So, Divergent! The first book in a new trilogy of YA novels. Does it measure up? I suppose it depends. However, and like with the first book of HungerSo, Divergent! The first book in a new trilogy of YA novels. Does it measure up? I suppose it depends. However, and like with the first book of Hunger Games, I had a good time reading it. So much so, in fact, that I devoured it in less than two days and in a language I don't usually read a lot (French).
Let's get down to brass tacks. Divergent takes place in a dystopian version of Chicago where the last vestiges of mankind have decided that the best way to survive is to divide society into five factions, dedicated to cultivating a particular virtue. Thus we have Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).
At age 16 members from every faction attend a ceremony where they get to choose whether to stay in their faction or choose another... permanently. Before this ceremony, each teenager is administered a test whereby they enter a simulation that tests their aptitude for each faction. Normally, all participants get a single faction as a result. On the day of her test, however, our heroine, Beatrice Prior, gets three: Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She is Divergent, and in the eyes of many (if not most) a threat to the peace the five-faction society has created.
A note before proceeding. It is more than a bit bizarre that people in this world can be reduced to a single trait, if not downright impossible. This is perhaps most jarring in the second book where characters can't even fathom putting themselves in other people's shoes. Sure, you have the Divergent but they are the exception rather than the norm when it should be the other way around. Also, even these virtues if pursued on their own and to their most absolute degree can do more harm than good (as explored throughout the books). In short, if you can buy into this premise, you'll enjoy the book a lot more even if you may still rise an eyebrow from time to time at what characters do or say.
Where were we? Oh, yes, the setup. Our heroine is special in some way but this causes her to be apart from society. You know what follows: she chooses a new faction; we get to read about her training and adapting to her new environment; she ultimately discovers a conspiracy and sets about righting some wrongs, all with some romance thrown into the mix. Again, like I said in my Hunger Games' review, it's a story we've read many times before but, at the same time, it's a story we can't get enough of. I had a good time reading how Tris adapts to being a Dauntless now, the bonds she forms, how her thinking and acting changes.
It's not an easy transformation. The Dauntless training can be pretty brutal at the best of times (they even expel people who fail, rendering them faction-less) and seems only to encourage the worst in people. This was not always so as Four, a Dauntless trainer and eventually Tris' mentor/lover, often remarks. The Dauntless of old would've considered an act of bravery to protect the weak, to speak up against wrongdoing, to defy orders that are morally questionable. Now, however, those would be considered acts of weakness. The new Dauntless leadership favours cold effectiveness and blind obedience. Recklessness is a sign of courage leaving no room for fear or doubt.
The Dauntless are not all bad, of course, as people are neither entirely good nor bad. However, the book does broadly depict the Dauntless as thrill-chasers, always looking for the next rush of adrenaline. This is something our heroine has in common with them and which plays a more prominent role in the second book.
Being part one of a trilogy, the book doesn't reveal all of its mysteries. (view spoiler)[For instance, it's not clear why the Erudite or, more specifically, Jeanine, needed to kill the Abnegation. That's something left for the second book to answer. Divergent does, however, plant the seed that Jeanine is experimenting with the simulation serum in order to perfect it so as to potentially control every person. That's why the Divergent are a particular pain in her butt. (hide spoiler)] However, I think it's better for it. After all, there's enough action and mystery in this one to carry it through.
How does it compare to the movie? That's an interesting question. For the most part, I believe the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation even if the book is clearly superior, giving a lot more depth to characters and their actions (e.g.: the knife-tossing scene). The only difference, and perhaps the problem, comes down to the simulations. See, stage two of Dauntless training involves facing your fears in a simulation and finding the courage to overcome them. In the book, Tris is able to manipulate the Matrix, I mean, simulation because she's Divergent. As Divergent, she remains aware that she is in a simulation and, consequently, she can break free from it. This presents, of course, a problem. Since that's not what she's supposed to do she will sooner or later be recognized as Divergent. Yet the book has her repeating her tricks under the noses of her examiners with no consequence. The movie, however, took the better approach to my mind and made use of Four's fear simulation to teach Tris how she's supposed to act. Thus, when she takes the final test she behaves exactly as a Dauntless would, finding ways to overcome her fears rather than evade them, effectively hiding her Divergent nature.
To sum up, Divergent's a highly addictive read and a promising start to another YA trilogy. Hopefully, it will fare better than The Hunger Games. On verra.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
For some odd reason, this book popped up last Friday as I entered Amazon as I normally do. I was curious so I clicked on it and read the description.For some odd reason, this book popped up last Friday as I entered Amazon as I normally do. I was curious so I clicked on it and read the description. It told of a man who could wield magic and was technologically-savvy, who would sooner tinker around in his workshop and read his books than be involved in the politics of his House. And yet this very same man was to be suddenly thrown into a crisis when the city of Theria was attacked, one that was bound to test his mettle and wit. A common enough starting point for a fantasy book to be sure but I was intrigued and a little disappointed I would not be able to benefit from other readers' reviews.
So I postponed my purchase... by a day. After all, I decided, might as well review it myself, for better or worse. I purchased it on a Saturday but did not start reading it until Sunday afternoon. I was not particularly in a hurry to read it. Of course, once I began, however, it was an altogether different matter. I devoured this book (because 'read' would simply fall short) in less than a day, truly even less than half that time. It is simply that good. Why?
It went off to a good start. The beginning of a story, I find, often sets the tone for the read, if that makes any sense at all. Some beginnings seem to overindulge in descriptions making readers wonder what they have gotten themselves into. Luckily for me, "The Arcanist" cuts to the chase, more often than not. Sure, from time to time, characters will describe their surroundings, events, etc., to make us invested but never so much as to bore. Plus, no story I've read begins with an attack by a herd of stampeding mammoths. If anything, the writer has the element of surprise going for him.
Next up is our main protagonist, Edouard Severin of the House of Barris. While the description may insist he's useless and leads a useless life it quickly becomes evident only the latter may be somewhat true. First of all, he's a Spark, meaning he can manipulate an element of magic (Fire) to a moderate degree; certainly not as much as a Flame (closer to your average mage) or a Power (think demi-god but even more powerful) would. Second, he's quite the prolific builder, creating anything from steam carriages to advanced weapons. Also, as a member of the House of Barris, the head of which is the King's Right Hand (or was it Left Hand?), he's swiftly called upon to investigate the source of this attack and we see some of his detective skills at work and, more importantly, the keen mind behind them.
Perhaps even more useful to the reader is the fact that Edouard is a tad cranky, often stubborn, and rather set in his ways, what turns his thoughts into such an entertaining read. Of course, it wouldn't be half as enjoyable if he didn't have someone pushing his buttons and that counterpart are (mostly, but not exclusively) the handmaidens of Tyrel, a Power who is not fond of men in general and assigns a couple of handmaidens to find out who was behind the destruction of the city of Theria. Thus, we are introduced to Kyriel, Edouard's main source of annoyance throughout the story. After all, she's a bit of a riddle to him. She's a handmaiden of Tyrel, so that's enough to make him suspicious, but she's also clever, has magic of her own, and is quite likely a far better sword than he'll ever be. She's also every bit as stubborn as he is, often putting herself in danger, but also placing herself close to him. I suspect you can see where this is going.
Unfortunately, Kyriel doesn't have much of a chance to show her skills with a blade. I thought the writer was setting it up, slowly showing us how much Kyriel knew of the Dance and hinting at a future enemy for her to duel. Ultimately, this comes to nothing as this enemy is defeated almost as quickly as it's revealed and with Kyriel nowhere close to the event. Oh, well, there's always the next book, yes?
The support cast in the story are also enjoyable in their own right, providing levity at times, or simply showing us how each side deals with their own crisis and, as I said before, they never overstay their welcome. For my part, I thought the writer knew exactly when to switch the focus from character to character. At times even I thought the skips were a tad too abrupt. See, usually when reading a fantasy book (or any book for that matter) you expect a certain progression. Say a character is fighting a battle in one chapter and then needs to return home. Often a writer may cram in between something happening with another character, or narrate the long march home. Often you may find it boring. It would seem the writer thought as much, decided to get rid of the middle-man and just keep the good bits. I didn't mind, in fact I welcomed it at times, but I did notice it and do believe some people might find it disconcerting.
What else is there to say? There are battles to be sure, both big and small. People die, lose loved ones, lose their homes, become displaced; in short, what one might expect from a war. However, while characters ponder these matters throughout the story they never let themselves be consumed by despair or anguish instead turning to action, what is good because I can only tolerate so much negativity. In fact, this book is pretty light on negativity and quick to defuse situations with humour, what's a plus for me.
"The Arcanist" is a great read from start to finish with endearing characters you can only hope we'll read more of in future titles. Edouard remains the hero of this story, however, and reading about the problems he faces and the solutions he comes up with remains the main appeal (let's face it, I'm looking forward to him solving more problems down the road) as well as the banter between Edouard and Kyriel. But maybe we'll be off to the land of the Tenarri next time, and explore more of Kyriel's origins with a reluctant Edouard in tow?
For a gamble, my little purchase seems to have paid off and then some. Then again, maybe I was favoured by Virius....more
I read the Foundation Saga a while ago. Back then, I'd bought the first few volumes in Spanish. In fact, I think the first volume I bought was actuallI read the Foundation Saga a while ago. Back then, I'd bought the first few volumes in Spanish. In fact, I think the first volume I bought was actually, "Prelude to Foundation," of which I'll have to write a review soon because it probably is my favourite in the entire saga. However, while Prelude may be my favourite, "Foundation's Edge" isn't far behind.
This time around I read it in English during an 8-hour bus ride to and from. It must've taken me around 10 hours to finish due to Asimov's rather unique writing style. As you may be aware by now, his novels don't have a whole lot of action (sometimes none) and instead rely heavily on dialogue between characters, along with the required introspection if it serves a purpose. I'm fine with this style, it's undoubtedly the reason I devour his books.
FE stands apart from the original trilogy in that it was Asimov's first novel, and by that I mean it was a single story throughout, not a collection of short ones. It also introduced us to Golan Trevize, the main character who would remain so in the sequel, "Foundation and Earth." His is a character who has the uncanny ability to follow a reasoning through to a correct conclusion even when working with limited data. It is for that very reason that he will play a pivotal role in the inevitable showdown between the forces of the First and Second Foundations.
Another reason I heavily favour the latter Foundation books over the former is because they also tie together Asimov's Robot novels rather nicely, and that's all I'm going to say about that, at least in this review. Saying anything more would spoil it.
If you like intrigue, there's plenty. Trevize is a Terminus Councilman who's exiled by the Mayor of Terminus for his blasphemous views on the perfection of the Seldon Plan and his conclusion that it means the Second Foundation is still around. He's right, of course, and the Mayor knows it. At the same time, a Second Foundation Speaker by the name of Stor Gendibal partially agrees. The Second Foundation is still around, naturally, but even he's puzzled about the distinct lack of deviations from the Seldon Plan and poses that a third party is fine-tuning the Plan unbeknownst to them. So begins an intricate weave of plots and counterpplots that will put Trevize front and center in deciding the fate of a galaxy.
Oh, and if you've played ME3, you'll probably find something in common with its ending only Asimov does it much better.
As far as movie adaptations/novelizations go, 'Pacific Rim' does its job. Whereas it's the movie's job to show us the action the book undertakes the lAs far as movie adaptations/novelizations go, 'Pacific Rim' does its job. Whereas it's the movie's job to show us the action the book undertakes the less spectacular task of letting us know what individual characters are thinking (and occasionally feeling) at the time, as long as you don't expect much on the character development front.
If you're also looking for an alternate take on the movie's ending where Mako and Raleigh kiss, then this book's for you, provided you aren't also looking for a progressive build-up to their relationship (there is none). Likewise, you won't find any sort of epilogue here to let you know the state of the world (and the characters) after the breach is closed.
In the end, 'Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization' is a book that compliments the movie well but not remarkably so. It gives you a bit more insight into the characters and may fill in some of the blanks left by the movie....more
The adventures of Loch and her friends continue in the second instalment of what is now called the 'Rogues of the Republic' saga.
Fresh off her deadlyThe adventures of Loch and her friends continue in the second instalment of what is now called the 'Rogues of the Republic' saga.
Fresh off her deadly encounter with Archvoyant Silestin, Loch escorts a diplomatic mission to the Temple of Butterflies where they must assuage the Empire's fears over the firing of the Heaven's Spire. But when Imperial Princess Veiled Lightning traps Loch and Kail a ploy is revealed to surrender Loch to the Empire in order to prevent the breakout of another war. Narrowly avoiding capture, and after an enlightening chat with the new Archvoyant Bertram, Loch learns of a way that might just save her skin and avoid outright war. Unfortunately, it involves retrieving one ancient elven manuscript by the name of "The Love Song of Eillenfiniel," the same one she already handed back to the elves!
That definitely puts Loch in a bit of a quandary, doesn't it? The gang's all back for another job, with the exception of Dairy who's off being fine according to Ululenia. If there's something I can say without a shred of doubt about 'The Prophecy Con' is that it's certainly action-packed. Indeed, the action is practically non-stop. Even something relatively harmless as doing research in a library can suddenly turn into Harry and friends trying to dodge Death Eaters in the Ministry of Magic. That's what it reminded me of anyway.
In any case, the job appears to be pretty straightforward. After some diligent tracking on the part of boyfriend Pyvic (not part of the crew, but he's okay) they manage to trace the manuscript to a dwarven museum. Seems like a straight crash and grab, doesn't it? Now throw in the Night Fox from Ocean's Twelve in the form of the elf Ethel (did you really think I'd memorize his real name?), as well as Princess Veiled Lightning and her entourage, some crazy Van Helsing-like Knights from the Republic set out to capture Loch, and you should have a pretty good idea things don't go nearly as planned.
Back in my review of 'The Palace Job' I noted how Loch suffered from something akin to writer omniscience in that she always knew what her enemies were planning (usually when us readers didn't) and consequently had a counter-plan of her own. While Loch still shows her cunning in planning ahead from time to time, this is nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the first instalment. In fact, more often than not, Loch and her team get one-upped in 'The Prophecy Con' and we get to see Loch dealing with the fallout... and Kail usually having to pay the price of said fallout. *cough* *cough*
With so many involved parties all after each other, but mostly after Loch, the action can be at times overwhelming and feel a bit repetitive. Indeed, there came a point when my brain would simply switch on an appropriate action sequence for the scene being described while I skimmed through the words. Understand, it's not that the action is bad (far from it), it's just that there's too much of it.
See, there's a part I love about any good heist movie/book and that's the preparation. Every member of the crew has a part to play in the con/heist that requires careful planning. This prelude is every bit as important as the con itself and in 'The Prophecy Con' it's lacking. Again, this comes down to how much more fast-paced this book is, with Loch racing against time to prevent a war with the Empire. Having said that, the last con, incidentally Loch's last chance to recover the elven manuscript, is more drawn out (yes!) and it features a battle of wits rather than swords in a poker-like tournament that is oddly reminiscent of the movie 'Maverick.' And while I didn't even try to understand the rules of suf-gesuf it was no less exciting, even if I did guess Loch's ace in the hole early on.
The characters are also a bit of a mixed bag. Some are dealing with the aftermath of the first book, such as Kail, Dairy, and Desidora. Kail appears to remain his usual wise-cracking self though he has gained a measure of perchance wisdom he shares with a depressed Desidora, who laments the loss of her powers as a Death Priestess. Dairy, on the other hand, has to come to terms with life after fulfilling the prophecy and a unicorn scorned.
Icy's just Icy and Ululenia's after more virgins so I guess that leaves Tern and Hessler for the crew. I think it's fair to say I enjoyed their interactions the most. The fact that they're now dating allows us to see more of their personalities or perhaps a different side of them, not to mention it sets the stage for some humorous situations. If I had to choose one character as my favourite in this book, it'd probably be Tern.
With regards to Loch and Pyvic... Sigh. Another reason I enjoyed 'The Palace Job' was that cat-and-mouse game between Loch and Pyvic that inadvertently hit its peak in a certain kavha house... Okay, I'll stop here before I reminisce too much and embarrass myself. This dynamic no longer exists in 'The Prophecy Con' seeing as Loch and Pyvic are now dating. This isn't a problem per se. Our leads being in a relationship could make for some interesting reading... if they shared more screentime (what, should I call it pagetime?) together.
Early on, the story separates the two (with good reason but reason be damned!) and negates any possibility of establishing a dynamic similar to the one Tern and Hessler have going. Worse, in the few scenes they are together they behave exactly as two Scout Captains rather than a couple. I have to side with Desidora here, it wouldn't hurt if these two showed a bit more range in their feelings and interactions with each other.
To that end, why not have the two run a con together in the next book? Maybe they get trapped behind enemy lines and have to make it back? These two need some time to learn about each other, work off each other, and I can think of no better scenario than having them rely on each other and no-one else.
There is A twist that I'm not going to spoil that has to do with the title of the book. The twist does come as a surprise, mostly because we remain largely ignorant of 'the prophecy' until the very end, what prevents us from pondering a very logical question. As usual, Loch was fastest putting the narrative clues together but I don't begrudge her (much) seeing as Poirot does this every time. Nonetheless, I have to admit the breadcrumb trail was not very clear for the reader to follow if there was one at all. Furthermore, the more I think back on it, the more certain pieces don't fit the puzzle and the odder (or convenient) the actions of certain parties appear to have been. Perhaps a more critical second read is due.
In the end, I flashed through 'The Prophecy Con' much like with 'The Palace Job' if for different reasons. With the first book it was the question of, "What will happen next?" that encouraged me to devour it. With 'The Prophecy Con,' however, I think it was the hope that something else would occur, something more, and it succeeded and failed in equal measure.
I'm still definitely looking forward to Book 3 though so keep 'em coming.
PS: I almost forgot. Why didn't you make the dwarf part of the crew?!?!...more