(Review for my reread of Born of Persuasion: my first review is located here. This one contains spoilers. I'll tag spoilers that relate to the end of(Review for my reread of Born of Persuasion: my first review is located here. This one contains spoilers. I'll tag spoilers that relate to the end of the series, but the few spoilers for the first book are out in the open.)
"Closing this book is like coming up for air. I feel like I haven't breathed properly for a few hours." - me, reading this book for the first time.
During this second read, I'm so amused at my initial comments about Jessica Dotta's Born of Persuasion. I was so startled to even find a book that hooked me to this extent that my comments retain this sense of being lost: "holy crap though, I just can't peg this book." Nervous observations; oh no this book is really good, it's bound to taper off and lose its shimmer. I am suspicious of everything.
And the silliness in my comments too of course: "I just can't I feel like I haven't even read a historical novel better than this one AND I'VE READ A LOT OF HISTORICAL NOVELS how does this book even exist, it's a paradox of life and blue and RAINBOW oh my gah"
What am I supposed to do with this book, books are never this good, not even close. Well, sometimes. But very rarely. Yet Born of Persuasion never loses its shimmer; my expectations, so rarely unfulfilled, were never fulfilled in this story. That alone makes me panicky and antsy as I wonder for the billionth time: how in the world does this book exist? I love it so much. It is my favourite book. It's easy to say that. For me, no book is as good as this book, which is such a delightful melange of everything I love.
Having said that, I'm not blind to the flaws of the book itself. We tend to elevate or degrade material based on our capability to overlook, resonate with, or get irritated enough to upbraid certain elements of fiction. People say that our differences are a good thing--I agree with that. But I also think it's an intense study, the endeavour to understand why we translate specific things the way we do.
But anyway. This book's flaws are glaring ones, but they are also some of my favourites. Here, we have featured a weak heroine. From prior experience, we know this is where the majority of the audience will be lost. Nowadays, we have feminism and we have intense hopes for Katniss-like heroines, and there's nothing wrong with such characters (not even closeee). But the thing is, there's a lot you can do with a meek heroine (or hero, for that matter). Sometimes the most irritating (and consequently human) traits in a character are those that instigate the best conflicts and bring out the best in other characters. So she herself is not a good character, but she is absolutely necessary, and in seeing a character like Julia, most people don't look at what her character produces, but rather how annoyingly her personality resembles that of a real human being. The inaction, the nervousness, the inability to make decisions, the insecurity, the worry, the stresses. She's flesh and blood, there's no arguing with that.
But if she had the measure of agency people wish she did, she would render certain characters less potent. This device is employed for a reason; we hate the villain, but the conflict conjured is entirely necessary. We could argue that the main character should be more potent than the other characters, but here, I disagree. It can be done well or extremely badly, and I wouldn't change Dotta's vision of Julia for anything I could come up with myself. She's the way she is for a reason; whole plot threads wouldn't work if it were otherwise.
I like thinking about this sort of thing because it resonates with my own experiences as an author. It began in the early stages of writing a novel, when I crafted a character I didn't at all like, but I couldn't change her, and I didn't know why. So I did a study of her character, traced the threads of her impact and realised how essential her infuriating personality is. Sometimes we gotta do it. Nowadays I don't worry about loving all my characters; I let them tell their own stories, and conflict erupt as it will.
Anyway, there are many flaws in Born of Persuasion beyond what I've mentioned, but the story still works itself into art. It's easier to be critical on my second read when I'm not blinded by mysteries and intrigue and fascination with these amazing characters that Dotta has crafted, and I find myself focusing on Mr. Macy in particular. Chance Macy, and his embarrassing name, is certainly a study of a character. He unravelled me the first time I read this book, and even the second, while waiting for him to appear. This time around, I'm trying to uncover what evokes such an impact, and just why he's the best villain in fiction I've encountered.
- Firstly, he's not a villain outright. (view spoiler)[Even at the end of the series, I was left with the impression Julia was just projecting villainy onto him; I didn't believe in the role Julia imposed upon him, and came instead to my own conclusions. - Yet he IS a villain. I kept waiting for him to 'show his true colours' and morph into your stereotypical hawt-evil dude who tells the protagonist what he really thinks once he's gotten what he wants. This never happens. He is calm and respectful towards Julia to a chilling degree; he is a deeply layered character, sharply intelligent, and his mystery is meticulously executed. I fell hard for this guy. I won't pretend I didn't. He had me on edge the entire three book series, let alone one novel. He fits well into a villain role, but never executes it as the reader expects him to. I found this baffling and delightful both. (hide spoiler)]
I wrote this comment 40% into the book: "... yes, even this time around I waited with baited breath for Mr Macy's introduction. I recall it a little differently, and though it's a bit cliche in its execution, Dotta is a strong writer, so such things are easily forgivable. I think the only reason I was looking on that scene with such a critical eye is because I've elevated Mr Macy to such a position that I've been studying his dialogue, his motions, his every maneuver. I want to study and improve upon in my own works what worked so well in Dotta's writing, and what made me feel so enduringly and potently an attachment to his character."
Oh, the things to say about his misery, his kindness--a stark contrast to Roy, who infuriates me. The second book is all about Julia living under Roy's "care" but her father is the biggest douche imaginable. Why she puts herself under his authority only to be abused after how Macy cared for her is completely beyond me. Dotta writes Mr. Macy as an utterly sympathetic character, with only vague shades of villainy. His reaction after Edward punches him in the nose merely cemented that for me. It really makes no sense why Julia so quickly believes Greenham (even though he's right) about her mother, because we're only afforded the sense that Macy regrets what he's done--he's not the same person NOW, and with how obvious that is Julia's reaction is just maddening. I mean, he even TOLD HER to her face that he has a past, and he offered to tell her about it, and she refused to hear it. gaaaah.
Yes yes, all of this is necessary to further the plot, but still. Drives me nuts.
Then, from first read through: "*breathes out* okaaaay. Just that when they entered the Auburn manor and Mr. Macy was RIGHT THERE, I'M LIKE kanfgfhoicxnfnfn but even though he's only been gone for a short while ohh how I have mourned his loss and then his ad in the newspaper? I LITERALLY CANNOT WITH THIS CHARACTER WHO IS HE, WHO?! I CAN'T UNDERSTAND HIM AT ALL AND IT THRILLS ME HE IS NOT DOING THINGS I CAN PREDICT"
That scene, and the one to follow, I read quite a bit differently this time. For one, I wasn't hyperventilating. Mostly, I feel the same about Dotta's rendering of her "villain," and Julia's sense that "oh my gosh this man is poisonous I can feel it in my bones!" and with Edward too they pimp Macy's SUPER EVIL to the skies, and mostly I want to say to Dotta, I know what you're trying to do here, so... if you say so. It's a magical thing for a character to contradict the author's intent for him. Dotta keeps trying to push Macy in a particular direction, but he won't go. That's what makes him so utterly fascinating.
I'd like to emphasise too that Roy's interpretation of Macy IS in fact based on the "man Macy used to be," not his current self. Alas, the cliche of a man's ability to change IS REALLY LEGIT HERE. There's a truth to the fabric of Macy's character that the other characters keep misreading the heck out of, and I feel like only an unbiased audience could properly root it out. Change is a process of stages; you can't just shed your old self like a skin. The important thing is progression, the drive to keep moving forward. I just didn't buy that he was evil.
I can't stress how dazzling it is that Dotta unconsciously imbedded such rich characterisation into this man. Nothing is forced, it all kind of flows together naturally, and it's a treat for the senses. And for analysis. Anyway, the reason this works so well (view spoiler)[after having read the series ending is that Macy proves, at the end, what I'm arguing here. Both how deluded the other characters are, and continue to be, the entire series, and how his change was palpable. It's incredibly disingenuous that Julia refused to acknowledge this even at the end, but hey, it works into the plot. And if the other characters hadn't been as deluded as they were, we wouldn't have felt half of the CRAZY, DIRE impact of Isaac's story. Even mentioning his name destroys me, IT RENDS THE SOUL FROM MY CHEST, man. (hide spoiler)]
In any case, this book was riveting the second time around, as well. Of course. I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with Isaac in the next! ["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"]>...more
I'm surprised to say I actually enjoyed this one more the second time around. I think when I first read it, three years ago, I must've been paying lesI'm surprised to say I actually enjoyed this one more the second time around. I think when I first read it, three years ago, I must've been paying less attention because when I went to see the movie, I realized I'd forgotten much of the book. Clare's writing style still shines, making me remember the fifth book in this series rather bitterly. Where was this style of awesome then? Swallowed up in fame, thaaat's where. Ahem. Anyway, it's definitely a four star read, despite being spotted through with unsavoury content, like... the characters, for example. Clare's writing style is wonderful, her story is immersive, but her characters... her characters are awful, in my humble opinion. But her dialogue can be great. They say some awesome things, but they are not awesome themselves; they are glowing blobs of neutrality that I neither like nor hate.
Point blank, they are predictable little written mongrels that sometimes spout great dialogue. I... am not even sure how that works, but it's one thing I'm opinionated in. Thinking about it, Clare's characters account for the majority of the cringe-worthy material in her books. Clary says awesome things sometimes, but she is radically boring (much like Tessa!), and, after having watched the movie, it's weird to say I prefer her film persona, but I do. I think it's because, mainly, she's a character I'd rather be outside the head of, personally.
Also after watching the movie, I have a better understanding of the book, which helped me enjoy it a great deal more. I don't remember what exactly I thought of it during my first reading, but I do remember not being terribly amazed, so as to give the book my standard "I enjoyed it" rating of three stars. Anyway, like I said, there's a lot of weirdisms in this world, and a lot of great crap, too. It's just an enjoyable read all around, and I find myself respecting how thought out it is much more after reading the whole of the series (that's out, anyway. I don't think I'll be missing much in Heavenly Fire considering how abysmal the experience of Lost Souls was. How a strong writer such as Clare can put out a book like that baffles me, but it certainly wasn't my cup of tea. City of Bones rather is)....more