Another brilliant novel has found its way to my read shelf in record time. I seriously could NOT put this one down. Bardugo's tale left me turning pag...moreAnother brilliant novel has found its way to my read shelf in record time. I seriously could NOT put this one down. Bardugo's tale left me turning pages into the sunrise this morning, and I cannot find anger with her despite the extra cups of coffee needed before work! If I could turn back the clock and reread this novel for the first time, anxiously anticipating the next plot twist, I would.
Shadow and Bone was a refreshing detour for me. Typically, I find I am rather apt at determining the outcome of any story by the halfway mark. This novel kept me on my toes. I had a million hypotheses, and every time I thought I knew how it would play out, something unexpected would derail my predictions entirely. Even towards the end of the novel, when the outcome is fairly obvious, I was second-guessing everything, wondering when the axe would fall again.
I was particularly taken with how polished the story was. There were no unraveled bits, those parts of the plot that lead to nowhere. Every thread of this literary tapestry was interwoven with another, and the effect is of an intricately patterned, brightly colored work of art, interspersed with pure gold. The characters leaped from the page, the locales seemed to unfold into three dimensions made from the text itself. Motives and secrets and plots rose from the book like vapors, waiting to be inhaled, to poison or tease the senses. The world was so vibrant, so real, so immediate, it was impossible to return to my drab reality (which is basically a mountain of laundry and paperwork).
I don't want to review the story itself, because I want you future readers to explore the world and meet the characters without prejudice or trepidation. I will say that this world will surprise you, thrill you, terrify you, and move you. You will meet unforgettable characters and become privy to serpentine paths of plots and plans. It is an epic journey. And this is only book one.
So, a huge thank you to Leigh Bardugo, for writing such a well-planned and polished alternate reality, and peopling it with such multifaceted characters. I can't wait to follow the next part of the journey!
I do this thing where I read something that was highly recommended by people I know, even though it is in a format that is just not my style.
I am not...moreI do this thing where I read something that was highly recommended by people I know, even though it is in a format that is just not my style.
I am not a big fan of the graphic novel. I have said it before and I will repeat it until it is not true.
I like to IMAGINE the protagonist. I like to ENVISION the events as they unfold. I like the descriptive narrative that spurs my imagination to take flight.
Graphic novels are like stories with heavy gravitational forces to me. I can't fly off into my own interpretation. It is all there on the page.
That being said, I DID like the story overall. I thought it was full of interesting vignettes and characters. It has some very dark parts and some less than dark parts.
The last portion of the novel was the best by far. It felt the most original and had the most impact for me. It resonated with me, where the parts that tried to incorporate super heroes did not. In fact, seeing Batman on a panel made me roll my eyes. Oh, no. Something different and then the introduction of this?!?! Groan.
I have books 1-5 of the series. I will read them all. Even though they are graphic novels and just not my bag. I am intrigued enough by the storyline to hang on for the rest of the ride. Even if I feel a little squelched in the imagination department.(less)
This novel was the first I purchased with my new Kindle (yes, I have joined the technological ranks of the bibliophiles). It was also one of the first...moreThis novel was the first I purchased with my new Kindle (yes, I have joined the technological ranks of the bibliophiles). It was also one of the first I've read in quite awhile that was entirely void of typos, or at least, I didn't find any myself. I appreciate when an editor does his/her job well; finding errant words, misspelled atrocities, and other distractions in the text tends to warp my reading experience.
This story was mystical and, in a way, adorable. We meet our protagonist in the opening pages, and slowly become familiar with her fantastical real-life. Karou is a girl with a hazy past, a blurred present, and an obscured future. For someone with such undefined events in her life, Karou herself is painted in stark detail. We learn about her in a roundabout way, which is consistent with Karou's flippancy and brooding secrecy. Frequently, our knowledge of Karou is accrued as other characters try to pry information from her. Karou tells the truth, but her truths are so fanciful that she employs wry facial expressions so as not to be taken too seriously... the other world in which she lives is not one that many humans could accept in stride.
We follow Karou through a mostly normal day: art school, visiting favorite haunts with a friend, being summoned by a small creature comprised of multiple animal bits, returning to the odd store inhabited by monstrous creatures that employ her to run errands for teeth. You know, basic day-to-day stuff. For Karou, anyway.
As the novel progresses, strange scorched hand-prints begin to materialize on the doors used as portals between our world and the otherworldly shop; the doors Karou uses on her errands. Strange occurrences are happening around these doors across our world, and people are beginning to attribute the marks to angels. One such angel attacks Karou on an errand, and her world will never be the same.
Ripped from half of her world forever, Karou must make an unlikely alliance with the beautiful but lethal angel Akiva. Akiva, although a new acquaintance, is somehow familiar to Karou, and after a time, she seems like a ghost of another woman in another life to him. From two opposing sides in a drawn out war in a world removed from the one they inhabit now, Karou and Akiva struggle to uncover a truth neither of them could have prepared for: who Karou truly is.
I found the novel to be truly imaginative and charming. An intuitive reader can begin to unravel the mysteries in it fairly quickly, but the conclusion is still thrilling. Laini Taylor's whimsical half-world is moderately timeless and relatable. The real world is exotic and yet grounded in the characters. The other world is fantastical and yet understandable in its strife.
This is definitely a novel for fantasy readers, romance enthusiasts, and anyone just looking for a brief escape from reality. I would probably recommend that readers be 13+ due to some content (there is mention of penises in reference to Karou's art class and ex-boyfriend model, sexual innuendos, that sort of thing). The novel does solidify itself as more of a romance than a fantasy adventure about halfway through, and I imagine the second novel in the series will pick up with more of that storyline.(less)
This book was marketed as a "smart, sophisticated story [that] harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twi...moreThis book was marketed as a "smart, sophisticated story [that] harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism". Well, the Twilight reference would turn a lot of folks off from this novel. I implore you; do not let it. This book is far superior to the Twilight saga. I admit, there are similarities in parts of the plot (although, this book has an actual plot line, unlike Twilight). If you had to keep the comparison, this book is everything Twilight wishes it were, and then some.
We follow historian Diana Bishop, self-renounced witch, and the series of events that unfold in her life after she inexplicably is presented with an ancient manuscript long believed to have been irrevocably lost to the world of creatures. Diana's parentage is prestigious in the world of witches, her parents were both very talented and possessed rather powerful and rare gifts, not to mention her ancestry hails to Salem's Bridget Bishop. Everyone expected Diana to be some sort of witch prodigy, although her powers were never fully realized, even as her turbulent teen years drifted into her past and her adult years stretched on. At her age, with her lineage, Diana should have had some amount of control over her abilities, and a rather impressive magical arsenal at her disposal. Convinced that she has given up her magic of her own accord, Diana reserved magical feats for minimal use, only in times when she had no alternative method to achieve her ends. In the library, after returning the mysterious and powerful manuscript to the stacks, she caved and used her magic to retrieve a top shelf book, when she became aware of the vampire watching her.
Matthew has long sought Ashmole 752, the manuscript called forth unwittingly by a seemingly insignificant witch. His interest in her increases as he monitors her activities, searching for the sign that would hint at how she managed to retrieve such a highly sought-after manuscript when other more powerful witches of the past had failed in their own attempts. A very ancient, very powerful vampire, Matthew adheres to the school of thought that creatures do not mix. There are three kinds of creatures in the world: witches, vampires, and daemons. Then, there are humans. In the history of the world he has lived through, the species have never mixed. A scientist for centuries, Matthew gives in to his professional, and personal, curiosity of Diana, catapulting him into a series of events as dangerous as they are thrilling.
Harkness delves into the secretive worlds of Diana and Matthew with incredible detail and suspense. It is understood that these creatures live in our own world and time on the fringe of our human perceptions, as they have since the dawn of time. The plot spirals in a breathtaking series of events with a strong tie-in romantic plot line. The romance, however, in no way diminishes the intriguing story revolving around Ashmole 782 and the long standing laws of the creature world. The historical and literary references and stories involved are nothing short of magnificent.
There are some aspects of Romeo and Juliet that occasionally surface, which is not altogether surprising when one considers how many literary works inevitably allude to that work. There are also some similarities between this work and the more intriguing parts of Twilight (which, if you read my reviews on those books, were never satisfactorily explored by Meyer and nearly drove me mad with curiosity of their untapped potential). Matthew's secretive past is alluring, and learning Diana's personal history is adrenaline inducing. The story is well-written and well planned; a thoroughly gripping read. It is the first book of what will be a trilogy. The next book will be available July 8 (at least via Kindle).
There are a few issues (ah, yes, my "irritants" paragraph). There is a LOT of detail in this novel. It's a 580-some-odd-page-book, and many of those pages are holding details. Several reviews for this novel condemn the details as erroneous. I am a rather different creature, and I thrive when I have mundane details in a novel. It helps me to make a clearer image in my head, and map what is happening where, how things look, and how the characters react. The devil is in the details; even if they are tedious, I find they are helpful. There were a few typos and small errors. And the middle of the novel has nothing to do with Ashmole 782 and everything to do with the love affair, which bothered me a little bit, as it felt the story lost some direction. I don't feel that the romance completely overwrote the other motives, however. I am bearing in mind that this IS a trilogy, and therefore, the plot has more time to unfold. I look at this book as the "getting to know you" time with our characters. We know old magic had awoken and brought the attention of powerful creatures to our protagonists. We know the backstories, we know the spark of romance, and we know the family entanglements. I have faith that the remaining books will move the other plots along more fully, as well.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves the strange and unusual, as well as history and a dose of romance. I CANNOT wait for the next installment of the series! My strongest recommendation for any story is if it evokes dreams for me, and this novel has completely inhabited my psyche since the beginning. If that doesn't encourage someone to read it, I am not sure what else will.(less)
Lippert's sequel to the James Potter series follows a very similar path as Rowling's second Harry Potter. We see through James' eyes, as it were, and...moreLippert's sequel to the James Potter series follows a very similar path as Rowling's second Harry Potter. We see through James' eyes, as it were, and therefore cast suspicions on those James is least inclined to like.
Like his father before him, James seems to have a very black and white idea of good and evil. His suspicion is similarly aroused by those of the Slytherin house, unsurprisingly. Also like his father, James is often blinded by his initial feelings of disdain, and misleads himself willingly by pursuing those he dislikes. Obviously, if you read Harry Potter, it is usually not the obvious person who is the true villain.
In this story, James returns to Hogwarts along with his brother Albus and cousin Rose Weasley. He reunites with his formidable friend Ralph Deedle, a Slytherin, and the two lament that their American comrade, Ravenclaw Zane Walker, is attending the American wizarding institution Alma Aleron instead of returning to Hogwarts beside them. Not to fear, Zane makes some appropriately kooky cameos throughout the year, imparting wisdom from a safely disengaged viewpoint that makes James' headstrong and conclusive first impressions a little easier to deal with.
Merlinus Ambrosius is now Hogwarts Headmaster, and as he is still of questionable character, the new trio (James, Ralph and Rose) spend a lot of time evaluating strange occurrences and Merlin's possible involvement in them. The students become aware of a strange and possibly evil plot when James becomes aware of the sensations of pain caused by the phantom scar of his father's.
Additionally, the new Defense professor refuses to teach the students actual spells, convincing the Gremlins (a small society of capricious and cajoling albeit bright students) that James must take up his famous father's historical defense club. Having no skills in defensive technique yet himself, Rose suggests that the teaching fall to Scorpius Malfoy, none other than Harry's nemesis Draco's son. Scorpius becomes a sort of tenuous ally, one that James cannot quite trust, but without whom the club has no leg to stand on. Scorpius becomes an invaluable asset to the trio as the plot thickens and Rose begins to understand that Malfoy may be the key to defeating the evil threat of the year...
Lippert's writing style is still mesmerizing in it's own way. While the story definitely follows a similar recipe as Rowling's second Potter novel, there is a flavor of his own. I have only one complaint: almost EVERYONE "grins crookedly" in this story.
Otherwise, it's an engrossing story, sure to capture the imagination of HP fans (and definitely JP fans) looking for more imaginative explorations of the Potterverse.(less)
While Lippert definitely has his own writing flair, this piece of fan fiction really upheld the world that Rowling originally introduced to readers wo...moreWhile Lippert definitely has his own writing flair, this piece of fan fiction really upheld the world that Rowling originally introduced to readers worldwide. Picking up about where Rowling had left off, with Harry and Ginny the parents of three of their own children, Lippert explores the newly reconstructed, post-Battle Hogwarts through the eyes of Harry's eldest son, James.
James boards the Hogwarts Express anticipating the trials and opportunities of his first year at Hogwarts. He is aware almost instantly of the desire to be his own person, not influenced by his father's famous past, and the consciousness to aspire to be in some way as great as Harry was in his school days. This theme of "being in the shadow" of his father is carried throughout the story, and readers of Rowling's original works may find themselves constantly comparing James to Harry on some level as well. James befriends two boys on the train; Ralph Deedle, a Muggle-born English boy, and Zane Walker, a Muggle-born "exchange student" from America. True to the formula expected in HP-esque stories, these initial friends become part of the charismatic trio that the story will center on.
Shortly into the school year, the boys become aware of a foul plot afoot, one they believe is orchestrated within Hogwarts' own walls. James, being a Potter, is quick to pick up on and be attracted to the dangerous task ahead. True to form, his two cronies are pulled into the plan as well.
Lippert re-imagines the Wizarding World in this tale, introducing the staff of an American Wizarding school, the Alma Alerons, as well as a colorful cast of characters- some pulled from the familiar pages of an American history textbook, as well as popular worldwide legends. The plot of the story itself twists and turns, growing to an exciting climatic showdown in the Forbidden Forest, and culminating with a well-learned lesson at the end.
There are a few minor complaints I have about the story. One was the lack of consistency with some details. A vague example (I hate spoilers) is that an American Professor takes 50 points from both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw for an attempt to switch a personal belonging. Later in the story, those lost points are attributed to the attempted theft of a classmate's Quidditch broomstick. There were also a few instances in which it became mildly confusing who was addressing whom, and a minor issue with formatting in the ebook (I read through Goodreads on my iPhone, and realize formatting issues can be attributed to a number of reasons, so perhaps other readers will not experience the minor irritations in this regard that I did, mostly involving the beginnings of new paragraphs mid-sentence, etc).
Overall, while this work is not as flawless as Rowling's original series, it is a very well-written, intricate continuation of the rich landscape of the "Potterverse". If you were an original Potter fan and are looking for a new means to explore the Wizarding World and meet new characters within it, this may be what you've been looking for.(less)
So, Katniss has survived the Hunger Games and challenged the Capitol at the same time, in saving Peeta's life as well as her own with a meager handful...moreSo, Katniss has survived the Hunger Games and challenged the Capitol at the same time, in saving Peeta's life as well as her own with a meager handful of poisonous berries. For the first time, there are two victors returning home. Of course, she hasn't quite figured out the repercussions involved with her treasonous final move in the Games.
Sadistic President Snow makes it his business to inform her of the extent of damage she has inflicted on the Capitol and Panem's way of life. The events she has set in motion will forever change the face of Panem, and the outcome of her own personal future.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, initiating a Quarter Quell... a particularly inhuman installment of the Games with rules that increase the district's losses as well as the Capitol's entertainment. This year, the tributes will be reaped from the surviving existing victors of each district.
Katniss realizes that she is going back to the arena, and despite her pact with Haymitch to keep Peeta uninvolved, finds herself reliving the experience she had last year, with Peeta at her side. Once again, the trials are riddled with secrecy, ulterior motives, and suspicion. Let the 75th Hunger Games begin.
Collins made her audience connect with the characters in the first novel. We were all glad that they survived those trials. Now, sending them back to the arena, our collective heart breaks. That's not to say that Katniss is lovable. In fact, she's quite obtuse. In the first novel, we got to understand the way she works; the things she picks up on, and the things that are entirely lost upon her. In this second novel, it's almost easy to decipher where the plot will go and how events will shape Katniss, making it more infuriating when she doesn't figure it out as well.
Katniss knows that her defiance at the conclusion of the first Hunger Games sparked a revolutionary fire. She is determined to save Peeta, the only truly redeemable character in the whole series. She believes President Snow that she can somehow quench the fires of dissension that have begun to ignite the districts. Of course, it is lost on her that fire is catching, and the girl on fire lacks the ability to put it out.
A riveting read, we follow Katniss back into the arena, where she makes new allies and tries to protect Peeta from annihilation. We begin to see the fragile web of the resistance in Panem. The pace quickens and adrenaline flows, and we understand the extent of the horrors of the Games. And at the conclusion, we are sprung into the frenzy that comprises the final novel of the series... so you ought to have it on hand, waiting for ravenous consumption. This is one hell of a cliff-hanger, and you won't be able to sleep until the story is played out.(less)
The final installment of the Hunger Games series is an adrenaline-pumping series of events that never seem to cease.
Katniss was saved from the arena...moreThe final installment of the Hunger Games series is an adrenaline-pumping series of events that never seem to cease.
Katniss was saved from the arena of the Quarter Quell after her electricity-charged arrow found it's mark in the "chink" of the force field. Like a toy in a quarter machine, she was plucked from the arena by a large claw, saved from the Games of the Capitol. Everything would have worked out well, if the Capitol hadn't snatched Peeta from the arena, out-maneuvering the resistance. Katniss can feel her world deteriorating.
District Twelve has been reduced to smoldering rubble, sparing only the Victor's Square, which behooves the Capitol, as they are the only constructs in the district erected to remind citizens of the Games and the power behind them. The rest of the district was laid to waste, without care for the people of which it was inhabited. Gale managed to lead a small portion of the citizens to District Thirteen, previously believed to be defunct, similarly leveled as a result of the last Uprising.
Katniss's spark from the first round in the arena with the berries has ignited in fury. The districts are beginning to truly rebel against the Peacekeepers and the Capitol. The girl on fire is confined to the militaristic underworld of her new home, District Thirteen. A flame deprived of oxygen can only be reduced to smolder, and eventually will be snuffed out entirely.
She learns that District Thirteen's President Coin has a plan for her. To become the Mockingjay. To rally the remaining districts into the final acts of rebellion, stripping the Capitol of power and reducing President Snow to Katniss's final target. The Games are still on. The players have merely changed. Katniss tentatively allies with Coin and the new district, reassured by Gale, and determines to kill Snow and end the Games once and for all.
It is interesting to realize what the Games have taken from the victors who survived. None of them are free to truly love, to create lasting bonds with other people. Their every thoughts are tinted with suspicion. Their every motives are aimed at survival. They can never escape the mentality of desperation, or the instinct to fight or flee. The Games have taken their humanity, and created muttations of the victors themselves. They have become a sort of disjointed human weaponry.
Peeta is held captive in the Capitol. Katniss is haunted by his absence, and her only reassurance is the public broadcasts from the Capitol featuring him. He is rapidly deteriorating, seems at war with himself, and his grip on reality seems to be coming unhinged. Still, he manages to warn District Thirteen against threats, saving countless lives, in true Peeta form.
The rebellion is in full swing. Katniss, Gale, and the handful of victors remaining are bent on destroying the Capitol, even playing by Coin's rules. Finally, Peeta is rescued, but Katniss becomes aware that while his physical form is safe in the District Thirteen, the boy she loves in a way she cannot express has been lost to her irreparably.
The love triangle thing continues a bit; Katniss cannot untangle her feelings for Peeta, a relationship sparked by the Games and the Capitol's design, from her feelings for Gale, a relationship with a slow and independent origin. With all three involved people vastly changed, the knots between them continue to twist and confuse, the lines blurred.
The rebels encroach on the Capitol, and a full-on war bursts into action, with Katniss, Peeta, and Gale on the fringe. For the Capitol to be overthrown, the three must make it into the central action. But is Coin trustworthy, or will her appointment into the power previously held by Snow lead to another heartless regime ruled by cruelty?
This final installment is truly a whirlwind of events, emotions, and conundrums. I read the entire thing in one sitting, pulling an all-nighter to consume it in its' entirety. It's a dystopian series, so don't expect a completely "happy" ending. Too many distortions shape the lives of the characters. What you can expect is a breathless finale to a twisted but well-written series.(less)
Well, I caved and joined the rabid masses; those people with braids chanting "Hunger Games" wearing mockingjay pins. Not that I will start doing that...moreWell, I caved and joined the rabid masses; those people with braids chanting "Hunger Games" wearing mockingjay pins. Not that I will start doing that anytime soon.
I found this novel to be very interesting, and very dark. It was an easy read in terms of time commitment and what I can only call "readability", but it was definitely hard to stomach when it comes down to the subject matter. I know a lot of people are all about the series because of just that: the subject matter. It's different, it's eccentric, it may even be plausible if government were to have all control. But sending children into an arena like gladiators? It's still hard to get through from that angle.
I can only surmise that the novel takes place in the future, or some parallel universe, as Panem resides where North America is in our reality. If we go with the future angle, history is riddled with governments and individuals bent on complete power (think about Hitler or other dictators in our past)... was our history just lost to the populace of Panem that they took the iron clad control of the Capitol so readily? Yes, there was a rebellion, and that spawned the Hunger Games. I still found myself questioning the average person in the Districts, wondering why they hadn't attempted to band together and overthrow the oppressive government. They have numbers on their side; an advantage even the early competitors of the Games knew to use? Keeping the populace starving is a mechanism often used to keep large masses of people subservient, as well as fear tactics, all of which were implemented. Maybe I am just blocking the reality of the horrors the citizens of this world face, or overestimating how I believe people should behave in such a situation... I've been fortunate enough to never experience something like that.
The other angle is the parallel universe angle. In that universe, perhaps some propaganda fueled war annihilated what we know of history, and from the ashes sprung Panem. In that scenario, it would be probable that the people would have been so worn from war and oppression, they could have accepted a new, somewhat milder regime easily, only uprising later when change was deemed acceptable. But this is all speculation to understand the initial predicament of the characters a little better. I suppose only Suzanne Collins knows the answers to these questions.
In terms of the Games themselves, let's look beyond the heinous nature of forcing children (all under or equal to our legal age of consent) to fight to the death for their families. Let's just see what we already have seen in our reality, because that is where the interest lies for me. The Games are a sort of mash-up of all our modern reality television. It's like Big Brother, Survivor, and every MTV show mashed up together and put on steroids. From this angle, it's easy to see the potential probability of such a disgusting display. We, as a society, already seem to buy into a much milder form of similar entertainment. We watch teenagers learn they are pregnant and see drunken fights of housemates. We call it reality; our tabloids discuss the romantic entanglements of these shows. How much is real and how much is ratings? Of course, the difference here is, the Kardashians are not trying to stay alive from human hunters while televised for the amusement of the masses. It still makes you think about the voyeuristic aspects of reality television, and the potential these shows have for personal catastrophes.
Like I said, I found it to be an interesting read. Very disturbing at times, but interesting. I can't imagine I won't read the rest... like the imagined citizens of Panem, I am itching to learn what will happen between Katniss and Peeta, where Gale fits into the picture, and how the people will deal with the Capitol. I can't help hoping for the permanent closure of the Hunger Games, an entertainment program so ghastly I still cannot quite wrap my head around it. I can't help but make comparisons to all the things I dislike about society and the routes humanity could head in, if we allow ourselves to twist and corrupt into such a monstrosity. It's just... compelling.(less)