I didn't initially know what to do with this book. The first three chapters saw me Wikipedia-ing "fanfic", trolling fanfic sites and bookmarking a FanI didn't initially know what to do with this book. The first three chapters saw me Wikipedia-ing "fanfic", trolling fanfic sites and bookmarking a Fan Fiction Dictionary, just so that I could cross-reference and wrap my head around all the jargon being thrown around willy-nilly.
Not belonging to that world, it was a bit off-putting at first. As someone who writes, but doesn't write fanfic, I was a bit out of my element, and honestly, it felt a trifle daunting. I wondered if I would spend the next few days constantly cross-referencing terms just to understand what was happening. Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding no. And thankfully, once I was over that hump, well...it got good.
Really, really good. As in, I-totally-love-the-level-of-Scarface-snarkiness good. Novel-within-a-novel good. Forget-you're-a-forty-something-and-remember-how-it-was-when-you-were-a-selfish-teenage-misfit good.
Yes, on the one hand, it's fairly standard YA fare. Lots of angst. Lots of snarkiness. Something heartbreaking happens. In this case, two heartbreaking things happen. Lots of soul-searching. Lots of "A-ha!" moments as our heroine realizes she's not quite the hero in her own story. Catharsis comes, but on our heroine's terms. Requisite reconciliation occurs. Girl gets boy. Check, check and check. So yes, fairly standard YA fare.
And here's the big but.
Strangely literary (quite the adroit flash criticism on The Corrections and Infinite Jest!), and satisfyingly enough, a smart and cheeky look at the inner workings of an outsider's psyche. At the same time, it's a novel about moving out of your comfort zone, and the trials and travails that accompanies that choice. It's a novel about choices. About what makes friendships real (is it any less real if you have friends over the internet vs. IRL?) and what actually constitutes friendships. It's about choosing to belong or choosing to be an outcast, and what that decision means. It's about living your life or living vicariously through the life you've created and written about. And it's about so, so much more.
I have a feeling that this book will mean different things to different people. For me, it brought back memories of a very awkward time in my own teenage years (minus the internet, because, you know, I lived in the time of the mastodons...not quite as old as dinosaurs, but still!), when I was a very angry, very caustic Catholic school girl, who wore her sarcasm as a badge of pride. And, to be a little bit honest, as a shield of sorts. I saw parts of myself in Scarlett---still see parts of me, actually. Kinda scary to admit that.
Read this book. Don't let the naysayers sway you otherwise. You won't regret it....more
A couple days ago, on Sunday around 8 pm, when I was around 85% done, I had to set this book down and set it aside.
I'll bet that many peeps who've reaA couple days ago, on Sunday around 8 pm, when I was around 85% done, I had to set this book down and set it aside.
I'll bet that many peeps who've read the book know exactly what I'm talking about and why.
Because I guarantee you, at around the 85% mark, there were people who went "What?!? OMG, no! He didn't! OMG!" followed immediately by "Aaaggghhh!!! No!! Why?!? Why, Pierce Brown, why?!?!" and "No, I can't, I just can't!"
So yeah. I put the book down and walked away.
Not because it was a horrible story. (It's actually the exact opposite).
Not because I was fed up and wanted it to be over and done with. (In fact, I was like a druggie. I wanted it to last forever. I didn't want it to end.)
Not because I was annoyed or frustrated or fed up with the story. (Okay, maybe I was a little frustrated, but frustrated in a good way. As in, this book is so good, I don't want it to end, but really Pierce, you had to go there?!? You had to write that??)
No, I had to put Morning Star down because...damn you, Pierce Brown...my insides were all turned inside out.
So yes, I put the book down and walked away, angry at myself, angry at the story, angry at Pierce Brown.
Yes, it was a moment of weakness...but I think it was a good thing, a necessary thing, because I needed to process what had just happened, and I needed to come to terms with the fact that this may not end well. That Darrow or Mustang or any one of half a dozen beloved characters could die.
So yeah, I walked away because I was spent. I needed a break.
I walked away because I couldn't bear to think of what would happen next. Of what other horrors our hapless crew of lovable misfits would or could encounter.
I walked away because I was too emotionally invested and I was scared. That's how invested I was. That's how much I cared for these characters, for their world, for their battle.
Most importantly, I walked away because I didn't want it to end. I loved these characters so much, loved their brutal world, loved all its flaws and strengths and weaknesses, that I think a part of me would've been content to just leave it be. To pause at that place and just remember the journey over the last two years as one epic roller coaster ride, without actually finishing the ride.
Yeah, I could've done that.
For all of two seconds.
What followed was my mind, my subconscious, telling me I was being an idiot, and no, I couldn't just stop there. I had to man up, open my bloodydamn book, get back in there, and just plow through it. The only way to get to the end, whether satisfying or not, was to see Darrow and Mustang and Sevro and Cassius and Victra through to the bitter end.
I had a really restless and dream-filled night, where Darrow haunted me, Mustang was chasing after me, I was having tea with Sevro atop a red mushroom house owned by Sefi. Sevro was mocking me the whole time (rightfully so). Cassius and Kavax were fishing nearby and The Jackal was hanging upside down from a tree, quite simian-like, stealing the fish each time one was reeled in. So no, I couldn't escape them. Even my subconscious was angry with me for putting the book down, for being craven, for being a wuss.
So, damn you Pierce Brown (I mean this in the best possible way), for worming your way into the inner recesses of my mind (you're welcome to drop in at any time...open invitation, for life).
When I got up, all I could think of was finishing the book, but I had a long day of work ahead of me, and I thought, "Ooh, more distance. This'll make things better." But no, I was very antsy and couldn't wait for the day to end, because by then, I was jonesing for it, I wanted to know what happened, and so, less than twenty-four hours later, emotionally and mentally exhausted though I was, I picked Morning Star back up and dug right in.
Oh, there were ups, there were downs. There were gut-busting funny moments and gut-wrenching heartbreaks. There were deaths---oh yeah, but there were deaths!---there was suspense, there was devastation. There was betrayal, there was dread. But at the end...
The end was beautiful. It was pitch perfect. Let me be clear: it wasn't neat, it wasn't tidy, but it ended on as perfect a note as it could have ended on, and for that I was happy. This, despite feeling that even when I was on the last two pages, I was still convinced something was going to happen, someone was going to die. I had tears in the end.
And this humongous, overwhelming feeling of satisfaction.
So thank you Darrow. Thank you Pierce Brown. Thank you for this world you've created and destroyed and fought for and rebuilt. Thank you for taking us on this crazy journey.
I love this book.
I love this series.
I love Pierce Brown and can't wait for whatever comes next from his brilliant mind. ...more
If you like Harlequin romances, but only the PG-13 versions, then this book is for you.
If you like Columbo, or Murder She Wrote, thenHmmm, let's see.
If you like Harlequin romances, but only the PG-13 versions, then this book is for you.
If you like Columbo, or Murder She Wrote, then this book is for you.
If you like characters like Mr. Rochester or Mr. Darcy, but are willing to settle for their third cousins, twice removed, then this book is for you.
And if you loved The Lovely Bones, and totally fell for 14-year old Susie Salmon, well, you may not quite be drawn to 16-year old Lucrezia de Medici Este.
I guess that's what got to me. It's a second- (maybe even third-) rate mystery. You have a plucky heroine asking all the wrong questions and bumbling about a new place, raising all sorts of trouble, for herself and others. You have her husband, a prickly, vain, arrogant snoot who reminds me of the sods 80s romantic heroines always fell in love with. You know the type: tall, dark and handsome; made with equal parts brash conceit and barely hidden misogyny; excessively rich; great in bed (despite that PG-13 rating). The guy you love to hate. Yet deep down inside is a soft and squidgy center, and really, we all know he's just looking for the right partner to bring out the ooey-gooey in him. And that heroic side of his comes out once the heroine is in danger, and guess who comes to her rescue! (Yeah, not a huge surprise at all...)
Then don't forget the dead girl. Because the dead girl always has to give her side of the story. Except that unlike Susie Salmon, this dead girl is not very likable. She's all vitriol and spite and everything not nice. She swears like a sailor, and has a libido like one, too. But that's not why she's unlikable - she's unlikable because she's completely unapologetic, she's vindictive, and is a bit of a psychopath.
I don't know. The mystery wasn't that great. There were too many coinky-dinks. However, it was well-written, and I appreciated that Elizabeth Loupas used Browning's My Last Duchess as a jumping-off point. But even the most well-written narrative can't be saved by a weak plot and fairly unlikable characters.
One good thing that came out of it? I now know a tad bit more about Italian history. It got me interested enough to do some research into the Estes. And I truly did find Barbara of Austria a fascinating historical figure; I just wish more was written about her in the histories. ...more
I'm just going to put this out there: I'm neither a big reader of vampire lit nor of mobster lit. While I enjoy movies and TV shows about both genres,I'm just going to put this out there: I'm neither a big reader of vampire lit nor of mobster lit. While I enjoy movies and TV shows about both genres, for whatever reason, I've never been that interested in reading about either. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
I think that's what surprised me about this book. Because it is about Vampires. And it is about mobsters, and while it could've been very easy for this to devolve into two very tired cliches, it didn't. And here I was, thoroughly enjoying the ride.
A large part of that enjoyment was because it's a character-driven piece. New York City in the 30s is as much a character in this novel as Faolan, our hero, is. He's got his sidekicks, Frank and Rod and Miranda and all the other guys, all loyal and all fairly well-drawn. He's got his enemies--Killian and Rothstein, both of whom are nuanced and not just evil for the sake of being evil. No, they can pretty much justify their actions so that you, as a reader, feel conflicted.
And really, when it comes down to it, Faolan's an anti-hero. This guy is not a good guy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Deep down, I always thought that he was trying to hold onto his humanity even after he'd been turned. Part of me always thought that this was, to a certain degree, a story about redemption. I don't think the author would agree with me on that, but that's what I got out of it.
Equally violent (because what would a vampire/mobster novel be, without violence?), romantic, funny, haunting and chilling in turns, this narrative has pretty much everything going for it. One of my favorite parts is when Frank brings Faolan back to his place, and Faolan realizes just how messed up Frank is, with his collection of spiders. Definitely one of the funniest scenes in the entire book. Faolan's romance with Stephanie is beautiful, almost as beautiful as his remorse over his wife, Colleen. And chilling? A scene early on in the book, involving Frank, Faolan and a young boy, is still with me.
The pacing is good -- it slows down when it needs to, but when it amps up, it's all action all the time. Very much like Faolan's killing groove.
And the writing: Brian McKinley can write. He has an easy way with words. He knows when to use it sparingly, he knows when to give it a bit more. The writing is solid, the narrative is tight, the characterization is on point.
My main reason for not giving it 5-stars is because there were parts where I thought some foreknowledge of this Vampyr world was required. It's a fairly complex world, and all the terms --- reeve, adjutor, etc. --- weren't immediately transparent. But in the grand scheme of things, that's a small thing.