My best friend, god bless her soul, spent a significant portion of her life reading this aloud to me over the past few months. Otherwise I think I wouMy best friend, god bless her soul, spent a significant portion of her life reading this aloud to me over the past few months. Otherwise I think I would've expired around page 15.
Some background: I read this book when I was in middle school, probably around '01 or '02. My reading level advanced pretty quickly, and there wasn't the wealth and the depth of teen fiction to choose from that there is now. I didn't do sports and I didn't watch TV and I read so fast there was no way my mom could feasibly test the things I was reading before I read them. So Daughter of the Blood found its way into my hands exactly when I was going through a pseudo-goth stage. It was a revelation.
Sadists peppered my writing, and I wrote a million self-insert fanfics in my head about Daemon teaching my poor, broken Mary Sue how to be a whore (never, you know, sleeping with her because I was the gayest, most in-denial little 12-year-old in the world). Darkness was in, and these books were dark. I still have my copies, and both Daughter of the Blood and Queen of the Darkness are dog-eared to death, with cracked spines and water stains on the pages. (Heir to the Shadows not so much, because Daemon's hardly in it and he was my favorite, you know, as he was clearly intended to be).
As an adult I couldn't bring myself to part with them, and I'm really glad I didn't. There is absolutely no way around how terrible this book (probably the whole series, let's be real) is. They're misogynistic, they're badly written, and every dude is creepy, even the ones who are supposed to be hot. The setting is as comical as it is nonsensical, and no one every seems to have appropriate or logical emotional reactions. That said, Daughter of the Blood is strangely compelling, and Jaenelle herself is likable enough. Most importantly, though, Daughter of the Blood is hilarious, featuring sentient horse suicide, a magical fursona, and some chick's clit being bitten off by a dude fucking a statue. I cannot tell you how many times we had to stop reading and laugh helplessly at the pure absurdity of the book. Actually, I can: slightly more often than we had to stop reading due my keening wail as Jaenelle faced more stranger danger from the men who were supposed to protect her.
I cannot, cannot, stress this enough: do not read these if rape, child sexual assault, pedophilia, or violence triggers you. It's overblown and insincere, yes, and it's rarely dealt with seriously, but these themes permeate the book. That said, if you want something fun and easy to read, something ridiculous and overblown, then it's definitely worth the time....more
I always find it hard to talk about books I really, really loved, because I find myself just saying how great everything was with very little in the wI always find it hard to talk about books I really, really loved, because I find myself just saying how great everything was with very little in the way of actual critical thought. But I loved The Apple Throne in a way that I haven't loved a book in a long time, and I think the book deserves as many kind words as I have to give.
I didn't like Astrid in The Lost Sun, because Astrid is the exact kind of person I find difficult in real life—her convictions seemed unshakeable, and I found her comfort with fate tiring. Gratton's other protagonists, Soren and Signy, are far more willing to forge their own paths, for better or for worse, and I think that probably makes them more relatable to most readers—it certainly did for me. But I think that's the greatest trick to Gratton's United States of Asgard—she takes so many varied, differing characters and brings them into conversation. Everyone is allowed to be wrong, and everyone is allowed to be right, and there's not always an answer either way.
Astrid is a beautiful character. Her voice is more poetic than either Soren's or Signy's, and it allows Gratton's writing to really sing. I love beautiful prose, but I think it's hard to sustain over a novel—so often a talented writer can overdo it, but Tessa Gratton knows when to let her words unfold and when to reign them in. Astrid sees the world so beautifully, so gently—she's isn't blind to terrible things happening, but here Signy revels in death and rot, and Astrid turns toward a kinder view. It shows in the writing, it shows in her thoughts, and it shows in her actions.
And Astrid's story is so, so powerful. On a purely superficial level, it's nice seeing the girl rescuing the boy for once. But Astrid's story is so much more than that—it's about choosing your own path when you don't want to abandon everything you already have. That's, possibly, the driving theme behind the whole series—choice, certainly, but choice that doesn't require ripping everything down to its foundations and creating it anew; choice, but productive choice, half struggle but also half acceptance. The book is beautiful and hopeful and triumphant, and it left me both warm and sad at the same time.
Sweeping thematic elements aside, The Apple Throne is just a damn good story. The plot is well-paced—there's the epic road trip that's characterized each of these books, the vibrant characters, primary to tertiary. There's danger and humor and laughter and darkness, and sometimes it was hard to focus on the words because I was so caught up in the plot. The story rests when it needs to and runs when it needs to and punches you in the face when it needs to and it all falls together so well.
If I had one critique, it's that the book could be a little bit longer—everything ties together so well, all the previous books and this one, setting up such a beautiful, changed, chosen future for Gratton's world, and I wish I might have seen a bit more of it. I do think the subplot between Amon and Sune could've used a scene or two more of elaboration, though I loved the note it ended on. Really, I just wish there had been about 100 more pages, even if Gratton was just describing everyone sitting together at a Wafflehouse.
As for the actual climax of the book, the conflict and it's resolution, well. (view spoiler)[I was heartbroken when Astrid and Signy met up and clashed earlier on in the book (even though the clash made perfect sense), and, as much as I've loved this series, I was sad that there wasn't a whole lot of female interactions driving the narrative. The ending, though, was so beautiful and wonderful—seeing three strong, diverse, amazing women come together and forge a brighter future was inspiring and delightful. (hide spoiler)]
There's so much more I can say. I love the physical friendship between Sune and Astrid and Amon, and I loved the disteant but real love Freya felt for Astrid. I loved the world, I love everything about Gratton's worldbuilding—I love her complicated, heavy rules and the dark cruelty of her Asgard and also all the light and beauty and energy. I loved the trolls and the elves and goblins and the vibrant landscapes, both real and fantastic. I loved her Loki and I loved her Thor and above all I loved her Freya. This is such an amazing book, and Tessa Gratton is such an amazing author, and there aren't enough superlatives in the world for me to truly articulate how good these books made me feel. I'm sad it's over, and I'm so, so glad I saved the short stories for last.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I don't know that I can review this terribly well because I lack the information to fully contextualize the cultural shift Dostoevsky is discussing inI don't know that I can review this terribly well because I lack the information to fully contextualize the cultural shift Dostoevsky is discussing in Notes. I also can't properly compare to the previous translation I read; it's been far too long, but I think the intentional crassness of Pevear & Volokhonsky's work adds both vigor to the pacing and fits the structure and character of the work. All that said, on a purely surface-level reading, Notes from Underground encapsulates everything I love about Dostoevsky in a microcosm - the boundless, raging energy with which he writes, the contradictory humanity of his characters, and the thoughtful passion for life that pervades his philosophy.
This isn't a hopeful book, nor is it a happy one, but it is a human one and, beyond that, it functioned for me as something of an excision. Venting spleen and all that....more