I love this book so much better than Graceling! And I really, really enjoyed Graceling. What...moreI loved this book.
I’ll say it again: I. Loved. This. Book.
I love this book so much better than Graceling! And I really, really enjoyed Graceling. What did it for me was the character of Fire. She’s a fuller character than Katsa from the start. We almost immediately understand the issues she’s facing and why…and what puts her leaps and bounds ahead of Katsa is that Fire is actually AWARE of herself as a person! as well as how society reacts to her.
Cashore again is focused on the issues of the role of women in society. And Cashore isn’t one to shy away from sex. In Graceling we see Katsa work through the decision to have premarital (and pre-commitment) sex with Po. This novel simply begins with an open sexual relationship between Fire and Archer: a man whom Fire thinks of as her best friend. It’s good that this issue is tackled head on because Fire’s gift, beyond being able to read and influence people’s minds, is an overwhelming sexual attraction to all who gaze upon her. Smart that Cashore didn’t have Fire ignore or shun sex. Instead Fire is allowed to enjoy her sexuality and her body – she can have a relationship of sorts with a man – she can openly deal with and discuss the role of an unusually attractive woman in a society…the shame, the pleasure, the pressure. Without having to rush into creating a new relationship.
Thus Fire never seems, shall we say, ‘slutty’ for having and enjoying a sexual relationship. Pre-read this may seem like an odd topic to analyze, but you must know that a product of Fire’s monster-nature is to be attractive. Unbelievably, undeniably, no-holds-barred attractive to men and women. She’s like Angelina Jolie on Steroids…with magical powers. Fire’s attractiveness is so powerful it easily becomes the biggest hindrance to her personal growth. Forget that people are also worried about her powers to enter and takeover their minds…in her presence all they can think of is their desire for her. Makes it awful hard to make friends, no?
The novel is a meditation on the objectification of women. (With better plot and more likeable characters.) On the surface Fire is a woman who’s only purpose in life appears to be being beautiful. Every interaction, even with those who are trying to ignore it, is tinged with attraction to Fire. She’s the exotic animal at the Zoo. Except this animal can read your mind and make you do things you don’t want to do. As a sketch for a character I’ll agree, a creature like this has very little purpose in existing – beyond the ability to hurt and kill very well. But isn’t that what we do when we objectify? Only look at the surface of a person? Simply think of them as a one dimensional object? Cashore’s exploration of what it means to be this object…with real, honest, and good-intentioned feelings is beyond intriguing. How the author manages to give Fire confidence and a place in this fantasy world is achieved without turning to all the magic a fantasy author can call upon. The fact that Fire grows through real human situations is the strength of this story.
Because you must know, beyond the physical objectification Fire is haunted by a father who chose to use his powers of influence over others. Her father left a legacy of pain, torture, and hurt behind.
The idea of “the sins of the father” is a part of Fire’s personal journey (though not nearly a prevalent a theme as it is in Bitterblue). To fight against memories of the sins of the past is hard enough. Though building connections and trust among friends and lovers is a huge part of Fire’s personal growth. Learning to take pride in what makes you special (even if what’s special about you seems to the outside as your whole reason for existence) is the point of Fire’s tale. She begins the story as an exotic pet trying to hide from view and ends the tale a strong woman in her own right…with a man and a future.
Rating: 5/5 For a 2nd Graceling installment that is softer than the first but no less strong!(less)
**spoiler alert** This final installment of the series flew by. The writing and action had the plot moving at super-sonic speed. Kate doesn’t wast tim...more**spoiler alert** This final installment of the series flew by. The writing and action had the plot moving at super-sonic speed. Kate doesn’t wast time acclimating readers, so it’s a good thing so many of the previous plot threads came back to me so quickly. (HINT: Remember what Announcers were? Outcasts? The Fall, and Bill/Lucifer…brush up on the early reincarnations of Luce and Daniel – Kate references those too and begins to make up more besides)
It was a good thing that the plot was fast because – unlike what Goodreads tells you – the only thing the reader is waiting for the ENTIRE NOVEL is to see who Luce really is. Give this book a little more credit Goodreads. It’s not the tried and tired Love Triangle we’ve all grown to expect. Instead this tale is the journey of a girl trying to find her roots; her original purpose in this world. And that’s far cooler than the ‘which hottie should I pick game’.
*Spoilers from here on out* - You’ve been warned - *
I don’t think it’ll shock too many readers to find that Luce is in fact a…
Dare I spill it?
I do dare, thus I do declare Luce to be an…
Angel! I know! *Gasp* *Shock* *Awe* right?
Anyone paying close (or even decent) attention to the last three novels will have seen the celestial-being part coming. I don’t think readers were any more surprised to find that it’s really Luce who is the heavy-hitter in the Heavenly tug-of-war going on and not Daniel.
You didn’t think it would be that easy did you?
Seeing Luce become more fully Angelic was one of my favorite parts of the read. What was done well in the novel was the slow emergence of Luce’s angel abilities. These ‘abilities’ like holding her breath for an insanely long time. May have been explained by Luce’s swimming ability (she’s quite good if you’ll remember) also, the potential that Daniel was helping her out in some special Angel way. But as the plot moves forward and Luce’s handy-dandy skill set become more and more advanced (hello, ability to speak random languages!) the fact that Luce isn’t strictly mortal becomes ever more apparent. Thus, the final declaration of “Angel” isn’t the world’s biggest twist.
Nor was the final solution a surprise when Luce finds the loophole of “love” pleads “Switzerland” and has a shot at a relationship with Daniel. And as much as I saw an ending like this coming, I’ll admit I respect that Kate left us with an ending that was pat. I’m finished with Luce and Daniel’s story. Heaven and Hell are safely ensconced in their known locations. And the world is not over as we know it.
But, alas, because I was onto Kate (and her ending) for so long I can’t help but dream up more complexly satisfying endings. Maybe…Luce defeating Lucifer and taking his place as the ruler of Hell (Luce is awful close to Lucifer after all…that couldn’t have been an accident – I’d convinced myself!). I’d also projected this potential plot ending because of angels like Roland: Not all fallen angels were bad angels…they just have issues! More difficult would have been to somehow re-admit Luce into Heaven. I couldn’t quite work out a situation where that happened…But it would have been intriguing to see it pulled off.
Rating: 3.5/5 In the end this was a sweet and easy ending to a YA Love-Drama-Trauma. Such a nice ending is hard to achieve in and of itself, but Kate did it so well she had me wishing for more. (less)
**spoiler alert** I feel like this book was *Almost* great. I’ve come to expect so much of Cashore’s characters. The way she develops her girls and br...more**spoiler alert** I feel like this book was *Almost* great. I’ve come to expect so much of Cashore’s characters. The way she develops her girls and brings them to womanhood has in the past been close to masterful. Even if I haven’t particularly loved a character *cough* Katsa *cough* I’ve very much respected their journey as a person. And I’ve enjoyed studying Cashore’s purpose in female driven writing. I haven’t been so drawn to watching an author develop a female theme across multiple books since my thesis on Virginia Woolf. And those were some fun times, let me tell you.
So, don’t be disappointed when I say that one of my biggest issues was the romance.
That whole first paragraph was devoted to Women’s Studies and I gotta harp on the romance portion of the novel.
But, the love triangle was just a big tease! I felt as though there was a lot of focus on Saf and Bitterblue’s relationship. Was Saf good? Bad? Bitterblue’s failing point? or saving grace? And it’s not as though I expect romance to be more important than the development of the female lead as a strong female. However, based on the previous two books in the series I was expecting the romance to play a defining role in Bitterblue’s development as a woman. At the very least a conclusion to the relationship would have shown if Saf was just her first sexual partner and first love? Or did he come back and prove to be the man who would grow up and stand tall beside Bitterblue as a grown woman. While I admit, I think Bitterblue (yes, Bitterblue is a living, breathing person to me. Don’t judge, Cashore is really that good with her characters.) wanted Saf to be “The One”…I didn’t. I would have found it hard to see Cashore reconcile the person Bitterblue had to become with the person she would have needed to be to end up with Saf. Maybe this is the reason for the open ending? Cashore’s character’s desires separated from the point of the plot?
And now I need to move on to my heartbreak…Gideon. Was Gideon never a choice? Almost a choice? Her eventual husband? If I had to guess due to plot and theme trajectory Gideon had to be Bitterblue’s future mate. I have reasons:
He lost all his lands, thus freeing him up to be a citizen of Monsea. He was the man Bitterblue turned to for the truth. The only one she trusted to be honest and to accept her honesty. Katsa spurned him in Graceling. Cashore couldn't spurn the man twice in one series right?! Bitterblue was always feeling ‘warm’ or ‘enjoying’ things naturally with Gideon – there were definite foreshadowing elements of a deepening attraction! That first scene, where she falls asleep on him as he takes the pins out of her hair. Swoon. Shows instinctive trust. I like that part best. Maybe I was too reliant on the model of the previous two books – but I really expected more resolution in the romance category. Not finding that resolution really hurt my satisfaction with the ending of the book.
And finally, moving on to the rest of the novel…What was simultaneously amazing and frustrating about this novel was that the whole book felt like a stumble in the dark.
At first I was confused, then annoyed, then I realized it mirrored the feelings of the citizens themselves (point? or happy accident?) The read was a heavy one. The situation Leck left his kingdom in was impossibly scarred. And Cashore is unflinching while dealing with the issues. No Graceling will appear on a white horse to save the day with a truth sensing ability. Beautifully it’s two normally gifted humans (Gideon and Bitterblue) who begin to model a relationship where they promise not to lie. Truly the best these people can do to put their lives back together – Perfection (and I think the final piece of growing up Bitterblue needed to do) would have been to choose Gideon as her mate. The lack of romantic choice left the story (saga really) feeling unfinished to me…Maybe Cashore is planning a 4th installment? Hara will flesh out in her role as Bitterblue’s sister. Gideon will finally land a girl. And [maybe] a baby for Katsa and Po? Hmm…that last one was probably asking for too much right? lol.
Bitterblue is yet a softer character than even Fire and – especially – Katsa were. Bitterblue is the first female character Cashore has developed who was not dealing/blessed with a power. Instead she is only fighting the memory of one. Perhaps the hardest trick of all. Of all Cashore’s women Bitterblue is the most bare – the most defenseless. So utterly reliant on friends and family. Truly a child (sheltered) for so much of the book. I missed seeing her exert more power on her own. To complete the transformation to Queen. Her power is her compassion. Her ability to consume and heal the grief of her people. If only the reader had more time to see the fruits and less time with the labor.
Rating: 3.5/5 It just didn't feel complete to me…(less)
Warning: This is the second in a series, so while this post isn’t completely Spoiler-ific, it’s not so innocent either. If you’d...moreLink to Original Review
Warning: This is the second in a series, so while this post isn’t completely Spoiler-ific, it’s not so innocent either. If you’d like an introduction to the series instead check out my post reviewing Book One: Nightshade.
Calla didn’t think beyond running.
Beyond getting away.
Beyond the bloodbath that was to occur on the night of her wedding.
White dress and all Calla led Shay away from his fate and gave him a chance at his destiny. Aided by an unlikely ally – Ren – Shay and Calla were free enough to contemplate escape, until the attack…
Calla wakes up in the Searcher’s lair. She’s cuffed and healing from deadly wounds inflicted by the very people holding her captive. As the questions fly Calla will learn the true history of her people. The real place Shay holds in this war. She’ll have to face new truths and battles she never thought she’d fight. And she’ll have to figure out where her path leads in this world. Because right now she’s a love torn wolf without a pack…
This doesn’t happen often, but I think I liked the second book in this series more than the first. What’s still working for me is the love triangle. Both guys seem like good choices and Calla connects to them in different ways. Shay is the new option, unique, completely her choice, and supportive of Calla choosing her own path. Ren is still very Alpha Male. His kisses are hot and he’s a strong guy but always thinks about Calla’s feelings and opinions – emotionally she just can’t let go of their past or ignore the strong and loving bond they’ve always had.
Really, the only strikes against Ren seem to be that A. he was the Keepers’ choice for her as mate (think: Arranged Marriage) and B. he’s, uh, still with the Keeper/Guardian pack in Denver. I think Calla’s got it right when she says that she likes Shay because she gets to choose him – but admits she never asked herself if perhaps, given a choice, she might have chosen Ren anyway. I have a feeling Cremer is going to make me wait until the VERY END for this love payoff. I only hope that our unchosen hero is either dead or in possession of another woman – ’cause I’d hate to see either one of them jilted.
As all consumed as I am with the Love Triangle, there were a few bumps at the beginning of this book’s road…
The Flashbacks – I think it was listening to the audio version rather than physically reading the book that caused my confusion In the audio version there’s NO TRANSITION or VOICE CHANGE that indicates a flashback. Instead they read as part of the present scene. It was confusing to be in the middle of meeting the Searchers then thrown back to the night Calla and Shay ran away. I couldn’t get my bearings. The Emotional Whiplash – I think Calla even mentions this at some point. But in the early scenes of this book the characters’ emotions vacillate rapidly from teasing-to-hate-to-hope-to-serious-to-funny-to-anger. Seriously, all those emotions happened within one single scene! It’s a lot to take in. Luckily, by the mid-point of the book the emotional dust settles and you’re firmly ensconced in the story of book two (a.k.a. the flashbacks abate). By that point you’ll be so engrossed in the story you’ll have forgotten the confusing start to the tale. Where this title begins to flow well is after Calla joins the Searchers, fully trusting and working with them. Besides Silas (the scribe) I love all the new characters and the light they shed on the current war and the history of their and Calla’s people. The action continues to be amazing (super exciting during my runs!). Though sometimes I feel as though Calla should be a little quicker on the uptake. She always seems to be the last one to put the pieces of this puzzle together.
Random Note: Love Ethan + Sabine – That girl deserves some insta-love!
Rating: 3/5 Withholding judgement till I see how this Love Triangle is going to play out!(less)
“I’ve never thought that there was anything I could hope to get by praying for it” Pressia says…[Bradwell] “That’s probably what they pray for. Hope.” (pg 141)
This world is post apocalyptic. Post nuclear war. Post hope.
It is a world of ‘fused’ people. The nuclear bombs causing cells to morph and rearrange mixing humans with their surroundings. Whether those surroundings were birds, toys, or even other people. In the beginning there was hope. Hope that those lucky people who escaped the nuclear explosion; those who remained safe from the blast in a man-made Eden living under a technologically advanced dome would send help. They’d provide food; an answer to the chaos that the world had become.
But with each passing year the hope fades. This is life. Scared and savage. Each child of 16 forced into serving a government that hasn’t helped them. The children who are useful will fight, those deemed too fused will serve as targets at target practice – sharpening the skills of others. Like so many teens before her Pressia isn’t ready to fire a gun, not willing to be a target either. Instead she’ll run, turn to the underground in hopes of escaping her sentence. What she doesn’t expect to find is a Pure. A boy escaping from the Dome…
This is an interesting Dystopia – not without its flaws – but unique all the same. The idea that a nuclear destruction of the world could cause fusing of humans to animals, earth, or even inanimate objects proves to be a whimsical and symbolic pairing. Our main character, Pressia, walks around with a doll’s head for a hand, Bradwell carries birds on his back, others walk around with scars and amputations too horrific to fully imagine. while I’m partial to Pressia’s doll hand – its presence at once a symbol of youth and innocence; and also a sly communicator. Where Baggott’s imagery and symbolism strike a chord are with the mother’s fused to their young
“They left us to die and we are forced to carry our children, our children who will never outgrow us, and we will do this forever. Our burden is our love“
Just imagining the ramifications of carrying that love, of the root of protectiveness; love that caused the fusing. Poetic. Especially as a mother’s burden is the love of her child. I found Our Good Mother’s fusing to be less successful. The cross was too much. Unnecessary maybe? To blunt after the perfectness of the mother’s fusing. It strayed too far into symbolism. El Capitan’s fusing to his brother was another wonderful combination. We focus so much on the symbolism of El Capitan’s literal ”carrying of his burden” we forget about the brother’s trial. That is until we see proof of the homicidal nature. Loved. It. Finally, the discovery of the special Forces origin was great too. The haunting quality of their singular response “I was and now I am not” adds a delicious foreshadowing to all that is unknown about this world.
The romance in this book is well played. No love triangle to be found – though in the beginning it appears to hover slightly as an option. Instead we’re left with two romances and they’re equally staged on Pure-Pure and UnPure-UnPure ground. No cross-contamination here. I like the idea of that. That we’re not adding a “forbidden” element to an already complex plot. It’s not necessary to engender attraction between the couples. Keeping each set of issues with their own. I like that we’ll get to watch a relationship grow out of common background – yet we’ll still get to see both sides of the nuclear divide.
There are a few pieces I didn’t love in this text:
The fusings themselves – They seem random but makes me wonder how/why people fused like they did. The group/multiple people fusing have me most confused – shouldn’t there be more? The fast and furious mom comes at the end. – Was there a point? And where do we go from here? The end reads like the Wizard of Oz we got so far, only to find the point of our journey isn’t as substantial as we thought… The quick acceptance of a familial relationship. – While I don’t mind that we skipped the drama it all seemed a little easy. Know that these are Oh So Small aberrations in a wonderful sci-fi dystopian. On the whole it was beautifully written and well imagined.
Rating: 4/5 Can’t wait for Fused because I have no idea where these characters are going from here!(less)
“The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.
The street door was still open, just a little, where the knife and the man who held it had slipped in…”
A door that would let the youngest member of the household escape death, only to stumble into a forgotten graveyard. A place where this boy, christened Nobody Owens by his adoptive parents, would live amongst the specters of the dead. Safe for a while from those who would wish him is own plot within his graveyard home. This is a ghost story unlike any you’ve heard before. Where things that go bump in the night bring comfort and those that walk with the living bring the terror of death.
This book made me tear up.
In my office.
It’s lovely and bittersweet. There is mystery and murder, ghosts, grim reapers, and ghouls. I promise there’s some kidnapping, saving-from-death, and lessons from the undead.
It will all be written beautifully.
It’s your favorite childhood book. The one you read as an adult.
I promise that once the action starts; once the villain is unmasked and danger slayed. You’ll have come to realize that it wasn’t the point of this tale.
You see childhood is like the graveyard, when you look back you’ll find there are only markers of your history left. You spend years getting to know your “community”, watching your relationships morph as you grow and mature. You learn every stone, every twist and turn. You fight to get out, to grow up – even though those around you worry of the dangers to be found in the world outside. As suddenly as you feel sure, feel comfortable and protected…It’s time to leave. A place filled with slots for all your memories to be buried; to be visited from time to time with a loving remembrance.
You leave the tale on the cusp of adulthood. Prepared and excited by the world beyond your gate. And mom will always be there to hug and wish you well.
Rating: 4/5 So sweet, so lovely, lots of tears.(less)