Anne Ursu's writing is perfection. The Real Boy is beautifully crafted, with realistic, flawed characters, a vivid fairytale world and writing exquisi...moreAnne Ursu's writing is perfection. The Real Boy is beautifully crafted, with realistic, flawed characters, a vivid fairytale world and writing exquisite in its simplicity. The plot flowed well and the shape of the story felt organic and unique at the same time.(less)
There were drastically more awful people in Froi of the Exiles which meant that I liked this book a lot more. In lieu of bland-as-oatmeal Trevanion an...moreThere were drastically more awful people in Froi of the Exiles which meant that I liked this book a lot more. In lieu of bland-as-oatmeal Trevanion and Topher, we instead had Gargarin and Arjuro and Lirah who were complicated and flawed adult companions for Froi. Froi himself was a much more difficult protagonist; his reactions were often inappropriate, he had dark thoughts, and above all he had to actually work at being a decent person. He reacts badly to slights that are both real and imagined, and unlike Finnikin, who often felt too perfect (aside from being a jealous dick, which half the time I can't tell if that's meant to be a flaw or a quality), Froi has an unfinished feeling about him, like a boy still trying to find himself, still trying to grow into his skin.
Quintana was also an excellent heroine, though I do feel kind of uneasy about her magical mental illness. I loved that Marchetta introduced/gave greater roles to more female characters. I absolutely adored Phaedra, and I loved the different forms of femininity being expressed by such a variety of women. Froi of the Exiles alternates perspectives pretty deftly, and while I did feel like the plot could be tightened up a little bit, and some extraneous pages cut out, I was never torn out of the flow of the book.
Charyn is better developed in Froi, as that's where the bulk of the action takes place. The culture of Charyn starts to take shape in this book, and the worldbuilding, while still unsatisfactory in a few ways, feels much stronger in Froi than it did in Finnikin. I loved the scenes in both Charyn and Lumatere, even though I found the jingoism of the Lumatereans to be trying and dull. I know intellectually that the Lumatere's attitude for Charyn is if not justified then at least understandable, but it was hard not to feel frustrated with characters who I naturally found to be really self-righteous to be even more insufferably self-righteous.
Beyond that, I thought there was a lot more humanity in this book than the previous one. The shape of the relationships in Froi felt both deeper and more organic to me, and for once I found myself actually invested in the mentor/adult figures of a YA novel. I would adore a book about Arjuro and Gargarin and Lirah and their circle so much, and it is refreshing to see LGBTQ relationships portrayed so normally in a book that is not about LGBTQ relationships (through frustrating because I felt like everyone paired up nicely in het relationships and worked through their issues while Arjuro and De Lancey decidedly did not resolve their issues; oh well, I have hope for book three).
All that said, I do want to say that I find the narrative of "blood calling to blood" in these books a little irritating. As someone from an unconventional family, I really dislike how Froi's found family and found heritage is somehow less legitimate and fulfilling that his birth land/birth family? And I suppose if Marchetta had written that Froi found his birth family more like him, more familiar, more comfortable it would be different, but that's not the impression I got from the book. Obviously people's lived experiences are different, and I actually hesitated to even mention something like that here, but it is something that keeps me side-eyeing the book.
All that said, and with the stupid gender issues bothering me, I enjoyed this book immensely. I loved Froi and Quintana's slow growth into each other, I loved the plotting and the intrigue, I loved watching awesome characters like Phaedra and Beatriss find their footing again. I'm not sure how this series can end in a way that is both satisfying and realistic, but I'm looking forward to Quintana of Charyn all the same.(less)
I read this book in one sitting, stayed up most of the night, dragged myself through my work shift and two job interviews with four hours of sleep, an...moreI read this book in one sitting, stayed up most of the night, dragged myself through my work shift and two job interviews with four hours of sleep, and regret nothing. Perhaps the most striking thing about Maggie Stiefvater's writing is her character's sense of voice. Ronan sounds different from Gansey who sounds different from Adam who sounds different from Blue. Shifting points of view can be done well, but in the hands of other authors, even other amazing, critically acclaimed authors, those points of view can become samey. Stiefvater veers away from this trap with her deft prose and narrative styles that give each character a sense of self.
Beyond that, this book is sufficiently action-y and romance-y to hold the reader's attention, despite being a middle book. A very small handful of questions are answered while other questions grow and though nothing truly monumental happens over the course of The Dream Thieves, the quest for Glendower moves closer to its apex.(less)
Well-crafted and at times transcendent, The City's Son is a stunning debut novel with a few narrative flaws, most of which are overcome by the brillia...moreWell-crafted and at times transcendent, The City's Son is a stunning debut novel with a few narrative flaws, most of which are overcome by the brilliance of both character and setting.
Beth is brash and reckless and angry. When her best friend, Pen, betrays her, she doesn't handle it well - she runs away, rides a demon train, and falls in love with the London she always knew was there, but never truly saw. Beth's relationship with Pen is a complicated one, and Pen's betrayal is obviously not as dire as Beth's reaction would imply. But she's a flawed, angry teenager, and her reaction makes sense. Beth grows over the course of the novel, channeling her energy and honesty into a more productive force, but she remains the flawed and realistic as well. The City's Son is in part Beth's journey self-realization.
That said, Pen was easily my favorite character. I loved her quiet strength, her small victories, and how she, too, grew more towards the person she wanted to be, rather than who she ought to be. From the outset, it's obvious that Pen is often overshadowed by Beth, and rather going the standard secretly-bitter-and-resentful-evil-best-friend, Pen and Beth have a complicated, but deeply meaningful, relationship. They grow both away from and into each other over the course of the novel, and their relationship is one of the best parts of this book, at least to me.
But the characters don't just make the story; the setting, both the mundane and the fantastical aspects of Pollock's richly-imagined London, make The City's Son stand out amongst a slew of rather derivative urban fantasy. The author clearly loves the city in all its trashy, shining glory, and there's a passion to the descriptions of London that brings the city alive. The creatures the inhabit the fantastical London underworld and unique and well-crafted; they are not wholly benevolent creatures, but neither is every supernatural encounter suffering. The book is well-paced and while the plot sometimes stumbles, The City's Son is a difficult title to put down.
That said, the book has its flaws. The mundane characters react rather underwhelmingly to their first encounters with the supernatural denizens of the city. There's very little in the way of surprise for any of the characters; I might buy that Beth is nonplussed by a railwraith, but that other characters are similarly unsurprised challenges my willing suspension of disbelief. The book also lacks clarity at times.
The book does resolve nicely, open-ended enough for a sequel (which there will be) but not sequel-bait. The thing I think I most appreciated about the book, aside from the importance of Beth and Pen's friendship, is that actions have consequences. There are deaths and sacrifices and they stick; the ending, whether or not you want to call it happy, is hard-earned. The heroes walk away with scars, emotional and physical and it makes the book more realistic, certainly, but also more beautiful.(less)
Courtney Milan is astoundingly talented; her characters are lively, vivid, and likable and her writing is wonderfully self-aware, continuously playing...moreCourtney Milan is astoundingly talented; her characters are lively, vivid, and likable and her writing is wonderfully self-aware, continuously playing to fun narrative tropes and inverting gross or obnoxious ones. The Duchess War is both an excellent romance and a warm, thoughtful meditation on found (and made) families.(less)
Well-paced, fun read with distinct characters and a cohesive plot. The art is passable for the most part, at times well-done, but ultimately held back...moreWell-paced, fun read with distinct characters and a cohesive plot. The art is passable for the most part, at times well-done, but ultimately held back by its awkwardness. The writing was good with some excellent dialogue, some great meta-commentary, and a solid plot. Karen was well-developed and likable, whilst also being flawed and crass and sometimes careless.(less)
Super-fun and engaging, if a bit confusing at times. It's hard to give a fair review, considering the book ends mid-plot, but I love nearly ever itera...moreSuper-fun and engaging, if a bit confusing at times. It's hard to give a fair review, considering the book ends mid-plot, but I love nearly ever iteration of Dinah Lance, and this one is no exception. Indeed, nearly all the characters are vivid and engaging, the story has plenty of action and twists, and the art is clean and attractive, even if the coloring is baffling inconsistent.(less)
So this book was fantastic. The writing was sparse and beautiful, the plot was well-conceived and well-paced, the characters were realistic and tragic...moreSo this book was fantastic. The writing was sparse and beautiful, the plot was well-conceived and well-paced, the characters were realistic and tragic and the romance unfolded realistically. The book packs a beautiful emotional punch, and is one I'll definitely be buying when it's released.(less)
I can't decide whether, at the end of the book, I found Jared Lynburn to be a realistic and sympathetic character or painfully and almost deliberately...moreI can't decide whether, at the end of the book, I found Jared Lynburn to be a realistic and sympathetic character or painfully and almost deliberately obtuse - (view spoiler)[and while I think an argument could be made for Jared's obtuseness being part of his nature, the conflict at the end of the book felt forced, mostly, I think, because Jared's POV is foreign to the reader, so his vast, very imaginative leaps in logic felt a bit too leap-ish? I'm not saying it was out of character for Jared, because it wasn't, but it didn't feel as organic as the rest of the narrative. (hide spoiler)]
The rest of the book is a solid read; the character development is engaging and realistic (though frustratingly circular), the action and tension is first-rate, and the writing is good. I really enjoyed the introduction of Ash's and Holly's POVs, though I really wish there had been more of both (esp. Holly's). Untold isn't the best book it could've been, but it's an enjoyable read and it sets up the action for book three extremely well. ["br"]>["br"]>(less)
While I do think the flow of action in Icons was flawed, it was a gorgeously written, easy-to-read book. While sometimes I felt set apart from the act...moreWhile I do think the flow of action in Icons was flawed, it was a gorgeously written, easy-to-read book. While sometimes I felt set apart from the action by the dream-like writing, I think it worked for the story. Dol was a believable, likable, difficult character and I appreciated that about her. I also enjoyed the way she, Ro, Lucas, and Tima interacted, even though I felt like those interactions were a bit shallow. The world-building also felt a bit shallow, but I'm more prone to attribute it to the nature of Icons being the first book in a series. Icons was not my favorite alien book of the year, but for someone who's convinced herself she doesn't like alien books it was a damn fine one.(less)
I have so many complicated feelings about Finnikin of the Rock and I'm not entirely sure how to fully explain them all. First, the books lacked a sens...moreI have so many complicated feelings about Finnikin of the Rock and I'm not entirely sure how to fully explain them all. First, the books lacked a sense of place. World-building is important in a fantasy setting, and while the last thing I want in in a sweeping political fantasy novel is long info-dumps, Marchetta's Skuldenore lacks the details that would really serve to ground the reader in this fantasy world. The world-building is really kind of a mess. There's magic in this world that's just barely touched on, countries with unnaturally sleek borders, and no real defining characteristics between countries that aren't Lumatere. Finnikin is, of course, some language supergenius and in lieu of actual worldbuilding our intrepid heroes manage to visit every single country over the course of their quest. Indeed, while the pacing of Finnikin of the Rock was not bad, the sense of time and travel in the book was loose, making me as a reader feel unmoored. Weeks would pass as an aside, and then a single day would go on forever. While I know a great many narratives do this, there was something about the way Finnikin of the Rock was written that made the passage of time difficult to grasp.
My second great feeling concerning Finnikin of the Rock was its characters, and how I either seemed to love or find them almost painfully boring. Let's start with the good: Evanjalin is an excellent character. She's brutal, clever, and practical, and I loved her in all her complexities. I loved that she did not forgive easily, and I loved that above all she was a survivor. I also liked Froi quite a bit despite the fact that he (view spoiler)[attempted to rape Evanjalin (hide spoiler)] and it was such a long road to actually growing to like Froi that I appreciated him all the more.
That said, god did I find Finnikin boring. Boring and gross. His sexism was boring and gross, his possessive feelings towards Evanjalin were boring and gross, his relationship with his father was ... just boring. There's also the whole thing about Finnikin's position of extreme privlege when compared to virtually every other Lumateran in the book. Even though Finnikin expressed a sense of loss over his homeland, I never felt a real desperation or need from him -- indeed, he felt far more like a neutral party in the conflict, distant and set apart. I've already read Froi of the Exiles as I write this review, and before finishing Finnikin I was starting to think that Melina Marchetta was just not for me, but Froi of the Exiles proved it was mostly just boring, perfect, gross Finnikin with his boring dad.
And I got so sick of Trevanion. I got sick of hearing about how great he was, I got sick of his growling flounces, and every time I had to suffer through his POV scenes I struggled not to put the book aside and start something else. I found Sir Topher dull as well, though at least a little less gross, and the first half of the book is just a major sausage fest, which is a major turnoff for a reader like me.
That said, the second half of the book feels like an entirely different novel. There were portions of the book that I really enjoyed, but reading Finnikin was always kind of a stop-and-go kind of enjoyment -- sections of the book would flow really well while other parts would be a slog. There's also a lot of rape (handled pretty respectfully) and a lot of weird, boring gender essentialism (men only grunt their feelings in monosyllables &c.) that made the book uncomfortable for me. The plot was pretty standard fantasy fare, with none of the raw humanity I was led to expect from the novel. Still, despite its flaws and its weak plotting, Finnikin of the Rock left me intrigued enough to pick up its sequel (which I enjoyed a lot more).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
What a perfect/wonderful book. The character development was awesome, and I love seeing Riordan maturing as a writer, taking new risks and trying new...moreWhat a perfect/wonderful book. The character development was awesome, and I love seeing Riordan maturing as a writer, taking new risks and trying new things. At the same time, I loved how things came back in this book. I think with these sprawling, quest-like plots it can be easy to lose track of plot threads, but Riordan is adept at drawing on his previous setups. Riordan is also good at making me care about characters I previously gave no craps about (Calypso, Nico). I can think of a lot of series I enjoy, but Riordan's books are probably the only ones that make me grin through the entire story.(less)