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
This is a really, really solid book that is just a bit overwhelming. Arnett writes a great world, and the plot is complicated and messy and hard and tThis is a really, really solid book that is just a bit overwhelming. Arnett writes a great world, and the plot is complicated and messy and hard and there are no really good people and no really good answers - and that's fine. That said, I think there's a little too much going on in this book - the characters aren't given room to really breathe, to truly unfold, and that makes it difficult to connect with them. There's nothing bad I can say about Avalon, but it's a step away from great. That said, it is also compulsively readable and incredibly difficult to put down....more
This was cute, and I definitely think it'd be a good read for someone in the middle grade range. As an adult it fell more into the "not for me" range,This was cute, and I definitely think it'd be a good read for someone in the middle grade range. As an adult it fell more into the "not for me" range, but that's fine, and I didn't really expect it to.
I think the characters have potential--they could be strong. Unfortunately there's really too much noise for any one character to feel very well-drawn. Everyone is, at the very least, distinct and interesting.
The writing is fun and campy, though the dialogue itself sometimes felt a little strained. The story positively races, and not always in a good way. Any time the Lumberjanes came up against a quandary it was resolved within the next few panels, making victories that should feel hard-won come a little cheaply. The problem is exacerbated by busy panels--there were points reading where I just had to close the book and breathe.
The said, the art is dynamic and nice to look at, and the story is intriguing--it isn't even slightly resolved at the end of the volume, and each development asks even more questions. I'm excited that there's a book like this in the world, even if it wasn't my personal cup....more
Most of my critiques for this book have to do with the length -- Angie's story could've been much longer with little detriment to the pacing. Indeed,Most of my critiques for this book have to do with the length -- Angie's story could've been much longer with little detriment to the pacing. Indeed, the plot wasn't badly paced, but it did have a hurtling feel to it, and if it weren't for that and some stylistic elements, Pretty Girl-13 would've been a solid four star rating.
I know some readers disliked the (view spoiler)[machine used to "delete" Angie's alters (hide spoiler)] and I absolutely understand why -- it feels too easily done for something that, both in real life and in the text of this particular book, is a long-term process. That said, I think one of Coley's main points in the book is that Angie makes some bad decisions, some deeply regrettable decisions, during the process of her healing.
This is all coming out very badly, but while I did think Pretty Girl-13 had a pretty rough start, I felt the story took a powerful and organic shape. I'm always suspicious of fiction that deals with highly stigmatized and highly misunderstood mental disorders, but Coley handles the subject well and seems to be telling a story about both survival and healing and not just an issue book for the sake of an issue book.
I did love Angie as a character, with all her flaws and faults. I actually found most of the characters pretty vibrant and well-rounded for as limited of a time they had on screen. Abraim was a likable, refreshing love interest and Kate felt like a real friend. Angie's parents were flawed but loving and, to reiterate, the biggest failings on the part of the characters was just a lack of screen time.
I'll probably oscillate between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I'm going with four for the time being because I think most of my problems with the story were, for a lack of better term, cosmetic. I'll also probably rewrite this later because it's a mess but I wanted to get it all down now.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I truly hope this is more than a duology; I can see where Oppel might have intended to tie the narrative up, but there's room for much more, both withI truly hope this is more than a duology; I can see where Oppel might have intended to tie the narrative up, but there's room for much more, both within the context of this series and also within the Frankenstein canon....more
If you haven't read The Apple Throne, I'd be sure to read these stories first--The Apple Throne will spoil the plot of this one (and possibly the otheIf you haven't read The Apple Throne, I'd be sure to read these stories first--The Apple Throne will spoil the plot of this one (and possibly the other two, though I've yet to read them). That doesn't make "Gold Runner" not worth reading--it's a good story and seeing the world through Amon's eyes is fascinating, but a lot of the urgency in the narrative is lost because I know exactly what's happening.
It might just have been the way I read this (on my phone, because I was too lazy to unearth my forgotten NOOK), but the prose does get a little overbearing here. I liked it, in a sense, because it points to the secret romantic under Amon's jaded exterior. That said, I would read pages and pages of unending description on my phone, and that made the pace of the book a little trying.
Amon himself is a wonder. The Apple Throne is Astrid's book, but he's very present there as well. Seeing him through his own eyes, though, is a different experience--all of the other USAsgard characters are at least somewhat straightforward. Amon doesn't say what he means if he can help it; Amon doesn't even know what he means half the time, and his occasional moments of honesty are almost all accidental. The two other characters who have significant presence in "Gold Runner" are amazing: what I wouldn't give for a novella for each of them.
(view spoiler)[Eirfinna is so hard to get a handle on, and not in a bad way--she's not supposed to be human, and who only see her through Amon's eyes and, later, Astrid's. I think my biggest overarching critique of the entire USAsgard series is a lack of focus on the etinfolk--even the characters who had occasionally sympathy for them were sympathetic in a vague, sometimes baffling way. Seeing the world through an elf's eyes would've helped with that, I think. (hide spoiler)]
And, because I'm an embarrassing mess, let me talk about my favorite character in the entire series: Sune Rask. (view spoiler)[He's an important character for me because even though Gratton's USAsgard is just as capable as homophobia as our own, Sune is so open and chill about his orientation. I also love his personality: efficient, observant, but still so, so fallible. Sune fucks up left and right in this in such a human way; he's a jerk and he's dumb and, especially after seeing him so vulnerable in The Apple Throne, it's interesting to see Amon's perception of him. (hide spoiler)]
All that said, I wish there had been more. I'm not sure Gratton could've stretched the novella into a novel, but I wanted it to happen regardless. I wanted to actually see Amon and Thor interact, and I wanted to see Amon and Glory fight, I wanted to see Amon get the love he wants so badly (I forgot to say, but wow does Gratton write intimacy so, so well. I thought "Gold Runner" was going to get smutty once or twice and was actually disappointed it didn't).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Fire with Fire lacks the plot and brevity of Burn for Burn and thus suffers for it. Simply put, the book is too long and unfocused -- rather than a coFire with Fire lacks the plot and brevity of Burn for Burn and thus suffers for it. Simply put, the book is too long and unfocused -- rather than a cohesive novel, it reads like a series of meandering vignettes. Nothing really happens until so much happens it feels overwhelming. The writing is fine, though it some of the dialogue feels forced and unwieldy, and the characters that felt fairly realistic in the first book ended up falling flat here....more
An imperfect opening to a promising series that hovers somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, The Iron Trial is all of my favorite tropes explored and undAn imperfect opening to a promising series that hovers somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, The Iron Trial is all of my favorite tropes explored and undermined and expanded in a fascinating, if somewhat thinly populated, universe.
I think many of the problems I could cite with this book are symptomatic of first books in magical series generally -- the worldbuilding is thin, some of the dialogue feels strange and weirdly informative, the pacing is rough. The Lightning Thief is the same way. That said, Clare and Black have crafted a beautiful, intriguing world and fascinating characters to populate it.
Tamara is probably (unsurprisingly) my favorite; while her ethical journey isn't at the forefront of the narrative it's still one that resonates really powerfully with me. Generally speaking I love all of the characters, though some of the antagonists ((view spoiler)[Drew (hide spoiler)]) lacked any real threat, personality, or weight. Callum is a fantastic protagonist, angry and heroic by turns. His actions are sometimes decent and sometimes unkind and sometimes foolish but they are always deeply understandable. I do think that this book was hurt by its length -- while I loved the relationships that developed over the course of the novel, they sometimes felt abrupt or rushed.
The writing itself is sometimes awkward, and the line of action can be difficult to follow -- it reminds me fairly strongly of Holly Black's first few novel -- but the prose has a good overall rhythm. The book is funny when it needs to be and while Callum could possibly be called "snarky," he reads more "crotchety" than anything else. The humor tends more towards the slapstick than anything, and I think that works with the kind of story that's being told.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's hard to write a negative review of a book that is so well-received, of a book that has touched so many people so deeply, so profoundly, that it'sIt's hard to write a negative review of a book that is so well-received, of a book that has touched so many people so deeply, so profoundly, that it's still considered relevant 60 years later. But I can't really pretend that I liked this book. I can't pretend I found it entertaining, I can't pretend I found it thought provoking, and I can't pretend the message didn't strike me as more "old man yelling at clouds" more than anything else.
In some sense, as a holder of a much-maligned B.A. in English, I am sympathetic, but Bradbury's argument fails in quite a few respects, mostly because it's the same argument that people have been making for centuries. Early modern theater was immortal and inappropriate, the novel began as diversions for girls and silly women. Television hasn't destroyed us yet, and if people care about trivial pop idols now, well, do you honestly think that's a new thing?
That said, I will give Bradbury credit: he can write one hell of a sentence. I love his prose--it's unique, and it's hard, and it worked for me. Whether that obscured the overall message of the book, well, who knows. I didn't think there was much of a message to obscure.
And, as an aside, Bradbury's coda is wrong-headed, embarrassing, and badly argued, and I like how he's been very adamant that his book is not about censorship until it is convenient. And no, I honestly don't think books should be censored, but if it would save me authors up-in-arms crying about kerosene and guillotines every time someone suggests their book reveals something about their misogyny or their racism, well, I'd rather be spared the histrionics about greedy minorities....more
The problem isn't that Dreams of Gods & Monsters is somehow a bad book, it's just that it is (a) too ambitious and (b) lacking in an incisive editThe problem isn't that Dreams of Gods & Monsters is somehow a bad book, it's just that it is (a) too ambitious and (b) lacking in an incisive editor to trim away the unnecessary.
This entire trilogy does not have the plot to justify its length. I think Taylor's sometimes over-enthusiastic prose can be held responsible for some of the book's bulk, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of words and very, very little to make those words feel relevant. I can somewhat understand why -- rather than drive the narrative through action, these books try to drive to the narrative through character development, emotional revelation, and philosophical meanderings on the nature of war, peace, and happiness. The problem being that the characters are the book's greatest weakness, the emotional revelations are incessantly hinted at, and that philosophical meanderings in a novel tend to be very off-putting (this is why I loathe 1984). The best narrative commentaries are ones that illustrate their point rather than tell. In Dreams of Gods & Monsters, I get the impression that Taylor is reaching for some kind of commentary, but despite many characters waxing poetic on love and happiness and war and desperation, I never really understood their points, and I certainly didn't feel any emotional resonance with them. I admire the ambition, but I don't think it was particularly effective.
Truly, what I found most compelling about these books (and what kept me reading them) was the world building and the large-scale conflict between the chimaera and the seraphim. Unfortunately, this book sidelines that conflict in lieu of introducing a new conflict that seems like a springboard for a new series. This is annoying for a couple of reasons -- it prolongs the book roughly 100 pages past the point where it should've ended and it makes the trilogy seem incomplete. Furthermore, this new conflict requires the introduction of a new character who, to be fair, is somewhat more interesting than the old guard but still breaks up the tension of the narrative in a bad way: rather than reading about the problems on Eretz, we are sucked back to earth to deal with a new protagonist fumbling about and wondering about questions we already know the answers to. In a faster-paced novel this would be okay -- it would provide a necessary break in the tension. In a book already broken up by multiple POVs and paced slowly with huge swathes of words devoted to characters just feeling things it makes the pace of the book excruciating.
As for the world building, well, there are things that I quite liked -- the structure of the conflict between the chimaera and seraphim, the idea of the pain tithe -- but I remain more than a little flummoxed by the existence of wishes. How were they created? And if they were created by Brimstone, why didn't he weaponize the ability? It just seemed like a strange oversight on the author's part.
I'm not going to touch much on the characters, mostly because I don't have anything all that complimentary to say about them, but also because I don't know how much of that is my own bias speaking, i.e. if you don't find Zuzana funny (which I did not) you are probably going to find her insufferable. If you don't think Akiva is tragic (once again, I did not) you'll probably find him whiny. I will say that the antagonists had a tendency toward utter absurdity in their awfulness. I think Thiago was really the only truly threatening villain; while Jael was easy to hate, I never thought he would end up being much of a challenge to our protagonists, Morgan Toth was hilariously bad as a character and Razgut is, well, Razgut. There is a strange narrative about ugliness = evilness and beauty = goodness that isn't quite so simple, but is close enough that it didn't feel good to me.
I did like Liraz quite a bit, though her constant navel-gazing about not knowing love was both a bit on the nose and slightly difficult to believe from such an action-oriented character. I found Scarab compelling and I'm wondering if maybe the author is considering writing a new trilogy from her perspective -- the setup is certainly there. If so, I can only hope the romance hinted at with Eliza becomes a real thing.
I feel like I've been unduly negative about this book. Here's the thing: the moments of triumph in Dreams of Gods & Monsters are amazing. While the book itself is deeply flawed, at times everything aligns perfectly and the book is pure delight. Unfortunately these moments are few and far between, and while Taylor's prose is quite gorgeous, it needs to be reigned in and used more sparingly and to greater effect. I'm not sorry I read this trilogy, but I do think that this book is a particularly weak note to end it all on....more