Firstly, if I had to recommend one book to wannabe YA authors from this year (2012), I would recommend this book. If I had a writer's group and we all...moreFirstly, if I had to recommend one book to wannabe YA authors from this year (2012), I would recommend this book. If I had a writer's group and we all were to use one book as a critique on what's right with writing, I'd choose this book. I say this because I am a writer and I read all books like a writer. This is a wonderfully written novel. A very solid read. With lots to recommend.
(SPOILERS) When I began reading this book, I knew that it contained no paranornmal elements, that it was a straight YA book with some mystery elements and themes. I also knew immediately when Katherine's coach entered the gaslit tunnel (with room for two coaches) that the author was going to use one of Victoriana's greatest eccentrics, William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland as a character, although I did not know how. I was so excited to see what the author would do with it. I was very impressed. As for the steampunk, this is the real thing from Victorian England. And that is why you see the illustration of the mechanical fish at the beginning of the book. And one should pay attention. It's not there for "nothing." But there is little fantasy to the steampunk elements, and this is not what one expects from steampunk, but I knew that, too, so I had no expectations of reading the sort of steampunk that is on the shelves now.
The plot is about a girl of seventeen, sent on a mission by a cruel aunt, to visit her mysterious uncle in a gothic estate, to see if the uncle needs to be sent to an asylum. The heroine is very likable and not the typical YA heroine of today. She's pragmatic and ordinary, no super powers, no big emotional scars. She is sort of the everyman character (but with a lot of heart) who is placed in extraordinary circumstances. You don't see enough of these kinds of characters today. Why? They are (actually) harder to write, to make interesting in a market full of vampires, werewolves, and angels.
Katherine is a remarkable character to study. I liked her a lot. Her journey is not on the road, but in a big house full of tunnels, clocks, dark and dusty rooms, mirrors, and strange sounds. That's harder to write, too. And the author does a splendid job. SPLENDID. (Laughing) Because that is one of words often used in this book.
Now for the other characters.
Uncle Tully--Uncle Tully is based on the eccentric real-life Duke. I cannot express on Goodreads all the things I loved about Uncle Tully, from his creation, to his own creations, to his wonderful dialogue, to his actions, and so forth. He is perfect. And he creates a change in the lives of all who know him, even Katherine, and it is because of Uncle Tully that Katherine becomes a round and heroic character. I write this because Uncle Tully is sort of the sphere on which all the other characters spin around. His madness is genius and what we today would probably call autism. The author did such a great job with this, down to the smallest detail.
Lane--the dark mysterious young man whom Katherine slowly (Thank goodness) falls in love with. This relationship is so unlike all the other YA bad boy relationships that I almost wept for joy. He is a great character. If I had to change one thing in the whole book, it would be to give his character a viewpoint. That would be a risk technically, but I would have done it. I think it would have added a complexity to the storyline and took this book out of the claustrophobic first person narrative found in so many YA books. It would have offered a relief from that narrow focus of the main character without taking away from Katherine's character. Lane really had nothing to keep secret.
All the other characters are charming, even the villains.
At one moment in the book, the climax, I felt the story a little rushed. I would have lingered on the explosion and added a chapter or so with Lane and the recovery elements before finishing up with the aunt's cause and so forth. But all and all, the ending was perfect and this is how a book should end. I literally screamed for joy because the story arcs were concluded, and one tiny arc remained, to be finished in another book or by the reader's imagination. That is how to write a BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ms Cameron is an excellent writer, and her story was vivid in detail without overwriting. Her language is clear and concise and beautiful. It's imaginative in its creation and in the control the author used to keep the story tight and focused. I might have liked the story bigger and more complex and darker, but that did not deter my interests.
I know a good book when I read it. This is one of them. I can't wait to see what the author does next. Highly recommended.
NOTE: I do believe this book was marketed toward 12-16 year old girls. There is a certain expectation in the lower YA years. Some YA books are really 16 and older. The story fulfills this genre requirement.
Finally it so nice to read a book that is just so unexpected in a genre that is overcrowded with the same story told over and over. The love triangle, the bad boy, the supernatural elements. Yes, I love supernatural elements and I might have enjoyed them in this story, but that's okay. I loved this book. I did not put a mark in it, but used a notebook for my remarks. I wanted to save it for a shelf devoted to my two-year old grandchild. It's a Keeper.(less)
Very good book. Simple. It's relates the myth to why we have seasons. Art work is divine. A very young child could be read this story and then at wint...moreVery good book. Simple. It's relates the myth to why we have seasons. Art work is divine. A very young child could be read this story and then at winter time, you could use it to explain why winter comes. I love this myth. Note: This is very much a young child's book.(less)
Very good book. Edith Nesbit was a 19th century wonder in that she wrote all these wonderful books and they are still reprinted today, working for new...moreVery good book. Edith Nesbit was a 19th century wonder in that she wrote all these wonderful books and they are still reprinted today, working for new generations of readers. A classic.(less)
I bought this book because it is about a flaming-red headed girl who poses as a model for a Pre-Raphaelite wannabe in Dante Gabriel Rossett...more 3.5 stars
I bought this book because it is about a flaming-red headed girl who poses as a model for a Pre-Raphaelite wannabe in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's London.
However, the book is not about Rossetti or about art and so I was disappointed. But once I got past that, I became engaged in the story.
(NOTE: The author uses Omniscient POV, which is really the author and thus, there is never a deep narration. The author is telling the story with insights into all characters and so forth. It's much like reading an old Victorian novel. I don't really like this unless I am reading Victorian novels, but my mind soon adjusted. If it has not been set in Victorian London, I would have not read on. Warning, this type of POV is not good for modern fiction.)
The heroine of the tale is one Ivy Jackson, who at the age of five, falls in with some theives. Part I and some 90 pages of the book details this episode, which was overlong for the return of this cast of characters and the ending. However, I did enjoy this part and learned a few things, did some research and found the author a master of description.
Part II is Ivy, years later, returned to her family of cousins and aunt in the slums of London where she is spotted by the Pre-Raphalite wannabe and hired to pose for him. He is a social imbecile with a narcissistic and doting mother. Ivy, an opium addict of sorts, dislikes the both of them but is trapped into posing by her family who needs the money. What the reader sees here and I loved this part is that Ivy is trapped in a life from which she cannot escape, not even with her flaming-red hair! The jealous mother soon becomes more a danger than the life with the thieves. There are some serious issues here, and some hauntings of the model Lizzie Siddal, who hangs over the story as the Fate Ivy might choose for herself.
We do get inside No. 16 Cheyne Walk, (if you are a Pre-Raphalite lover then you know who lives there) and we get glimpses and shadows of that life. But it's not enough. It's not the focus of the story. It is a hint at what fate might bring to Ivy.
However, our little heroine overcomes her addiction, throws off her needy and cruel family, and finds a new life for herself. It has a happy ending. And no, there's no prince to save her, no love triangle, no false fantasy about what life had to offer. It's all grounded in reality.
Why I could not give it four or five stars when it could have been that: The Ending was rushed. It needed as much time as Part I. The character of Rosa should have been introduced a lot earlier. The thieves who returned at the end should have had a bigger part. That scene was wasted. And it left some threads hanging a bit.
But I did not dislike this book. I like it enough to read all the way through and enjoy the highly descriptive writing of the author. This is her wonderful gift. Maybe her editor wanted the story cut shorter. I don't know. A lot goes into the making and finishing and selling of a book. For anyone who loves Victorian London and wants to see and feel and smell the city, this is a good book to read.(less)
I don't even know how to describe my feelings on this book. I just finished it and I am almost ready to weep fo...more10 stars and then To the Moon and Back!
I don't even know how to describe my feelings on this book. I just finished it and I am almost ready to weep for joy. This is a wonderfully written book, full of small details, great characters, a huge mythology, and surprises everywhere.
It's a story about love and family, and the power of true love. Also, be careful of wishes.
The sisters are Tatiana, Jenica, Iulia, Paula, and Stela. I adored them. Each full moon, if able, they travel to the Wildwood World of the Others, and dance all night. One sister, Jena, our narrator, carries with her a Frog. (I loved that frog from the first time he appeared on the page!) On one visit, something has changed in the Wildwood, the Night People have appeared and brought with them a strange young man named Sorrow. From that moment on, the sisters are faced with great danger and many choices, some not so easy. They also face a danger from their cousin who wants control of them.
The plot is dense. I love a good plot. There are many surprises. Some I did not even expect. Fairy tales appear everywhere, hints of many stories. The narrative is rich with details and like the Wildwood, the reader is just sucked into the magic.
This is a book I wished I had written myself. I loved it that much and it's cast a huge shadow over my thinking of what great Young Adult fiction should be.
Some thoughts, usually I add these in the section for personal notes: Family relationships are important and there are too many books that do not show this. Most real life families have siblings. I love the idea of books about siblings. Every day things: How to make the mundane important. Heroine: The heroine of this book is awesome. The Frog: I honestly did not know who he was going to be. I was surprised. The wishes we make when young: Sometimes we make the wrong wishes, sometimes we make the right ones, and we must live out the choices and consequences. That was brilliant.
Sometimes bad things happen. Love is important, the people we love are the things that last, even after death.
Technicals: How to write details without overwriting. This book shows how.
Very personal: Sometimes when reading this book, I became anxious. Really anxious. I was totally connected to the story. Better, I felt I was in it. I could see it like a movie, I could feel it, smell it, taste it. That's rare. I am usually detached.
My favorite YA book of 2010. I adore this book and re-read it this year. I'd like to read the whole series one day. There are already two other books....moreMy favorite YA book of 2010. I adore this book and re-read it this year. I'd like to read the whole series one day. There are already two other books. Finnikin is a great character and the whole book is written so well that I could hardly put it down. I love this book. Love. Love. Melina Marchetta is an incredible writer.(less)