that likes to hang around in your house!” “I will not think about you except for the few times I need to, and those points will be hundreds of pages removed from each other.” Everything about this book was so disjointed and poorly handled. Every chapter gave me something new to be annoyed about. Even the time travel couldn’t hold my interest, because it felt like the book itself cared less about the time travel than every little mundane detail that went on in Emerson’s day.
I DNF’d at 65%, when the second love interest was introduced and decided he was in love with Emerson despite having known her for less than a day.
There were many, many more problems in addition to the ones listed here, but this review is already too long and my brain is trying to forget them.(less)
A galley copy was provided free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I can’t remember the last time I read such a mean spirited, poorly c...moreA galley copy was provided free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I can’t remember the last time I read such a mean spirited, poorly characterized, stereotype-heavy, racist, and all around hateful book as this one. This book hated every one of its characters. I don’t mean I hated them, though that happened, too. I mean the book hated its own characters.
I’m serious, this book hates everyone. It’s a book about celebrity society that hates celebrities, so it paints EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM as being vain, shallow, and verging on too stupid to live. There is no nuance here, people. Picture the most over the top, cartoonish portrayal of a valley-girl brat. Now magnify that amount of ridiculous by a thousand. You might – might – be near the level of contempt this book has for its own subject matter. Not only is every single rich person stupid and spoiled, there’s not even any acknowledgement that there could be smart rich people lingering off-page. Nope, this book doesn’t allow for that. ALL RICH BEVERLY HILLS PEOPLE ARE SCUM, it screams at you, relentlessly, in the vain hope of scoring some points.
Sheesh, I’m not a fan of the extreme gap between the wealthy and middle class, either, but at least put some nuance into things.
Oh, and let’s not forget the racism. The Hispanic housekeeper can’t speak proper English, and her accent is written out. The French shop owner has his accent phoneticized so badly that it’s near impossible to understand what he’s saying. The only Asian woman to show up keeps repeated the word “yes” to everything and appears to be unable to form complete sentences or even react to her environment.
As a bonus treat, we get pretty extreme slut shaming as well. Every woman in this book that we’re not supposed to sympathize with is an overt horndog, and the book is not kind to them for it. Most women exist only to drool over Aston and show off what a hot piece of man-meat he is, and Aston gleefully objectifies and demonizes them in his own head, right before he sleeps with them and then forgets their names the next day.
Oh yeah, let’s talk about Aston. He’s a complete shitbag. I don’t mean he’s a bad boy or kind of rough and rude. No. He’s the shittiest douchcanoe I’ve read about all year. He is a horrible human being. I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire, that’s how much I hate this guy. Not only is he horrible to everyone he meets, he’s got to be the worst cop on the face of the planet. The reckless handling of his own firearm alone would make me want to kneecap him, but that’s just the start of his incompetence.
As for Sapphire? She’s an idiot. Her motivation is non-existent, her sleuthing skills are informed and never shown, she’s selfish and self- righteous, she’s a horrible friend, and she’s kind of a moron. Why did Sapphire start hunting serial killers? Who knows! Apparently it gives her a rush, but that’s the best we get, which isn’t nearly enough for something that takes this level of dedication and shitfuckery. She barely does any investigating in this book, and what she does do comes down to luck and assumptions, not skills. Throughout the book, she also continually refuses to go to the police, despite the fact that a girl’s life is at stake and the police have more freedom, experience, and resources than she does. She claims that the police wouldn’t solve it as fast as she could, but we never see any proof of her being so much better than the boys in blue.
“But Whitley,” you ask. “Surely there was something good about the book? Nothing can be all bad!” Well, fine, the structure of the plot was good. It built up a decent mystery and the plotting and pacing went smoothly. But that was it. The romantic chemistry was nonexistent, the writing was juvenile and full of ridiculous lapses in logic and stereotypes, and both main characters made me want to punch them in the face. What little was good in this book got overshadowed by the mountain of horrible.(less)
This book was provided free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review I’m just going to get something out upfront. This book is pretty good at doing emotional responses. When it comes to family drama. There were a few points where I would get choked up even though I wasn’t agreeing with what was going on. And awkward teenage dating? Spot-on accurate.
Okay, we clear on that? The book did some stuff well? Got that out of the way? Good.
Everything else was shit.
A lot of what I disliked about this book was based on my politics, and if you disagree with me on those points, that’s fine. A lot people are going to, and more power to you. As long as you put a bit more thought into your position than this book did. This book is a hot mess of buzz-word issues that picked the easy answer, stopped thinking after that, and declared the other side to be evil. Then, apparently, it realized the other side wasn’t evil enough so it tacked on some more shit to make the main characters look better. Yeah, it was one of those books where the characters know someone is evil and then all the evidence comes out.
But let’s tackle all of this in order. First up. The pacing was horrible. The first half of the book was nothing but personal drama. Someone came and set up a supercomputer in Tyler’s bedroom, called it a simulator that he’s supposed to beta-test, and then he was barely on it until about the 60% mark. He didn’t quite ignore the thing, but the book sure as hell didn’t care. It was more interested in setting up romance.
And fuck that was a creepy romance. I mean, after it got going it was cute enough, but the set up? Tyler straight-up stalked the shit out of Ani for weeks. She gave him a very clear ‘no,’ but he decided that she was just so pretty and awesome that he had to have her, so he started emailing her on a daily basis. For WEEKS, even though she wasn’t giving him any replies. And the way he kept going on and on about her skin was just weird. It was like looking at the mind of demented serial killer. I thought he was going to try and peel her and wear her.
Tyler’s ADHD pissed me off to no end. This was yet another book that tried to push the whole “you don’t need you meds, just stop taking them, having ADHD is awesome” message. Sure, Tyler’s brain was able to handle the complexities of flying, but that’s not good enough. An ADHD brain that can read a dozen dials on a monitor is the same kind of brain that will glance over a flight plan, think it knows everything, and then barrel on. It’s the kind of brain that doesn’t do double-checks, gets distracted during safety briefings, and easily misses errors. Oh, yeah, and if you don’t fucking die from that, good luck reading through any employment contract or mortgage paperwork.
ADHD isn’t something to fuck around with, alright? It’s not awesome. It’s not a superpower. It’s not going to make your life better. It’s not “the next stage of evolution” as this book puts it. And for the love of god, stop telling impressionable teenagers that the councilors and psychiatrists are trying to hurt them. Because that’s exactly what this book ends up saying. Tyler doesn’t have any consequences from his ADHD. He’s all distracted a lot, but nothing bad happens while he’s distracted. About the only actual impact his ADHD has on the book is that most of his narration is done in run-ons and sentence fragments.
Which, by the way? Terrible way to display that. Bad grammar is not a side-effect of ADHD.
And then there’s all the lines where Tyler thinks Ani is just so fucking special because apparently NO OTHER GIRL ON THE PLANET actually likes video games. Nope, just her. Every other girl is a faker trying to impress her boyfriend. NO OTHER FEMALE is capable of liking games just for the sake of liking them.
God, just fuck this book so hard.
And all of that is even before you get to the political stuff. Do you know what the message of this book is? War is bad. That’s it. No, wait, that’s not it. War is bad, but it’s okay for other people to do it, just so long as your own hands stay clean. That’s the only concern the kids have. That they, personally, don’t have to kill anyone. At the end of the day, when all their work is being spent on other people flying drones and killing people? Oh, yeah, that’s cool. That’s just fine and dandy, apparently.
The worst part is that there’s so much that could have been done here. I mean, Ani doesn’t have any room to be whining. She knew she was building government equipment. The fact that it went online a little early should not matter, because she knew it was going to be used on real drones eventually. I have no idea why she acted all shocked. But Tyler has some legit stuff to complain about. They tricked him into killing people. Even if you take a “few broken eggs to make an omelet” approach to war, I think we can all agree, you don’t trick people into killing. You give that shit to the people who know what they signed up for and actually signed up for it. But Tyler has no fucks to give over that, he’s just upset that people are dying.
Well, dumbshit, that does tend to happen in a war.
Actually, it’s kind of amazing how many actual issues this book brushes against and then ignores. There’s all sorts of stuff it could have discussed. But as soon as it found a real issue, it backed off again and said “ooooo, but they’re killing people and that’s bad!” Dafuq did you think was going on? You’re working for a military contracted; how did you not know that they kill people and then get paid for it?
And their ultimate answer was “don’t kill people.” Well, no, it was “you, Mr. Bad Guy, don’t kill people. The real military can keep doing that, though. That’s cool.” I just don’t even know. I just…ugh, what? Look, I’m all for not killing people. Not killing people is great. But you can’t just say “stop” and then pat yourself on the back. It’s more complicated than that.
And they come up against the idea of collateral damage and then back up from that, too. Their ultimate answer? “Don’t kill three innocent people, even though doing so could save thousands more.” Which, while I don’t agree with it, a lot of people do and it’s a valid position to take. But I swear, there’s a scene later on where Tyler thinks about those other thousand innocent people and he just sticks his fingers in his ears and sings “lalalalalalala.” This book does not have the metaphorical balls to tackle the issues it wants to be about. It dances around shit and gives easy answers and then ignores any complications.
And then they tried and pull the whole scandal angle, saying that what the company was doing was just soooo evil and they were going to take their intel to a reporter. What was the scandal? The locals they were providing protection for were also running drugs, and Tyler was all “OH NO, NOT DRUGS, THAT’S THE WORST THING EVER.” JFC, book, were you written in the 90s? If you take that shit to a news station, not only will they laugh you out the building for being behind the times, they’ll refuse to take your STOLEN TOP SECRET INFORMATION all for the sake of something that’s pretty much sanctioned. And I mean really, there’s nothing in this book that hasn’t been done legally already, except the tricking-people-into-fighting thing. I really don’t think that would warrant mid-day assassinations, especially since it’s probably buried in the fine print of all that paperwork you didn’t bother to read, Tyler.
…in fact, yeah, I think this book was written in the 90s. All the issues are a few decades old, and the fact that it’s all about drones didn’t really factor in. Drones were set dressing. They didn’t work into the morality questions.
One last parting shot: the whole premise doesn’t make sense. Why would you give real missions to someone who thinks it’s a game? Do you know what bored gamers do when they think everything isn’t real? They take pot-shots at the NPCs. So, yeah, give a bunch of teenage boys a “game” that’s boring as shit and expect that to work out. Brilliant. (less)
This book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My Reaction: This book started out as a fascinating and emotional read. The development of the dystopia was (mostly) believable and resulted in a well-crafted totalitarian regime. The book started to lose its punch, however, when plot got mired down in unanswered questions and “this thing happens just because” type plot points. I was also very disappointed in the portrayal of the autistic main character, Clover. The ending left much to be desired. Since I read it as an ebook and didn’t pay attention to the progress bar, it snuck up on me due to the utter lack of a climax. The book simply…ended.
Highlights: • The world-building, for the most part, was great. There were a few places that could have been tightened up (seriously, the casinos? What was the point of having tricks and gimmicks specifically designed to pull in more money when there’s no money involved?), but overall it was excellent. • The HUGE notable exception to the good worldbuilding was Foster City. In this world of a decimated population, where there’s places that are literally in danger of being wiped off the map due to low population numbers, you’d think that taking care of orphans would be a big deal. They’re the future of the species, and every bit of genetic material counts. Not in this world, where all the orphans are taken care of by abusers, rapists, and murderers and no one cares. For no reason. There is abuse in the foster care system right now, but then again, it’s not “most" of the foster parents doing it, and right now we’re not scrambling to rebuild our population and in need of everyone we can get. • The other exception: what happened to the rest of the world? We know what happened to America, but nothing outside of that. Even the only war we hear about it is a civil war. Did we nuke every other country off the map before the virus started? • The time travel was not used to its full potential. Though it was something of a dynamic system, a lot of the times it was discussed, the characters treated it like a stable time loop. • The kids didn’t spend much time finding out anything; they just stumbled around until people told them stuff, or until their future selves told them stuff. And even then, people would stop talking halfway through a conversation just…because. Then the plot would drag on a little longer and take them to the next half conversation. • Clover’s autism was great at the start. I was excited to see an autistic character on the high-functioning end of the scale, one who could say “look, I have this condition, but I’m not a pity-party; just let me work.” I was all kinds of on board. And then…it started to fall apart. Mostly because it didn’t feel like the author had the guts to really do it honestly. There were many mentions of her not liking to be touched, but then “for some reason this time it was okay.” Only that line popped up every time someone wanted to hug her. We never really got to see her deal with the social problems of having autism outside of a few “clean” quirks, and any symptoms or problems of autism were either ignored or only mentioned right before we find out they don’t apply this time. • You can’t use the old stand-by trope of “for some reason she got a bad feeling from the bad guy” when your main character has a disorder that makes reading people all but impossible. You just can’t. It’s a terrible trope anyway, but it’s terrible squared here. • And the final nail in the coffin was the reveal that autism gives people special time-travel powers. We have all sorts of tropes where people with disabilities will be given some “power” or ability or Daredevil-senses to make up for it, they’re all insulting, they all need to stop. (less)
My Reaction: While many of the concepts and settings were interesting, I found the overall execution in this book to be bland and lacking. The characters were dull, the plot straight-forward, and the set up entirely too convenient. While not a technically bad offering, it still lacks the daring and creativity to do anything truly impressive. It also hit a few of the common problems in stories about female-only magic, which I’ll cover below in “Rants and Raves.”
Highlights: • The system of singing for magic and the descriptions of Wild Magic vs Proven Magic were very nice. It was an interesting concept and fun to play around with. I also enjoyed the idea of the limits on the magic, even though Lucy is *ahem* conveniently freed from such limits. But it’s a fun idea to think about. • The Shadowgrims made for an interesting opposition, and the descriptions of their effects were well done. However, like most of the book, they weren’t used to their full potential. • The characters were all…average. There’s nothing bad to say about them, except to damn them with faint praise. None of them really stood out for me as being particularly…anything. Even the bad guy was just there. • The romance was downplayed and not a driving part of the book, but still had a presence, which I liked. • The plot involved a lot of telling. People told Lucy about her magic, people told Lucy about the situation, people told Lucy about Scargrave’s evilitude. It was a narrative sort of telling rather than a writing sort of telling, but no less irritating. • The bad guy’s name is “Scargrave.” It’s one step up from naming him “Lord I Am The Villain.” • Much of the initial set-up was very…convenient. Lucy just happened to show up in time to eavesdrop on plot-relevant stuff, she just happened to hide out in the right person’s house, they just happened to be the leaders of the underground rebellion, they just happened to know everything that needs to be known. Lucy showed up, and the plot was already laid out for her, without her having to do anything except sit quietly and do as told. • In fact, that’s pretty much the whole book. Lucy shows up and does what she’s told. Everything’s already arranged and figured out, so all she has to do is listen to the story, practice her magic a bit, and then defeat the bad guy at the end. Though the story was very interesting, receiving it third-hand was less than impressive.
Rants and Raves This book has two major things that have always bothered me in books: female-only magic that has no cultural effect, and women-in-power being shown as inherently evil.
In this book, Chantresses are all women, and they can do great feats of magic. Well, they used to could. Now they can do small-to-medium feats of magic. But still, they can do MAGIC. Real magic. And what effect does this have on women’s rights?
Jack all nothing.
At least, one assumes so. We don’t really get to see much of the setting in this book, as Lucy spends a large chunk of it hiding in a basement. (Riveting stuff, that.) But the bits we do see, such as Helaine’s assertion that Chantresses would keep their talents hidden from husbands even before they were outlawed, suggest that not much has changed.
Basically what this book is saying is that culture looked at women, said “get in the kitchen, don’t vote, don’t participate in government, don’t own property, and be subjected to the orders of your husbands” and these Chantresses went “okay.” Why? Why would anyone say that to a woman who can literally split your head in two by singing? Why would a woman with that power go along with it?
There’s a lot of things that went into making our patriarchal society patriarchal, but I’m pretty sure that if women have been doing magic since the beginning of history, and if men haven’t, that would have some sort of effect. Leaving it that way gives all sorts of nasty implications, like “even with magic at hand, women are still the weaker sex” and “this is totally just the natural order of things, not something that came about for actual reasons that can be changed.”
And of course, there’s Lady Helaine. (view spoiler)[Lucy’s godmother who teaches her magic. She’s supposed to be teaching Lucy the spell to destroy this ubersuper magic book that is the root of the villain’s evil reign. But, in a ~*~*~shocking twist~*~*~ the spell will actually make Lucy control the book!
And this is…bad.
Mind you, this spell is the only one they have. It’s not like Helaine could have destroyed the book and just decided to teach Lucy to do otherwise. No, it’s the only choice they have. It’s this or let Lord MustacheTwirl keep imprisoning and killing people. (Which he’s doing by the thousands every single day.)
But Lucy is just aghast at the idea of having the power of the book in her hands. She can’t even fathom it. And Helaine is given the borderline-evil treatment for her ambition of actually having some measure of power. Oh, the horror of a woman wanting to have power after watching all of her friends and family brutally murdered. How dare she want to restore her craft and gender to prominence after watching them be hunted to near extinction? The only thing that saves her from complete evilness is the fact that she dies at the end.
I’m really sick of seeing every woman in YA with ambition being treated as evil. I’m sick of watching as female heroes will only depose a villain, but male heroes get to depose the villain and then become king. Girls having too much power is treated like a horror. Oh, it’s not blatantly said, but the trend is there. And this book comes as close as any others to just saying it. Lucy is literally horrified at the idea of taking control of the powerful book, even though doing so would literally save the lives of thousands of people. The mere idea of a girl having power – she doesn’t even have to use it and could, in fact, save the day by taking it and not using it – is worse than letting Londoners die in droves. (hide spoiler)]
People can we please get over this idea that it’s somehow horrifying to be a female and have lots of power? Can we give up on the idea that absolute power corrupts vaginas absolutely? Boys have at least a 50/50 chance of being good kings, but it seems like girls can only be good if they fight the good fight and then get out of the way.["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book doesn't have a plot; it has a series of actions that pop up any time the romance needs to be cockblocked. There's no sense in this book that anyone is working towards anything or that we're supposed to be curious and discover stuff along with them. We're just supposed to wait for the next bit of exposition to tell us something, which by the way, will have absolutely no lead-in at all. New characters, concepts, and events are introduced late in the book with no hint that we should have expected something to come, so it always feels more like a blindsided slap than a reveal.
I hesitate to say that the writing is atrocious, because it was done on purpose, so I'll say instead that it was ineffective. If we presume that it was done to show Juliette as "off balance" or not quite connected to reality, it doesn't. It makes her feel like an emo-teenager writing poetry while hopped up on Red Bull. She never has an trouble distinguishing what's going on from fantasy, and her actions and thoughts are never disordered or false. As a means of showing her mental state, the writing does nothing, because her mental state is fine. Her narration is a mess, but she's perfectly sane.
And as to the worldbuilding, characters, and concepts in this novel? Well...the scientists and doctors in this world discovered a girl who can kill people by touching them and decided to try and cure that with "pills," then put her in a mental institution when they couldn't. They thought that murder-hands wasn't worth alerting the media and studying; they just called her crazy and tried to fix it, even though they knew the magic touch thing wasn't in her imagination. Thinking about how many plot holes and complete lapses in logic are in that single paragraph.
I don’t know how to even begin to express my distaste for this novel. There’s too much wrong with it. So many little details and annoyances, so many l...moreI don’t know how to even begin to express my distaste for this novel. There’s too much wrong with it. So many little details and annoyances, so many logic holes, so many obvious gaps in research. The fact that she thought looking Japanese counted as a setting and not a whiff of culture need be included. The fact that “chieftain” is an actual thing and cannot be traded willy-nilly with “king.” The brain-bashing questions of how that wolf clan conquered anyone. (Seriously, you don’t just fuck people over and then say “okay, we’re leaving, see you next year! BTW, we’re like a month’s travel away and not leaving behind any governors, messengers, or outposts, so you’re totally on your own to make alliances/refortify your village/just up and leave/set traps/really whatever you want.”)
All of that’s bad enough, but what made me really rage? What made me put this book down?
The book’s cavalier, coy attitudes about rape.
Oh, not that you’ll get the book to admit that’s what it was talking about. It never says the word. But we all know what’s going on.
Look, if you want to have a book that doesn’t include rape, fine. Excellent. More power to you. If you want to have a book that includes war and slavery but still doesn’t include rape, okay. I can handle that. But don coyly nod in the direction of rape and highlight the fact that you’re leaving it out.
The book starts off on the wrong foot by pointing out that the invading army’s leader had expressly forbidden his army to rape their conquests. It was awkward and unnecessary and just drew attention to the subject, but I could at least live with that. However, a few hundred pages later, Himiko gets captured by said leader and turned into a slave.
And then things went to shit.
Right off the bat it’s made clear that rape is on the table. One of her guards is practically salivating at the idea of getting his carnal pleasures and has to be talked out of it. A side character shows up already pregnant and her comments make it clear she’s carrying her rapist’s baby. All this serves to show that the beloved main character is in danger of having her virtue sullied, but events conspire to leave her “pure.”
I cannot express how disgusted I am when a book uses rape as a threat to show a character is in danger, but then has her avoid said danger through…nothing. Bullshit NOTHING. She’s threatened with it, and then…*poof* doesn’t happen. It’s even worse when that fate is cavalierly visited upon side characters without so much as a guilt trip, as if to say “well, she just wasn’t worthy of authorial protection” or “well, it’s already happened to her, so she’s sullied and there’s no point talking about it.”
I hate, hate, hate that this main characters are held above the muck just to preserve their virtue. It leaves behind the bad taste that she’s spared just because we can’t have a main character who’s “damaged,” but it’s okay to toss out that threat for a bit of cheap thrills.
Rape should never be cheap thrills.
But it gets worse.
Not only is Himiko spared any serious threat or – heaven forbid! – any actual consequences, whenever the issue is brushed against, Himiko gets out of it by just saying no. She even goes on about her “right to say no” and how she’d defend said right with her “words” and “prayers.”
Look, that’s a well and good story to be telling, BUT NOT IN A BOOK WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER IS A FUCKING SLAVE. She is CONSIDERED PROPERTY BY A CLAN THAT HAS NO PROBLEM MURDERING THE FUCK OUT OF HER. You can’t walk into that story and just blithely say “oh, well, all I have to do is say no and I’ll be spared the indignity of having to sleep with you. You’ll respect that, right?”
FUCK NO. Why is that so terrible? BECAUSE IT DOESN’T DO JUSTICE TO THE REAL-LIFE HORRORS OF RAPE AND SLAVERY.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE BRASS GENITALS TO ACTUALLY SHOW THIS SITUATION PROPERLY, THEN YOU SURE AS HELL HAD BETTER NOT HALF-ASS IT WITH THIS KIND OF BULLSHIT RIGHT HERE.
It completely waters down the message and presents a disgustingly sanitized view of rape and sexual matters. It’s bad enough that this book won’t even openly acknowledge the victims as being victims, no, it has to also send the message of “saying no is so easy! All you have to do is spit it out and then you won’t be raped. That preggo girl? Yeah, she must have asked for it.”
This book had a lot of potential, but it needed a lot more spit and polish to make it shine. The plot and general idea of the book appealed to me a lo...moreThis book had a lot of potential, but it needed a lot more spit and polish to make it shine. The plot and general idea of the book appealed to me a lot; I love fantasy stories like this. New worlds, high magic, poor farmboys girls finding out they have awesome powers, princesses, political machinations, intrigue, AWESOME! It's the kind of story that has very familiar bones, but you don't care because the rest of the dressing can be made interesting in a million different ways. The dressing in Sworn to Raise, however, was a bit sloppy.
The setting felt cobbled together, with a lot of things sticking out of place. There were modern amenities (like keypad locks and video phones) that were handwaved away as being powered by magic, which is fine, but they still looked and functioned as normal keypads and phones. In a pseudo-Medieval world, so many of these things just felt lazy and awkward. They didn't fit in the world, and there was very little attempt made to disguise them. Other things were too-clearly "inspired" by other iconic fantasy books, or borrowed from real-world cultures that were different enough to seem awkward when thrown together.
A lot of things weren't explained well enough to avoid confusion and plot holes. The basic gist is good -- Ciardis gets picked to go to magic companion school and learn how to be, basically, a courtier -- but when that process was described, I became very confused about the order of events that was supposed to go on. She has to...train, and then get a patron, and then train more? Maybe? The exposition was stretched out over many short conversations and contradicted itself a few times, which made things really hard to follow.
The characters were alright, but glanced over and summarized with far too much telling. An entire rivalry between two characters was shortened so much that, when they were in the same room together, we didn't get a single line of dialogue between them. Just "they bickered until forced to stop." Bickered how? What did they say?
The book had a king in charge of an empire. Just straight-up fail there. A few more weird mistakes like that should have been caught early on by an editor and weren't.
On the whole, it had potential, but it just didn't hold my interest enough to make me forget about the problems it had.(less)
Ship Breaker is one of those books that suffers a lot from how close it came to being something spectacular. I started reading, encountered all these...moreShip Breaker is one of those books that suffers a lot from how close it came to being something spectacular. I started reading, encountered all these marvelous characters and concepts, and I got my hopes up. I got my hopes way up. And my hopes crashed and burned. My hopes are a stripper in LA still claiming “I’ll be an actress someday!”
THE GOOD The first 50 pages, and everything therein, were really good. And I mean really, really good. The idea of the world, as kind of a half-pocalypse, where things go to shit but we’ve still got the same bureaucracy, it was at once very believable and very fresh. The idea of the titular ship breakers, people tearing apart pre-apocalypse tankers and (we assume) various other structures, the shanty-town that built up around these ships and the jobs they provided, all of it was excellent.
Even the harshness of it was so marvelous. This was a very hard book to read just in how stark and desperate the people in it are on a daily basis. There were points in this first 50 pages where I hurt, and I was supposed to, because I felt the loss and frustration of the characters so clearly. This book was so good at putting the reader in the mind and situation of its desperately poor main characters.
The details were excellent. It felt like a fully-realized new world. It wasn’t one half-baked concept that got a plot attached to it somehow; no, this author really put in the time to think about how everything would have changed, and how things should work now, and then he brought that new world to light for us.
THE BAD And then Nita showed up. And everything went to shit. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying Nita is a bad character. She’s not a good one, either, but overall she’s just sort of…bland. The reason I hate her is not for her character as written, but for what she does to the plot. She’s basically a Disney Princess, with her utter perfection and her incessant pleasantness and her…just…Disney Princess-ness. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s like the book wanted so hard to make her perfect for the sake of justifying how people are literally dying left and right for her. Oh, and also for why the main character falls in love with her, I guess. There was nothing particularly objectionable about Nita, but she always felt more like a MacGuffin than an actual character.
Another thing is the lost potential with Nita. A person as a MacGuffin? Totally doable if you play it right. But this book didn’t; this book played like it had no idea it was even doing that. And having one person be uber important for the sake of leverage/machinations? Yes, possible, and can even be really fun. But don’t on top of that also make her a Princess and then have everyone go on about how they’ll die for her because she’s awesome/for the sake of heavy-handed “loyalty.”
There’s a number of inconsistencies. Like…what happened to Captain Sung? Nita hid a bunch of gold rings early on; why didn’t they come back when they needed money halfway through the novel? (view spoiler)[And Nailer’s dad at the end, why didn’t the gears turn him into salsa chunks, when it was stated that even smaller gears would have done that trick? (hide spoiler)]
The plot was so…straightforward once they got off the beach. For something that promised such complexity at the start, it boiled down to your basic “Save the Princess” kind of story.
Want to know what the messages are, but can’t quite figure them out? Don’t worry, the characters will straight-up tell you what you’re supposed to learn. Not even kidding. These uneducated teenagers will sit down for six straight pages and deliver very eloquent philosophical banter, just in case you missed what the book was trying to teach you. And then they’ll do it again, and again, and again. I guess they don’t want you to strain your brain figuring things out on your own.
THE UGLY “Even bruised and dead, she was pretty[…]” -pg 90. No, book. No. Just a million times no. Nita is described as pretty far too often in this book, no matter the situation, no matter if she’s crushed, presumed dead, starved, half drowned, doesn’t matter NITA IS ALWAYS PRETTY BECAUSE THE PERFECT PRINCESS MUST ALWAYS BE PRETTY. SHE CAN’T BE A LOVE INTEREST OR HAVE PEOPLE DIE TO RESCUE HER IF SHE’S NOT PRETTY, ALRIGHT?
No, not alright, and it pissed me off.
And, really, in isolation the book’s not that bad on this front, but when I compare it to what I thought the book was going to be at the start…I’m really pissed off at the poor/rich comparisons in this book. It could have been such a wonderful look at the disparity between the poor and rich, at the way those at the top view those at the bottom, at the desperate decisions that some people have to make which seem so incongruous to those of us living in comfort. But it dropped all of that like a hot potato as soon as one rich girl showed up, so that she could be the center of whole fucking universe. Suddenly it wasn’t about “hard decisions” or “poverty vs wealth,” no, it was “the rich girl is now the most important person by virtue of being virtuous, therefore Nailer is going to give us some half-assed excuse that will be dropped soon and risk his life repeatedly to save hers. Because I guess rich people really are more important in the end.”
Seriously, I bear Nita no ill will as a character, but I wanted her to die, just so that this book would at least do something new and harsh.
In the end, this was just your basic YA adventure story. Everything that made it a challenging read got abandoned so that the plucky poor farm boy could go save the pretty-pretty princess.["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
*zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*sasdfj huh? Oh, is the book over? Well, I guess I’d better review it, then.
THE GOOD Juliet, our main protagoni...more*zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*sasdfj huh? Oh, is the book over? Well, I guess I’d better review it, then.
THE GOOD Juliet, our main protagonist and narrator, was pretty decent for the first few chapters. Smart, hard working, determined, but not without her female friends and wistful dreams. I liked her, really I did, but only at the start. Sadly, this goodness didn’t last.
The writing, while not my style, was certainly atmospheric. Although it also had this strange tendency to be vague and wordy at the same time. There were times in the book where I could tell that Juliette was scared of…um…something…but I couldn’t really get a good picture on what was going on. It certainly worked from a tone standpoint, though. I didn’t always know what she was doing, but I always knew what she was feeling.
Montgomery was a good character. I felt like he had a real potential to be a strong, complex character. Of course, the book kept harping on just a few points that were relevant to the love triangle, but he had all the building blocks of a man with a compelling story and dilemma. I even rather liked him and Juliet together. It was a romance that didn’t bother me in the least.
THE BAD The plot! Oh my god, the plot. What was the plot? Well, Juliet goes to this island where her disgraced father lives and does confusing magic that this book claims is somehow science. She finds out what he’s doing, runs off in the jungle, gets lost for 200 fucking pages and then just goes right back anyway. She has a weak love triangle with the only two fuckable boys on the island. Then in the last few pages, everything catches on fire and she leaves. AND THAT’S IT. Somehow that takes 420 pages. Juliet barely even does anything except repeatedly mope and get lost. She can’t even be arsed to get herself off the island. That’s just a combination of the boys doing stuff and stuff happening. I don’t even know how I got through the whole thing, although it did take me much longer than I should have.
The only thing worse than a love triangle is a love triangle where one corner doesn’t have a chance. Juliet was in love with one boy the whole novel. The other one was just there to make her whine more and fill the requisite trope. And this ‘romance’ took up the majority of Juliet’s thoughts, even while she’s being chased through the jungle by some poorly-worded and un-described threat.
Why was Edward even there? He’s got a nice plot twist at the end, but it’s so poorly alluded to. It’s less a twist and more of a “HAHA, SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW!” The author worked so hard to make sure that you never saw it coming that Edward’s entire raison d'etre got lost in the mix. For most of the novel, he was just there. Wasting space.
THE UGLY Dr. Moreau’s evilness was so overblown that I actually started to side with him. It’s sad, because he was doing some pretty creepy shit. The descriptions when Juliet found out about it was even properly horrifying. And then she spend something like six pages droning on and on and on and on and on and on and on about how evil and ‘mad’ her father is. And that’s not even including the rest of the novel, where she continues to whine inscently about his madness. It got to the point where there was so much wining and angst that I was willing to slap Juliet and tell her it wasn’t that bad, just as a knee-jerk reaction. Dr. Moreau’s experiments were not given enough space to let the reader come to their own conclusions about them, and that took a lot of horror away from what should have been a very horrifying concept.
The science! Oh good god the science. Imagine for a moment that you’ve broken your leg. Some mad doctor comes along and sets it sideways. Makes and L-shaped cast and sets your leg at a right angle to where it should be. The bone heals in that configuration, and you’re stuck with a sideways leg. Now imagine that the same doctor comes and gives you pills, saying that if you don’t take those pills, your leg will straighten out again, even after it’s already completely healed in the new way. That’s the level of science comprehension we’re getting in this book. Absolutely none of it make the least god damn bit of sense. I don’t need my evil horror stories to make a whole lot of sense, but I’d rather they skip the explanation instead of give me one like this. The attempts to explain the science were so bad that they were actively distracting me from the book.
The theme of madness was handled very poorly. I know what the book wanted to do. It wanted to have a feel of ‘the island is twisting everyone into madness.’ All of the characters were described as mad at some point. NONE OF THEM ACTED MAD. (Except for the doctor, of course.) They all acted perfectly within normal behavior ranges, and Juliet just randomly declared that some things were evil and other things weren’t. It completely gutted the intention of the story, and in the end, the only thing that actually felt crazy was Juliet’s wild leaps in logic.
I was particularly upset with what Juliet described as her own ‘madness’ because, as one of her examples of proof, she includes DEFENDING HERSELF FROM A WOULD-BE RAPIST. Book, author, everyone, DON’T EVER INCLUDE SELF DEFENSE AS A SIGN OF THE CRAZIES.
And, of course, the islanders. After Juliet learns the truth about them, there’s a huge hullabaloo over whether she thinks they’re human or not. She decides, in a fit of angst, that they act so very human and loveable and she can’t think of them as monsters. Until a paragraph later, where she calls them beats and animals. And the book hops over this line again and again. They’re monsters. Oh, but killing them is murder. But they’re beasts! But this one over here is cute, so let’s call him human. Back and forth and back and forth. It would have been fine if this was intentional, if it was made a point of Juliet’s character, where she struggles to decide what her viewpoint on them is. But no. It’s just there. She’s apparently fine with insisting that they’re people and then describing them as beasts.
Just…ugh, the whole book was a mix of rolling my eyes and falling asleep.(less)
I don’t mind if you want to write a story with a “green” message, if you want to encourage people to value and protect nature, if you want to say the...moreI don’t mind if you want to write a story with a “green” message, if you want to encourage people to value and protect nature, if you want to say the narrative equivalent of “yo, bro, you don’t seem to have noticed that pollution is bad.”
But when you do that by literally killing the embodiment of the dream of human progress?
Sweetie, we’re going to have issues.
So let’s break down all the many ways this doesn’t work, shall we? In this anti-science, anti-reason, anti-all-that-is-separating-us-from-the-beasts novel, fairies are born of human dreams and imagination. The more people imagine, the more the fairies are born/grow stronger/have magic/fuck the reader, because this book can’t decide which of those options it wants and doesn’t care enough to clarify. Imagination = ~*~*~SOMETHING MAGICAL, OKAY, DON’T QUESTION IT~*~*~
And Faeryland is diminishing because people aren’t imagining much anymore.
Seriously, just the fuck are you thinking, book? We’re more imaginative than ever right now. Know why? Because 90% of the population isn’t engaged in back-breaking labor from sun-up to sun-down. We’re at the most imaginative point in history. We have hundreds of thousands of people who literally do nothing but sit and imagine up stuff all day. And I’m just talking entertainment here. That’s not including teenagers on youtube. And that’s also not including scientists, engineers, architects, anyone who ever had a dream and went out to make it real. If you sit there and tell me the guys that built the first rocket ship had no imagination, I will punch you in the face. They imagined up rocket ships to the moon.
Ones that actually work.
We are hellaimaginative.
So already this book fails like a penguin is Equator.
But then it gets worse.
Because you see, in this book, we have “Iron Fey,” which is what you’d think: fairies that are made of or immune to iron. Supposedly they’re born from the whole electronics craze/industrial revolution/maybe/fuck the reader, because this book doesn’t want anything to be clear. They even go so far as to have a fairy named “Virus” who uses little tiny computer bugs, because that’s clever, right?
So…fairies take on the aspects of whatever it is the people were dreaming about?
Then how the fuck did this Winter/Summer Court of fairies come to exist?
Because, seriously, when in history have we dreamed more about frolicking in nature than we have about tearing nature down and building our own shit in its place?
OH RIGHT, FUCKING NEVER.
Literally the first thing that the first human did was go out and chop the shit out of nature so he could burn that motherfucker down. And, you know, invent fire and cook his food. At least, I assume that’s the first thing he did, but if not it was at least the second or third thing.
So how did our long and glorious tradition of razing nature to the ground and building cities on her rotting corpse turn into the traditional fairies that populate this book, but our tradition of doing that – just with better tools – turned into evil monster fairies?
BUT WAIT, IT GETS BETTER.
Because we get to meet the very first Iron Fey to ever be imagined into existence. He came about during the fucking Iron Age.
Yeah, these guys have been around since iron tools were first invented, but they weren’t as powerful as the nature fairies, because…fuck all if I know. We’ve been gaga for iron ever since we figured out we could tie it to the end of sticks and kill stuff with it.
And yet what have we ever done for Oberon? Some dude wrote him into a play (and did that relatively recently, compared to the fucking Iron Age) and now we make high school kids read about, which most of them don’t do because purists refuse to translate Shakespeare into teenage-speak.
But the iron guy remained weak throughout the ages, but Oberon is totally all butch and powerful and shit.
So as we get into things, we find out these Iron Fey are destroying the pure and gorgeous nature homes of the traditional fairies. Okay, I can roll with that. Then we get to their own iron kingdom, and the whole place is full of acid rain and trash and broken shit and just basically every single negative aspect of technology, but magnified times a million, and also that’s all there is.
Bweh? Why? Why to the Iron Fey get only the crapshit of the dreams that made them, but over in Oberon’s land there’s no…I don’t know, swamps or cacti or mudslides or tar pits?
Well, it’s because this book doesn’t give a shit about saying anything actually subtle or meaningful. It just wants to throw crap in your face like an irate monkey. None of it adds to any sort of discussion about technology vs environmentalism, because it’s too busy being so fucking extreme that none of it makes sense. You can say “nuh-uh” just by pointing out that scientists actually have to imagine shit or else there wouldn’t be any science because REALLY DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT SCIENCE IS?
And that’s on top of everything else that makes this novel just brain-bashingly stupid, but other reviews have covered that thoroughly. It had its high points, and to be honest the majority of the novel was…if not good, at least on an even keel. But the low points just have this tendency to jump out and slap you in the fact and spit in your hair, so that the end result is that I didn’t care about the okay bits because it was overall just such a terrible experience. (less)
I felt like I was reading two books the whole time I went through this. The first book was a somewhat creative, fun romp through a twisted Wonderland,...moreI felt like I was reading two books the whole time I went through this. The first book was a somewhat creative, fun romp through a twisted Wonderland, and it had a decent plot and plenty of twists and machinations and such going on.
The second was a rehash of all of the worst of YA love triangles over the past few years.
These two books collided at random. The first was more prominent, but the second would shove its way in, sit there awkwardly and uninvited, and stay for a page or two before fleeing again.
I really, really wanted to like that first book, the book this one should have been. If the romance had been taken completely out, if Alyssa didn't have a boyfriend follow her down there and wasn't in lov- no, magical lust with that other guy, then the story would have played out just exactly as it did, but without about 90% of the bad sort of creepiness. The romance element contributed nothing to the plot. (By the way, the book agrees with me, as you'll see at the end.)
Both of the guys in Alyssa's triangle were mean and abusive. I was honestly horrified at how much they grabbed her and dragged her and shoved her and otherwise put hands on her to physically move her around. Alyssa never made one comment of protest against any of this, and she simply went on and on about how much she loved the boys while this happened, sending the rather creepy message that it's okay to have your boyfriend physically shove you to where he wants you to go. Jeb is a jerk who's needlessly cruel to those he comes across and jumps to physical violence at the drop of a hat. Now, given his background (abusive father) I can actually imagine this as justified for him. But in that case, make it part of his character arc! Make it something he needs to work on and overcome! Instead of any of that, Alyssa doesn't bat an eye at the fact that he thinks punching his problems is acceptable, which just makes me think that she's got some domestic abuse in her future. Morpheus is even worse, as he lies to, manipulates, and even drugs Alyssa, climbs into bed with her, and magically seduces her. At least, I'm assuming it was magic, because otherwise that was an awful lot of overwrought metaphors. Alyssa has absolutely no reason to fall for him, so the author pulls up their childhood together and tries to use that to justify her feelings, but it falls flat as an excuse for romance. She can be conflicted over her child-like affection for an old friend without also wanting to bone him. (And without trying to paint him as a viable romantic lead.)
The saving grace in all of this is that first, better book. Even then it has some problems. My biggest one (Alyssa just sort of stumbles into the answers for all her tasks) is mostly explained at the end, so that's okay. But three characters who turn out to be vital to the conclusion of the story aren't even introduced to us until the final 40 pages. Alyssa is an idiot for trusting Morpheus, even though she's shown time and time again that pretty much everything he says is a lie, then she acts ~*~*OMG SO SHOCKED*~*~ when he lies again at the end. This is why you shouldn't take a villain role and shove it into one spot on your romance triangle. It just makes everyone look stupid. And I figured out the big reveal about Alyssa at the first clue, since it was a rather large and obvious one. When that clue kept being harped on, but Alyssa didn't follow through her thoughts to a logical conclusion, I rolled my eyes. In the end, even with all the parts in front of her, she had to have someone else spell it out for her.
Oh, and let's not even touch that horrid display of mental health facilities. They've got a nurse that apparently likes to give injectable sedatives at the drop of a hat. I'm sure that actually happens, but when someone really does overdose their patients with needless drugs (including giving them two doses really close together) then the answer is to turn them in to the authorities. I can't tell in this book if the nurse is out of regs, or if the author thinks that's how things are supposed to go. Also, they treat ECT therapy as if it's something that 100% of the time fries your brain into something unrecognizable. Alyssa's motivation throughout this novel is to 'fix' stuff before her mother goes in for ETC, under the assumption that if that happens Allison will be a catatonic lump of brain damage. No. This isn't the 1940s. If that happened, we wouldn't use it anymore. ECT side-effects are mild, and the treatments have helped thousands and thousands of people, with a higher rate of success than psychotropic drugs.
Then there's the various 'vengeance' that's meted out to certain characters. The nurse that sedates her mom is frightened into using the sedatives on herself, which is pretty fucking horrifying all on its own. I mean, if this is a world where doing that to patients is allowed, then she's being punished for doing her job. If this is supposed to be the real world, then turn her ass in to the cops, don't muck around with her health! And Taelor, the bully that torments Alyssa and dates Jeb, she's a pretty weak bully character. Also very sympathetic. When Jeb dumps her on the night of prom and goes to Alyssa instead, Taelor says he can't be trusted, so Alyssa delivers a cruel verbal beatdown about how she'd trust Jeb with her life. But think about it. Taelor, who has a terrible homelife and the only think stable in her life is her boyfriend, just found out that this whole time he's been pining after another woman. Then her boyfriend dumps her and moves to that other woman the next morning. Less than 12 hours later. Yes, Jeb absolutely is an SOB who can't be trusted.
And there's some slut-shaming in this novel. There's a big deal made out of how Alyssa is a virgin (you know, unlike those other 'dirty' whores who give it away), and they even say that she's 'too good' and 'deserves better' than a one-night-stand with a stranger. So...what, if people aren't as 'good' as Alyssa, then they deserve it? And people who like casual encounters...don't exist? I don't know, it's another needless thing that got shoved in there and ended up being creepy.(less)
I can see why this book got popular. It has some very quotable lines that address some very thought-provoking issues. Unfortunately, this book can't give a good home to those lines. It's just random lines that get tossed out before the actual story and characters move on to doing even more stupidity. No one lives up to their pretty words and platitudes.
This book also makes some stabs at being good. There's no love triangle, and there's more female characters (although by no means are things actually equal). There's points at this book where I can see good writing shining through. But again, the quality is not maintained. When it gets bad, it gets really bad.
The world is just a hot mess of crazy that never gets properly explained. Supposedly this is a self-contained version of Chicago set in a dystopic future...but they have the same level of technology and comfort as we do? Where are they getting their gas, their glass, their metals, their plastics, all those things that are required for a technological society? Never explained, along with a million other things.
The concept of Divergent isn't explained nearly well enough. It comes across as being "normal" in a society of people who are partially lobotomized. (That's the only thing I can think of for why everyone can't be both smart and brave, or kind and selfless, or really ANY two qualities at once.) It's also not explained why Divergent is so dangerous. They say it's because people who think in more than one way can't be controlled, but there's no word on why the leaders want their people controlled when everyone seems happy to go along with the status quo. Even Tris doesn't think about any sort of rebelling until people start shooting at her.
The writing is simplistic and the main character is just painfully stupid. There's a weird anti-intellectual streak to this book as they demonize the 'smart' faction for doing stuff like 'fair and balanced news reporting.' This whole book is really just a hot, hot mess of confusion and bad logic.(less)
Oi, vey, what a snooze fest. This book is 500 pages of pure exposition. NOTHING HAPPENS. The 'climax' of this book is just the two main characters han...moreOi, vey, what a snooze fest. This book is 500 pages of pure exposition. NOTHING HAPPENS. The 'climax' of this book is just the two main characters handing out Halloween candy before getting ready to take a trip. Really. That's the climax of the novel. It is the rising action of a better novel, but padded out into 43 chapters of domestic activity.
The whole thing reads like the OCD notes of particularly dull stalker. It followes the main characters through every moment of their lives, every yoga class, every glass of wine, every pointless activity to waste time. There's pages and pages of backstory and 'cute' banter and descriptions. It's fluff. It's all pure fluff and filler. There's very little that actually happens in this book, and what does happen is pretty head-bangingly stupid. The 'villains' in this novel read about as nuanced and intelligent as Captain Planet bad guys.
The cliches are so overwhelming that they physically hurt me. And tucking in between all the failed worldbuilding, bullshit history, and descriptions of clothes, there's a chuck-ton of misogyny. If you want a detailed description of exactly why this book is so awful, there's a chapter by chapter review on my blog. If you can get through it. Even in summary, it's just so dull.(less)
If you don't think that genetic manipulation is inherently evil, this book probably isn't for you. I'm not sure if this is the authors' prejudices sho...moreIf you don't think that genetic manipulation is inherently evil, this book probably isn't for you. I'm not sure if this is the authors' prejudices showing through, or if some actual justification got lost in the sea of romance cliches, but that's what happened. The evil scientists are evil for wanting to perfect the cloning process and...yeah, that's it. There's some mention of 'freakshow' experiments, but they're relatively mild. A girl with a face on her back? Well, she's floating in a vat. Is she really a girl, or is she a human-shaped pile of meat with all the brain activity of a sea slug? We are talking about a purpose-grown body, here. And a pig with green skin? Seriously, the green pig was brought up the most, and technicolor pigs just don't scare me.
The writing style in this book was...different. It was told in a very stream-of-consciousness way. I think with a little more tweaking, it could have been a lot of fun, but it was too unsettled for me to really get into it. Felt sort of like one of those 'extremes' you swing to before setting on a happy medium. And I could have enjoyed it anyway, if only the story had held up. What started as a really good, original idea got lost in insta-love and scientist hate and far, far, far too much dithering about how cute everyone is.
And...the cursing. There wasn't a lot of cursing in this book, but...well...It's all directed at the women. The characters are all very free with the word ‘bitch.’ Everyone is a bitch. They are bitches multiple times, in a variety of situations. They’re also sluts. Bitches and sluts, this book is full of them.
And what do the men get called? What curse words does this champion of harsh speech level at his male characters? Are they also bitches, or bastards, or sons-of-bitches, or shitheads, or dickcheeses? Nope. There is exactly one curse leveled at a male character — “asshole,” which is relatively mild — and it comes only when he’s got a gun pointed at a main character.
Women are bitches for being a bit brusque in their social interactions. Men are assholes for trying to kill you.
Mr. Grant, if you really must crusade for harsh language in books, could you please do it without making women your acceptable targets in the process?(less)
I honestly don't see the appeal of this book. With most books that have a lot of hype, even if I don't share in it, I get what prompted it. This book? Not so much.
The main character is as annoying a Mary Sue as I've ever seen. Despite her repeated claims of being awesome, she was just your average teenage girl with an entitlement complex. Actually, if she was supposed to be average, she would have been fine, but as the 'world's best assassin' she fell far, far short. Her attitude and her habits and general demeanor were so far from being disciplined that the few (very few) times she did anything awesome it felt like an ass-pull from the author.
The world-building was shaky at best, nonexistent at worst. The plot was told mostly in summary. Not even kidding, of the dozen or so people who died in this book, we got to see two of them. The rest was were mentioned off-hand at the start of various chapters, as in "three weeks passed and four more people died." Um, no, back up, we want to see that, not more love triangle bantering. The bits of the plot we did get to see were poorly connected and rife with logic holes. The characters were all judgmental little shits. (Except Chaol. Chaol was the voice of sanity and reason in this book. Even if he was completely incompetent at his job, at least he was a good person.)
Everything about this book just felt shallow, unpolished, rushed, and poorly planned. I felt like I was reading a first draft of something, not a finished product.(less)
My Reaction: A solidly enjoyable read, but in the end, too disjointed to be really great. This book had a lot of potent...moreThis review is also on my blog.
My Reaction: A solidly enjoyable read, but in the end, too disjointed to be really great. This book had a lot of potential and I did really enjoy many of the things in it. The plot between Jude and Day was predictable but still a lot of fun, and just the kind of story I enjoy reading. Predictability never bothers me as long as I enjoy the formula. Spies who change sides and prison break outs will never disappoint me. However, I never got a good enough read on the worldbuilding to warm to it, and that really hurt the book’s attempts to include some “uncovering the evil government” plot points. The narrative was too narrow in focus for us to really appreciate the society-wide issues that were thrown at us, and in the end, too many questions were left unasked. (Unanswered is one thing when there are sequels, but they should at least be asked so we know they’ll be addressed later.)
Highlights: • Jude and Day’s romance was, given the genre, quite subdued. I enjoyed the fact that it was there, but not overpowering, and their motives were usually rooted in something stronger than a day-old crush. • The dystopia left a lot to be desired, but it was at least more solid than most of the recent offerings to the genre. • June and Day were both enjoyable characters, despite being “perfect” in the child-prodigy sense. The book managed to walk that line and treat them as characters instead of authorial darlings, although that is a fine line and some readers won’t agree with me. • June and Day might as well have been the same character. Their voices were identical. • The government’s grasp of science was…lacking. Even with the book’s vague excuse of “we lost a lot of tech,” I still don’t buy it. There’s a difference between “lost tech” and “lost the ability to use the scientific method.” • Day’s motives and methods are never examined. • There’s a completely gratuitous torture scene near the start of the book, which had absolutely no mental or emotional impact on our “heroine.” That bothered me greatly.
Rants and Raves:
I’m getting rather sick of despotic governments who’s actions are handwaved with “well, they’re evil!” There’s quite a difference between evil and self-destructive, and the two don’t have to go hand in hand. In fact, it’s quite possible to have an effective, efficient, smart, well-run government that is evil. There’s no need to display their evil by having them shoot themselves in the foot.
And that’s basically what the Republic does in this book. Though there’s no hard figures on the world, we can extrapolate the knowledge that they have low population numbers from the following facts: they’re in a decades-long war, natural disasters are common, and a plague routinely runs through the country and wipes people out. AND YET the government puts every 10 year-old to a standardized test and then kills those that don’t pass.
Why? That’s something you do when your population numbers are high and need to be brought down, but all the evidence suggests exactly the opposite. The public fiction is that those kids go to a “labor camp,” which just begs the question why are there no actual labor camps? Surely with so much of your population tied up in war and infrastructure rebuilding, there’s no reason not to use every body you can get your hands on. The fact that they failed their test, and thus are presumably unintelligent or weak, doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse. You don’t need a lot of brains to break rocks, or be a meatsheild at the warfront. And, in fact, wouldn’t it be better to put your near-useless people to that kind of work and save the smarter ones for more skilled jobs?
And then we find out that not only do they kill perfectly good children, but they also (view spoiler)[ engineer the plagues that pass through, too (hide spoiler)]. That’s even more of your population dead, and for no good reason! And no, the reason they give isn’t a good reason. The reason they give falls under the “do you even know how science works?” header.
So, yes, both those things are evil, but they don’t make sense. They’re just there to show off evilness. I always have and always will prefer my fictional evil governments to make sense. I think that’s why I liked Thomas as a character best in this book. He was bad, yes, but he felt so real. His reasons for the way he thought, though flawed, at least a kind of sense to them, and he was multifaceted and, therefore, fascinating. Much more than the commander, who was just evil for the LOLZ of it.
Also, add this book to the growing pile of “women in command tend to be evil bitches” examples. Although it does better on female characters in general, there’s only one that’s in a position of power, and she follows the trope.
And then there’s the torture.
Look, books, torture is a dicey subject. You can’t just toss it in there for the sake of showing off evil. That’s up there with using rape to show that a character is a bad guy. It’s cheap shorthand and you’re not treating the subject with the weight and gravitas that it needs.
In this book, torture seems to be used as a matter of course, like they just use it as a standard practice on everyone they come across. While I can see a despotic, war-time government using torture, it shouldn’t be used so cavalierly. First of all because it’s shit. There’s not enough return on torture for the price of it, because you simply get way too many false positives. So you’ve got to find and train the people who have a stomach for it, deal with the burnout from those people after they just can’t keep doing that for long, deal with the medical costs of keeping your prisoners alive after you’ve cut body parts off, and all for what? For some information that’s probably wrong anyway, and which you have no way to verify. Torture is inefficient. We have questioning tactics that work much better and don’t involve the emotional and monetary costs of torture.
But this book goes one step further and also has the government torturing captives just for the LOLZ. Not individuals, which I could understand if they have particular hatred for a prisoner, but official standard practices of torture even when there’s no attempt to get information. That is absolutely ridiculous and serves no point. When something is used only to show off evil, it shouldn’t be used. Period. Stuff should have a point and a purpose and then also be evil, because that’s totally a thing and not even very hard!
And the complete lack of a reaction to the torture scenes by our main character didn’t help matters. Even people who believe that torture works and are willing to use it will often feel uncomfortable, upset, or at least just feel something when faced with an actual screaming injured person.["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This book was about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a brick. Nothing was handled with tact or skill or any amount of nuance. Badass characte...moreThis book was about as subtle as getting hit in the face with a brick. Nothing was handled with tact or skill or any amount of nuance. Badass character is an orphan? Well she's not JUST an orphan, oh no, she's got a history of child abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, really just every kind of abuse you can imagine. Because being an orphan isn't sad ENOUGH, nope, we've got to make sure that there's not one single, solitary piece of comfort anywhere in her life. Balls-to-the-wall angst, people. Religion replaced by a so-called secular Church? Well, that's not obvious enough, we've got to make it absolutely, unequivocally clear that this new Church is hypocritical. Like, full-on Inquisition era insanity and total control over the government and everything. And totally not secular and completely missing the definition of 'faith.' "You don't need faith because there are no gods! Now, believe us when he declare acts to be moral or immoral, or else you'll go to hell. Proof? Psh. We say it's the truth, you believe, but don't worry that doesn't count as 'faith!'" Not painful enough? Don't worry, here's a few pseudo bible verses to hammer it home.
So much of this world just wasn't handled well. We're told that ghosts suddenly popped up 23 years ago because...hey, they just popped up, and so did magic. Reasons be damned. Chess is a drug addict who never gets affected by her drugs. Seriously, this chick will pop pills and snort lines at least once a chapter, usually two or three times, and she'll go days without sleeping or eating, and absolutely none of this has any effect on her thoughts, decisions, actions, or feelings. She runs around just like any sober character, with very little variance between coked-out-of-her-skill and near-sober. It's like the book couldn't actually make her ACT high, so it substituted in lots of snorting scenes to remind us that she's an addict. Since it's so easy to forget otherwise.
I really wanted to like this. I really did. There's some good stuff buried in the mess. But it was just a chore to slog through, and the good parts couldn't carry me through the rest of the annoyance. (less)
This whole book is just a hot mess that I can barely make sense of. I was highly uncomfortable while reading it, due to the overt misogyny and patriar...moreThis whole book is just a hot mess that I can barely make sense of. I was highly uncomfortable while reading it, due to the overt misogyny and patriarchy. The book was, of course, intentionally creating a patriarchal society, so a lot of the things that made me uncomfortable were supposed to do so. On the other hand, it's really hard to tell the divide between on-purpose and accidental misogyny in this book. There's so many little things that I read in this book, so many lines and comments, that made me pause and think "did she really mean to write that?" Plus, there's the non-worldbuilding/meta aspects, like how every woman who has any amount of ambition is literally described as 'evil,' while only those who are shoved haplessly into power are deserving of it. Or how every female character (save for three, but two are gay and one is old) is described as vapid, shallow, vain, greedy, or stupid. Basically, if you're not Adalice but you are viable sexual competition, then you're evil. And that had nothing to do with the worldbuilding, that was all the book's own anti-feminism.
On top of that, the book didn't really do anything with that misogyny. It was just...there. Adalice rarely chaffed under it, and there wasn't any attempt to criticize it. It wasn't even relevant to the story. It was just...there. Perhaps it will be utilized more in later novels, but it left a bad taste in my mouth for this one.
There are two gay characters in this novel, which I was happy to see at first...until they both died. It's hard enough to find positive homosexual role-models in teenage literature, and harder still to see them actually survive and be happy. For all the book tried to make them 'good' (and instead made them genuflecting set pieces revolving around the main character), the 'kill off all the gays' trope has been long established, is very insulting, and really has no business getting perpetuated. Plus, the discussion about gays and gay marriage just seemed...off. They bring it up, and the bad guy goes on about how it would destroy family values and all that, and Adalice just sort of says 'nu-uh,' but without any valid counter-arguments. (Of which there are plenty.) It feels like the author knows this is the right thing to say, but she doesn't know why, so she glossed over the whole issue.
The plot didn't exist. Just straight-up didn't exist. Adalice didn't do anything the whole book. She didn't want to do anything the whole book. She had no goal. She had no agency. She was torn from her home and her family and put in the Coventry and then...just sort of went along with it. There was some tepid talk of escape, and the men around her acted like there was some sort of urgency, but there wasn't. It was practically a slice-of-life novel. There was talk of a rebellion...once. And then nothing was done with it. Adalice doesn't even try and escape or give any serious thought to until the last 50 pages, when she's threatened with rape. Really, the whole thing is just stuff happening around her, until finally it was time for a climax so one got shoved in.
And, while parts of the world were very interesting, others were just confusing. Like, Adalice's parents don't want her to be a Spinster, but we're never told why. They seem to know that it's a terrible fate because...??? Because she can't get married? Because...I don't know, that's all I got. Girls don't have any more agency outside the Coventry than inside is, as they're assigned to menial jobs and have no control over their own lives, so supposedly there's something terrible about being a Spinster, but I never quite caught on to what it was. 'Ripping,' maybe, that does sound bad, but that's a minor part of the job that only a few people do. And in that case, how did her parents find out about it? We don't find out in this book. And that's fine, if we're to have it addressed in a later installment, but why didn't Adalice ever wonder how they knew? Why did she never stop to question why everyone else thinks Spinsterhood is awesome, but her parents didn't?
And there's just a downright weird amount of make-up-hate in this novel.(less)
Dear sweet baby Jesus, that’s how long it took me to crawl through this book. I…I almost don’t even know what happened, because so much of it was just...moreDear sweet baby Jesus, that’s how long it took me to crawl through this book. I…I almost don’t even know what happened, because so much of it was just bullshit. Just…pages and pages of words, words that sort of came together to make sentences, but the sentences didn’t come together to make a scene. It was like reading stream-of-consciousness fanfiction written by someone going through pon farr. Nothing can beat the racism in this book for sheer disgust, but the rampant sexualization sure gives it the old college try.
The plot of the book is relatively simple. Eden is a research assistant, working for her dad, who is about to do some big experiment to make man/beast hybrids. She’s worried about getting married, because stupid. (A lot of things are “because stupid” and I’ll cover them later.) She’s got a boyfriend that she hopes will propose, and he asks her to some dance thingy, so that gets her excited. Once there, she gets harassed by some creeps, her boss rescues her, and then they go back to the lab where the human test subjects have gone missing. So her boss, Bramford, volunteers himself, instead. Halfway through, some militia group that Eden’s boyfriend belongs to shows up, and they fuck shit up. Eden decides that the best course of action is SET THE PLACE ON FIRE because…stupid. Bramford turns a little more animal than planned, but he and Eden and Eden’s father all escape in a plane. They fly off to the Amazon and hide in the jungle with a tribe called the Huaorani.
And then there’s literally 200 pages of bullshit where Eden just flails around like a moron, gets lost in the jungle, pouts, and goes on at length about how she’s now sexually attracted to Bramford. Also, there’s a mild mystery about some woman named Rebecca, and after far too long we find out that she was Bramford’s first wife, and she betrayed him to the militia once and then also died. Also, they have a son who’s an albino, which is a big deal because of stupid.
Seriously. 200 pages. In the last 50 pages, Eden tries to contact someone back in civilization to come get her, but it turns out to be her old fake-boyfriend and the militia instead, and they try to shoot everyone up, but some Aztecs (???) come out of nowhere and blowdart them to death. Then Eden and the albino kid get set to become half-beast like Bramford and go off living in the jungle. Because if you do an experiment on yourself to become immune to the #1 thing that kills everyone in your society…that makes you an outcast and you have to go live in the jungle?
Good god, where do I even begin? I guess the racism is a pretty good spot. The author claims to have tried to “turn racism on its head” and flip the roles around. First of all, the very concept is insulting. Want to portray racism? WRITE ABOUT A POC CHARACTER. This is basically saying that white people won’t care about injustice unless it’s applied to other white people. Which, yeah, that’s a big problem in our society. It won’t be solved by perpetuating it with more “poor whitey” stories. Second, this book fails pretty hard at what it set out to do. This isn’t racism “turned on its head,” it’s just regular racism. Eden hates the black people and characterizes them extremely poorly. It only gets worse when Bramford turns into a “beast” and they run into the “primitive” Huaorani. In short, this is our own, modern, white-superiority racism, just with the “unnatural” turn of having blacks be in charge of shit. It really does read as if the pure and good whites suddenly got “taken over” by the nasty, mean, bitchy black people, and oh, woe, isn’t that so terrible!!! Gasp, what a frightening turn of events! It’s wrong because it goes against nature and all that. *gag* I think part of this impression is because the book can’t help but give in to stereotypes about its black characters, and in part because it doesn’t realize what actually goes into institutionalized racism. It hits all the high points, but none of the subtleties.
And that’s not even getting into the few lines that make it completely obvious that Eden still thinks of herself as superior, regardless of what the book tries to tell us. Like:
Eden flinched. One of them was touching her. White-hot light exploded in her head. Before she knew it, she blurted out an incendiary racial slur. “Get your hands off me, you damn Coal!”
Yup. Really. Eden thinks it’s an insult to be touched by a black person. She even flinches at it. Because black people are apparently just that nasty.
And of course, then there’s all the science fails. Supposedly this world comes about when “the Great Meltdown” happened, but we have no idea what that is. Now light-skinned people keep dying from “the Heat,” but we don’t know what that is, either. Heatstroke? Radiation from the sun is mentioned several times, but the few examples we have of “the Heat” make it seem like the victims are actually overheating, not dying from cancer or something. And if that’s the case (heck, even if “cancer” is the case) then it’s utterly ridiculous to say that darker people survive it better. Skin tone is not a body heat regulator. In fact, we’re not entirely sure why people developed different skin tones, but we do know it doesn’t have to do with temperature. There’s a few theories bouncing around; I like this one but there’s others as well. If the author had done even a modicum of research, even just to confirm what she thought she knew about ‘radiation’ and skin color, she would have found this out pretty quick.
Plus, everyone lives underground. Really. Underground, in a completely climate-controlled environment, with air-conditioning, never exposed to direct sunlight. And yet somehow white people get heatstroke but black people don’t, all because of this radiation that absolutely no one is exposed to.
And then there’s this whole “mating” bullshit. Girls have to have sex by the time they hit 18 or they get cut off from…um, free stuff? We later see one of these non-mated white women being forced into prostitution to make ends-meat, so is it that no one will hire her? Is everyone in the society living off government handouts? But…Eden has a job, so…is she banned from working if she doesn’t mate?
Eden’s “mate-rate” is 15%, but we have NO FUCKING CLUE what that means. Really, none. A lot of drama is places on this number 15, but we don’t know what that number represents or how it was decided upon. There’s some hint that high or low ratings are an indication of your genetic fitness, but…later in the book Jamal goes on about how his rate went down because he was burned in a fire. Burns which do not affect his genetics at all. It affects his job performance and general fitness, I guess, since he had a very physical profession as a security worker before the fire. Is that what a “mate-rate” is? Your ability to be self-sufficient? Or… fuck, why am I still thinking about this?
Bigger problem with the mating issue: it makes no sense. Supposedly this is some ultra-unemotional society, where extreme reactions are dulled with a drug called “oxy” (we’re told this, never shown it) and resources are scarce. Yeah: resources are scarce. But if you don’t mate and make kids, you don’t get resources. Basically, if you don’t pop out children which will put even more of a drain on the limited resources, then you’ll be punished for it because resources are limited and can’t be wasted on your sorry, useless ass. What?
Note, by the way, that it’s only women who have a time limit. And that limit is 18. As soon as you become an adult, girls, your only job is to make babies. Men can do things like stay single and run corporations, but all your good for is making babies. If you don’t make babies, you either die or become a whore.
Once we get out of the underground part, 2/3rds of the book takes place in the jungle, around a race of real-life indigenous people. The book parallels real life in an almost creepy manner: the book says that they somehow survived in spite of “the Heat” and were only recently discovered to be still living on the surface; in reality, the Huaorani were “discovered” in the 1940s, along with the rich oil reserves on their land. In the book, the size of the Huaorani settlement isn’t made clear. We only see two families, and no indication is made of whether that’s all there is or if Eden just didn’t care about/notice anyone else. The main Huaorani character we interact with is Maria, who literally does nothing in the book except take care of her two small children and wait on Eden and her father. She’s servile and unassuming and, to all appearances, perfectly happy to play maid to these white visitors. She and her sister-in-law live in huts and keep small gardens and believe in fables and… Basically, it’s what a white person would imagine when thinking about a “simple, native” existence through fake-nostalgia-colored glasses. There’s not a hint of the Huaorani’s culture outside of a few nods to mythology, there’s no history for these two families or how their village came to be, there’s no sense that they are part of a larger nation made up of intelligent and independent people.
The Huaorani, by the way, are pretty god damn smart and have set up their own rights/activist group, fought for the right to live on their own land, been in legal battles with oil companies, and they’ve had a recent history fraught with conflict and controversy. They’re also made up of multiple tribes, and they aren’t a homogenous society of people who all agree, because you get varying levels of cooperation with both each other and outsiders. They are a complex nation of intelligent people with a rich culture and history, and with some extremely delicate issues that are currently still being fought over, but this author sweeps all of that aside and turns them into bland, grinning servants.
The technical writing was decent, and the first 20 or so pages were enticing. Mia stopped the narrative for huge chunks of paragraphs in order to give...moreThe technical writing was decent, and the first 20 or so pages were enticing. Mia stopped the narrative for huge chunks of paragraphs in order to give us backstory, which made everything flow...well, which made everything NOT flow. But still, it was unique, and I was hooked.
And then the love interest showed up and everything went to hell. Mia is supremely boring, and only more of a let-down after being self-described as a "lightning addict." Some addict, she doesn't even get struck until the end. One would think she'd be something of an adrenaline junkie, but nope, she's just dull and ignorant and blindly stumbling through the plot, willing to be tugged hither and yon by everyone else but never doing anything herself. Honestly, she spends about 95% of the book trying to AVOID the plot. Author, I picked up this book to read about doomsday cults and lightning magic, not to read about a girl trying her damndest to AVOID those things. I want to run full-bore into them and have a rollicking good time saving the world. Why do you think I would be more interested in a chick who HIDES from all the interesting stuff, rather than a chick who gets down and dirty and actually FUCKING DOES SOMETHING.
Seriously. It's amazing how a "lightning addict" can be just so damn boring.
And of course, there's all the little things subtext things that needle at me. Like the way Mia's powers are only "good" if she's healing, and once she tries to use them for self-defense from a guy trying to throw her off a bridge, well, for that she needs to find "redemption." No one except the bad guy bothers to tell her that she's not to blame for DEFENDING HERSELF from a violent attack. Seriously. Just the bad guy. And we're conditioned to disbelieve things the villain says, so...is this book trying to tell me she SHOULD feel guilty about that? Because she spends like half a page reassuring the male love interest that falling asleep wasn't his fault, but no one can be arsed to tell her that it's okay to try and not be brutally murdered? Fucking creepy. I mean, really minor thing and I'm pretty sure the author didn't consciously mean to include it, but...somehow that makes it fucking creepier. And there's tons of little messages like that, just little lines here and there that sink into your subconscious and made my skin crawl.
Oh, and I almost forgot the worst scene of all: when the love interest forces a kiss on Mia -- FORCES -- in order to break the mind control, even though just touching her with a finger would have done as well. Yes, folks, the main character is sexually assaulted "for her own good."(less)
This is a book about three girls being kidnapped for the sole purpose of being raped, one thirteen year old is raped (and don't you dare tell me she w...moreThis is a book about three girls being kidnapped for the sole purpose of being raped, one thirteen year old is raped (and don't you dare tell me she wanted it; the poor child was THIRTEEN YEARS OLD and had just been kidnapped), and yet not once in the whole book is the word 'rape' used.
That just about sums up this book. It takes what should be a horrific subject and paints it in 'teehee, teenagers talking about sex' vocabulary.
Rhine is not a bride, she's a kidnap victim who avoids being raped by authorial contrivance. Her 'sister wives' are rape victims. Her 'husband' is a rapist who didn't flinch when a dozen women he rejected were all shot.
Making a YA book that deals with craptastic worlds where kidnapping, rape, and forced impregnation exist is not inherently bad. BUT FUCKING ADMIT THAT YOU'VE DONE IT AND DON'T TREAT IT LIKE SOME HIGH-SCHOOL-DRAMA-LOVE-TRIANGLE BULLSHIT.
Oh, yeah, and the world makes no sense, too. I just couldn't find the wherewithal to give a fuck because I was still reeling from all the RAMPANT CHILD RAPE.(less)
This wasn't a book about a girl becoming an inspiring figure for her people and fighting against an oppressive regime. This was a story about a girl getting yanked here and there, taking no initiative over her own life, and letting other people dress her up in pretty clothes and then tell her where to go.
Also, wars are impressive. (Morally right or wrong, they still make for epic stories.) The media people who get down and dirty in wars to document it are in impressive. However, people who stay safe in the rear, fly in to battlegrounds that are no longer hot for some staged bullshit, and then hop out again? Make me want to punch them. Not the best way to tell your story, Collins.(less)
This book had a lot of problems. And I mean a lot of problems. The pacing was weird, the protagonist was bland or unlikable, depending on the situatio...moreThis book had a lot of problems. And I mean a lot of problems. The pacing was weird, the protagonist was bland or unlikable, depending on the situation, and the romance between her and a man who repeatedly lied to her and abused her was downright creepy. Granted, I did like the male lead, and I understood his actions. I think a romance could have been possible, of only Snyder didn't decide to shortcut through all their problems and just go "yup, they're totally banging now."
But the thing that bothered me the most was the world-building. Or the lack there-of. The world of Ixia seems to be a pseudo-forced-communist regime, with everyone pigeon-holed into their jobs, draconian rules, and a command-based economy. However...the whole thing works. There's quite a bit of time spent with characters talking about how evil the system is how it needs to be toppled, but outside of one very brief example with a farmer, it all works. The economy is (illogically) running fine, everyone is eating well, there's no signs of famine or strife or undue corruption or abuse. It's a functional government that is evil...um, because Snyder said so. I got the very strong impression while reading this that she had no idea why the USSR failed, so she just slapped some rhetoric on her half-assed world and called it a day. I was torn between thinking "Why are they trying to topple this place? It's functioning fine," and "Why is it functioning fine? COMMAND ECONOMIES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY."
Also, we have no idea throughout this book what kind of world it's in. It seems to shift repeatedly between being pseudo-Medieval like so many other fantasy books, Industrial Revolution era, and then back again, with no one even trying to make sense out of it. I couldn't even begin to get into the plot or the characters when I had no idea where or when I was.(less)