As this is the first book in the series, I've avoided spoilers, so read on! If you're paranoid, skip to 'Final Verdict'. :)
Guys. I love this book. This is seriously one of my favoritest books of all time. I mean, yes, I enjoyed it quite a bit in high school (though back then I found it a little slow at the beginning -- didn't have that problem this time; maybe it's because I was expecting it this time?) but this time I LOVED it to pieces. It's just such a riveting adventure, and I love the creativity behind Pullman's world. I don't know if the whole notion of the daemons has ever been used in another popular fantasy work, but I've yet to see it, and the way that Pullman uses it to expound on all kinds of themes, such as religion and growing up... I don't know how I didn't catch on to most of it in high school. Also, they're just friggin' COOL. I want a daemon.
That's what's awesome about this series; it's something that adults can get a lot of food for thought out of (I can't even begin to describe how many academic papers there are this trilogy) but it's got so much fun and imaginativeness for the kids as well. At the book store at work, this series is in almost every age group: adult, middle grade AND teen. I think that's a testament to how wide of an audience this book can, and has, reached out to.
The cast of characters is fantastic. Lyra Belacqua is easily one of my favorite literary heroines of all time. She's absolutely wild and crazy (though of course that changes over the course of the series) but still manages to be likable. Probably because of her resourcefulness, even when that resorts to lying, which sometimes gets her into a spot of trouble. Despite her initial rabidness though, she's actually an extremely caring individual. Also, can I say that I love that there are so many important adult characters who help Lyra A LOT throughout the course of the series, even when she's off on her own? Young adult fiction falls into the trap of eliminating adult characters a lot, but Pullman embraces them. I loved Lee Scoresbee and Serafina Pekala, and almost all of the adults in Lyra's life who guide her.
I also need to make a special mention of the polar bears. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Iorek Byrnison. He is easily the coolest character in this series and I love the role he plays in Lyra's life. And polar bears in armor? I don't know WHY I'm so enamoured with that notion, but they're just so BADASS. So, um, yes, I especially loved Iorek.
Final Verdict: This is a book that I'll treasure forever and ever. Pullman has created an amazingly rich and imaginative world. It has a great cast of characters, and despite being a yound adult book (though this book really appeals to all ages) there are plenty of adult characters who are almost equally important to the kids. In essence, it's got something for *everyone*, and I think that's why it's so popular and has gone done as a modern children's classic. This is a book that I press on everyone, and if I were to ever have kids one day, I'd be super stoked to read this to them and get them hooked too....more
***WARNING: This is a review of a sequel, so spoilers for the first book may crop up here. Read with caution. :)***
While I didn't like this book quite as much as the first, it's still a very awesome sequel and I'm very glad I picked it up.
The first thing I noticed is how differently this book reads from its predecessor. TNS had a little more tension going on because Stanton and Emily were being pursued through the whole thing, so they were always on the run. In this installment, there's no immediate danger (well, not right away anyway), so it feels a little more leisurely. I have to say that I really liked the fast paced feeling in the first novel, but it wasn't detrimental to this book that it wasn't; it's just felt different. Reading about Emily's obstacles as she tries to fit into high society was really entertaining though.
Also worth noting; if you really loved Stanton in the first one, don't be too upset but his absence in this sequel. He is around of course, but not all the time like he was in the first. I loved seeing him and Emily together in this one. They still bicker a little bit (how could they not?) but their relationship was pretty touching, even when Stanton was a jerk and kept all kinds of secrets from Emily.
And Emily! How I love that lady. If she were real, I would want to be her friend, because she's kind of awesome. Emily doesn't quite fit in society because she can't seem to conform to the standards that is expected of one who is 'high-class'. I think I relate to that because I'm really one of the most ungraceful people I know (not for a lack of trying). Not that Emily is ungraceful herself, but she doesn't fit into the norms of high-class femininity despite her efforts, and I can sympathize with that, to a certain degree. Like TNS, Emily is head-strong, resourceful and is not afraid to stick her neck out to get stuff done.
Stanton, on the other hand, wasn't quite as awesome. After everything that Emily did in TNS, I was frustrated that he didn't want her around more often to help out; he, and pretty much everyone working for him, kept whisking Emily off because she was a 'distraction', when she's proven (especially to him!) that she's quite capable of taking care of herself and helping out. I was frustrated with all the secrets he kept from her as well, but I eased a bit on that later on. I mean, what was he supposed to say, really? "Oh yeah, Emily, by the way, I totally had an affair with a crazy blood-thirsty sangrimancer, thought you should know." Or "I could have been cured from being burned, but I *haven't* because I'm actually this super-ultra weapon person in case of the end of the world." So while he secret-keeping frustrated me a bit at first, I was more than able to forgive him. So he was still kind of awesome, even if he bugged me sometimes.
In TNS, we didn't get to see how magic was used by others all too much. We mostly just got to see Emily and Stanton use animancy and credomancy (and a little bit of sangrimancy on Stanton's part). In THG, we see a lot more of how magic works in society, which was really neat.
The supporting characters were quite strong in this installment as well, especially Ms. Jecsiezka (is that how you spell her name? I can't remember.) At the beginning of the novel, I thought she was going to be a total bore, but she ended up being really sweet and caring towards Emily, and really did want the best for her and Stanton.
One other little thing that bothered me... what was with the whole Dmitri kissing Emily thing? I thought it was totally unnecessary. I am glad that it didn't devolve into some huge misunderstanding, or melodrama though. It happened, but I felt like there was no point to it.
To my knowledge, The Native Star was meant to be a duology, and I really got that sense from the ending presented here as well. This saddens me a bit because I really like these books. They're not DEEP or anything, but they're so much fun and I really enjoy them. I really hope that Hobson writes other books in this universe or something. Even if she doesn't though, I'll more than likely check out whatever she puts out next. :)
Final Verdict: This is a really great sequel. It's quite a bit of a different feel to it than The Native Star because there's no running from constant danger, but it's still a lot of fun watching Emily navigate in high class society. Emily is an extremely likable heroine, which makes her following her journey all the more enjoyable. Stanton is a lot less present in this installment than the first, and he did a lot of things that irked me, but by the end he completely redeemed himself. Watching him and Emily be in a loving relationship (but still remaining true to themselves) was really sweet. The minor characters were well done, especially Ms. Jecsieka, who I especially liked. :) We get to learn all about Emily's past in this installment, as well as her relationship with the Sina Mira, which was only touched on briefly in the first novel. The way the book ends and from what I've heard around the web tells me that this is the last book in the Native Star series, which makes me sad because I've really enjoyed these. I can just hope that Ms. Hobson comes out with more books in this alternate history universe. However, I'll take a look at whatever she comes out with next. :) ...more
I have a love for children and teen literature, so you can imagine my surprise and glee when I discovered my school was offering a Children's LiteratuI have a love for children and teen literature, so you can imagine my surprise and glee when I discovered my school was offering a Children's Literature course this semester. The first novels we're studying this semester is, obviously, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I had already read these two stories in high school, but I unfortunately owned a version that didn't explain any of the many in-jokes that happen throughout the story. My prof made it mandatory that we read the Norton Critical edition, which was infinitely better. I'm not going to bother with my review behind an LJ cut; everyone knows this story, so I really don't think spoilers is an issue here. :P
When I initially read this book in high school, I wasn't that impressed by it. My preconceptions of this movie were completely tinted with what the movie adaptations have shown me over the years: I expected nonsense yes, and there's definitely a lot of it in Alice but the original tale is a lot more concerned with poking fun at the views of childhood and children's education that were the norm of its time. I didn't know that when I first read Alice which really stunted my first reading. The second time around though, it was much more enjoyable with Norton's footnotes. Both tales are also really concerned with word play and the arbitrariness of words and names. Again, this was all over my head during my first reading. Thanks to this wonderful edition though, I got a lot more of these jokes.
I don't have much to say about the stories, because really, everyone knows them, or at least aspects of them. I do want to talk about this Norton Critical edition though, because it's really good. Like I mentioned, it has all kinds of footnotes throughout the story, to clarify a lot of the jokes and remarks that Carroll was making. The context adds a level of enjoyment to the tales. This edition also features all kinds of essays and background information on Lewis Carroll himself, which delves into how he was inspired to write the tale, and many aspects of his life. I don't usually like reading that kind of stuff, but this Norton edition made a lot of those facts concise, and stuck to the important stuff. The added background information also added context to the texts as a whole. I didn't get a chance to get to the essays yet, but I definitely want to at some point.
Overall, these two stories are really quite wonderful, once you add some context and know where Carroll was coming from. I'm glad I got a chance to re-read them with this new insight. It elevated my enjoyment of the stories quite a bit. :)...more
As you can see above, I read this book for another book club. I actually started this book back at the end of February. I got almost 200 pages in, but because of school, and a lack of interest, I dropped it. I'm not too sure why I picked it up back up to be honest. I just saw it languishing in my room and thought: "Why the hell not?" Well, when I started it again, I could see why I dropped it in the first place; this really just isn't my kind of book. It still wasn't *horrible* though, so I ended up finishing it.
I think my hugest problem with this book (and it's not that it's the book's fault, this is just a matter of personal preference) was that it read a lot more like a romance novel, or a soap-opera. I don't know if other people feel this way, but that was the impression that I got. There's a lot of family drama, which is more or less what drives most of the plot, and unfortunately that's just not my thing.
There were a few elements of the urban fantasy here; the Dusklands and Dummanios for one. But they felt like they were put on for decoration, rather than actually being important to the plot as a whole. And while it was the opening of the Gates that was the centre of the story, it sometimes felt inconsequential as the characters' personal drama took centre stage a lot of the time.
Another problem I had was that I couldn't bring myself to sympathize with any of the characters. Rosie annoyed me with her constantly pining over Jon. Now, I know when you're young and you get a crush, you'll sometimes do stupid things because of it. But holy crap that girl could be dense. And then I'm supposed to feel sorry for her because she's having an affair? I understand that people make mistakes, and I definitely thought that she shouldn't stay with Alastair (but not because the sex wasn't any good, which was another thing that bothered me -- the almost obsessive attention to sex that permeated throughout the novel), but she bordered on slutty at times with Sam. And despite actually being a victim, I couldn't bring myself to feel sorry for Alastair either; his character was just so boring. Most of the supporting characters were just as unlikable, or pitiful. Faith was nice, but absolutely spineless, Matthew was a jerk, Sam was the archetypal "bad boy" and I don't understand how practically sexually harassing Rosie got her to like him, Jon was pathetic in his weakness, and so on and so forth. I'm all for having flawed characters, but they have to have redeeming qualities too, and I found very few in most of these characters.
Also, I need to point out that I was really annoyed when it was revealed after Alastair died, that he could be a vengeful person; especially the part where he got an ex-girlfriend's cat euthanized. It felt like the story was trying to say: "SEE, it's okay that Rosie cheated on him, because not only did she not feel passion for the guy, and the sex sucked, but he could be a HUGE JERK." NO. I have a hard time with trying to justify cheating.
I do have to say that I enjoyed the ending of the novel enough. The showdown with Brawth wasn't too bad and it didn't feel like it was glossed over too quickly, or too easily, though in a way it was. I thought it was really gutsy of Warrington to have Lawrence killed off, and especially gutsy to have Sam killed, but of course they don't STAY dead. So I was a little bummed out by that.. but it's not surprising that this book would have a more or less happy ending.
Another little thing that bothered me was the focus on sex. Rosie mentions more than once how unsatisfactory sex with Alastair is. Now to be fair, sex is obviously a very important aspect of a romantic relationship, but it almost felt like this was what made it a no-deal with Rosie, as opposed to any other factors. Also, when Rosie is trying to get Lucas to come back to Earth instead of going to the Abyss, she entices him with: "Don't you want to lose your virginity?" That just felt unnecessary. And then there were the sex scenes between Sam and Rosie. Again, this is a thing of personal preference, but they were a little over-the-top for me. It just seemed like someone's sexual fantasy written on paper, but maybe that was the point? They are supposed to be able to have otherworldly sex, being all otherworldly themselves, but I don't know. I couldn't take them seriously. I don't fault the author too much for that though; as I've stated before, it's just a matter of personal preference.
Final Verdict: I feel a little unfair trying reviewing this to be honest. Because it read more like a soap-opera, or a romance, this book ended up just not being my cup of tea. However, I feel like I'm a vegetarian writing a review for a steakhouse restaurant -- I'm a little too biased to be totally fair. It wasn't just the more romance feel of the novel that turned me off though. I found almost all the characters unlikable unfortunately, though I never particularly HATED anyone. They tried to be good people, but alas, I couldn't bring myself to sympathize with any of them. The novel also felt a little long; there was so much focus on family drama, as opposed to the fantasy elements of the novel, which is a shame. I guess this novel could be labeled as urban fantasy, but it doesn't have that many of those elements (re: reads more like a romance novel.) Now, if romance is your thing, and you like a dash of fantasy with it? You'll probably love it. Unfortunately, it just wasn't for me....more
So, we come to the final, epic conclusion of this epic series.
The first thing I want to address here is God, or as He's called in this novel, The Authority. I was really surprised by how frail and weak he was. I mean, I thought he was supposed to be friggin' GOD. But no, he's this frail, dying, old dude. I did find it funny when Lyra and Will find him and he dies right there, and they're all "Oh no, poor guy", when he's pretty much the Big Baddy. I guess that crazy angel with the name that reminded me of a Transformer (sorry, his name eludes me at the moment and I can't find it on wikipedia) holds that role.
Seeing Lyra's parents redeem themselves was kind of nice, even if they were The Worst Parents EVER. They do save the world though by sacrificing themselves (while getting brutally beat up in the process), so I guess they were all right in the end.
Now, the ending. When I first read this book back in high school I was... shocked, to say the least, by what happens between Will and Lyra. I mean, I picked up that they had a crush on each other -- that was pretty obvious -- but it was the making out that really startled me. They're only 12-13 years old. However, after reading it a second time and picking up on the whold Paradise Lost parellels and whatnot, it becomes a lot less.. strange. I don't know. Am I weird for being startled by 12 year olds making out? Am I being a prude here? Kissing I can see, but the book describes them kissing pretty passionately. But oh well. It *was* really heart breaking when it was revealed they couldn't be together though, and that the one window they were allowed to keep open with the subtle knife had to be for the passage for the dead. At the parting scene in Will's Oxford, I actually shed a tear or two. Poor kids.
Seeing the growth that Will and Lyra made was also really touching. Thinking back to the first book, Lyra changes a lot over the course of the series without losing herself. It was such a seamless transformation that Pullman pulled off perfectly. You don't see as much with Will, but it's still there as well. Amazing.
All in all, it was a good conclusion to the series. This one is a little slower moving, but that's to be expected when it's clocking in at almost 500 pages.
Iorek came back in this one too, which made me really happy. :)
Final Verdict: This one is quite a bit slower than the first two installments, but it's got an epic ending that really packs a punch. This is seriously one of my favoritest series of all time, and it's one that I would re-read time and time again (though I don't get the chance to do that much nowadays with the teetering TBR pile.) I was really happy to have an excuse to re-read this series and I liked it A LOT more the second time around, which is saying a lot because I REALLY liked it the first time I read it. If you haven't read this series yet, please go and do so. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I plan on reading Pullman's Sally Lockart series, and I can't wait! ...more