Bordertown was one of my favorite set of stories back when I was a teen. The writing was often a little clunky, and once I started going to night club...moreBordertown was one of my favorite set of stories back when I was a teen. The writing was often a little clunky, and once I started going to night clubs and having adventures of my own the stories became much less exciting. I wouldn't really recommend the majority of it anymore--it's just too self-consciously trying to be hip. But I still have a soft spot for the concept of Bordertown, and a few of the stories have stuck with me.
"Welcome to Bordertown" by Ellen Kushner and Terri Windling. These two stateswomen of the first Bordertown collections set up the overall plot for the reboot. One day, Bordertown became disconnected from the human world, and though 13 years passed for most of humanity, only 13 days passed for Bordertown. A teenage runaway arrives in Bordertown just before the disconnect. When her younger brother comes looking for her, only days have passed for her, but he has grown up. (view spoiler)[Fairy-tale lover Trish realizes that she'd rather go to college than be a runaway, while her engineering-minded brother decides to stay in Bordertown to play with the odd mixture of tech&magic. (hide spoiler)] Trish feels like a retread of all the starry-eyed runaway teenagers who read a lot of fairy tales but have little street knowledge, and for much of the story she's quite boring. But the path she chooses is a novel one.
"Shannon's Law" by Cory Doctorow. Doctorow decides to bring the internet to Bordertown. Of course he does. I really liked the ways the main character tried to make magic work like technology, but mostly I was just annoyed at the smarmy, ain't-I-the-smartest feel of this story.
"A Voice Like a Hole" by Catherynne M Valente. Fig runs away, but she knows she's not going to fairyland. That's for older, prettier girls. She just wants to get through each day and maybe eat bacon for breakfast. Perfect and fabulous until the last paragraph, which is pure cheese.
"Incunabulum" by Emma Bull. Like a fairy tale happening in a small run-down city. An elf passes through the Border not knowing his name, nor anything about himself, and decides what kind of man he's going to be. Very good.
"A Prince of Thirteen Days" by Alaya Dawn Johnson. This was one of most surprising stories in here. I expected human teens running away to meet elves in Bordertown, discovering that magic alone won't bring them happiness, and then realizing that their own inner strength. Instead, this is the story of Peya, who grew up in Bordertown with a magic-wielding grandmother who says "the Lord is my shepherd" like someone else might say 'Don't fuck up" and a beautiful street-busking mother who's still hung up on the man she left back in the World. Peya likes the magic all round her, but mostly just wants to have sex. I really liked this! The characters felt very real, and very unique.
"The Sages of Elsewhere" by Will Shetterly. Shetterly brings back his old character Wolfboy, who's running a bookstore named Elsewhere these days. He fires an elven assistant who was plotting to steal a magical book from him, and she and her nefarious confederates pretend he's racist against elves to pressure him to give up the book. Sample text: "The small print said we had fired our elfin staff and we refused to do business with stores owned by elves. I began laughing when I got to the part about Elsewhere carrying kids' books that literally belittled elves, and fantasy novels that made elves into 'noble elf' wish-fulfillment figures." A boycott starts, then a mob forms, and Wolfboy and his ladylove (who does literally nothing the entire book) are nearly killed when the mob starts a fire. But wait! The mob was just riled up by evil-doers' magic and lies, and Wolfboy quickly proves that he's not a racist after all, and is in fact much more high-minded and generous than everyone else. It's written in a very basic, kinda clunky style.
Jane Yolen's "Soulja Grrrl: A Long Line Rap" is a "modern" retelling of Tamlin. Every verse is worse than the one before it. Just to give you a taste, it begins,
"I am a single Soulja Grrl, I've got gold in my hair, A rose is at my boobies, and my feet are always bare. And no one else can tell me that I can't go here or there. 'Cause a single Soulja Grrl goes anywhere."
Jane Yolen's poems are clearly in the collection only because of her name--they're all awful (like everything else she writes nowadays).
"Crossings" by Janni Lee Simner. Analise and Miranda are seventh-grade bffs who run away to find werewolves and vampires in Bordertown. Unfortunately, they find a blood-drinking elf, and Miranda has to save her friend from being overcome with glamor. Not good.
"Fair Trade" is a graphic short story written by Sara Ryan, drawn by Dylan Meconis. A teenager tries to find her mother, lost in Bordertown 13 years ago. I love the art, which is clear but has a style of its own, and I wish there was more to the story, because what is there is written well.
"Our Stars, Our Selves" by Tim Pratt. Allie comes to Bordertown to become a rockstar. There, she is given one wish, to do whatever she pleases, and decides whether to use it to become the star she dreams of being. The dialog tries too hard ("'When you put it that way, I can see your point.' 'Sure you can,'Allie said. 'My point is the pointiest.'"), the plot non-existent, and it doesn't expand Bordertown in the slightest. Forgettable.
"Elf Blood" by Annette Curtis Klause. Lizzie traveled to Bordertown in order to feed on an elf to cure her. She picks Sky, a beautiful musician, to be her next meal, but he's always surrounded by groupies. Instead, his bookish brother Moss befriends her. This was one of my favorites of the collection.
"Ours Is the Prettiest" by Nalo Hopkinson. Damy tries to keep her ex's new girlfriend safe from her ex. But though the new girlfriend is new to Bordertown, she's not new to magic. Probably my favorite story in the collection, both because I like the main character and because it opens Bordertown up so much more. A sense of menace and imininent danger creeps into the story as a children's rhyme follows the characters around, and the magic is just barely-comprehensible.
"We Do Not Come in Peace" by Christopher Barzak. A washed-up street musician helps a young runaway find his feet--but then the runaway starts a movement against the elves. I liked the inner voice of the musician, who has had to compromise a great deal to survive and, a final indignity, has lost his gift for music. But I don't get the plot. (view spoiler)[Alek leads a mob to burn down Oberon House, and as he walks there Marius plays him a song. Alek turns away from the mob to join Marius and says, "Seems like I have to go to extremes to get your attention. I knew you would come through for me, Marius." In what way has Marius come through for him? I don't get iiiiiiiiit. (hide spoiler)]
"The Rowan Gentleman" by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Ashley is part of the troupe that acts out movies at the Magic Lantern, so when the movie stops playing (as it inevitably does) the actors can fill in the gaps. Her biggest problem is that her lazy elf boss is courting her, and she fears he wants more than she'll give. But then a street kid stumbles in and dies on the floor of the theatre, and Ashley is swept up in the Rowan Gentleman's story. This is like an urban fantasy retelling of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The plot is a bit thin, and the ending a little abrupt, but overall it's a fun, readable story.
Neil Gaiman's "The Song of the Song" is the only poem I actually like in this collection. It's witty and a little edged but not that weighty.
"A Tangle of Green Men" by Charles de Lint is the tale of an alcoholic juvenile delinquint named Joey who finds new life with a pretty blind girl who teaches him about magic. Unrealistic dialog, personalities, a nearly non-existent plot, and a terrible ending. Cheesey and pandering all round.
Overall, a few great short stories and a few very enjoyable ones. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Hunger Games introduced us to Katniss Everdeen, a doggedly loyal girl with a talent for archery and survival. Every year, children from the Distri...moreThe Hunger Games introduced us to Katniss Everdeen, a doggedly loyal girl with a talent for archery and survival. Every year, children from the Districts were forced to kill each other in a filmed arena, to remind the viewers of the power of the Capital. Katniss was one of those unlucky children—and against all odds, she survived not one, but two stints in the arena. And not only did she survive, but her courage and kindness sparked a revolution. Now, the rebellion against the Capital is in full swing. The commanders are just waiting for one thing: Katniss herself.
This series is a great piece of science-fiction. It really feels like a future: the names are different but faintly recognizable to modern ears, the tech is advanced but not in a way that feels like magic, our current era is vaguely remembered but important only in the way we consider the Middle Ages to be (ie: something that shaped us, but not something to talk about every day). Too few sf writers think about society when they craft their stories, but Collins clearly has, in the way fashions in the Capital develop, in how District 13 view food hording as a terrible crime, in the importance the media has in the rebellion. In this series, Collins has created a grim world that is all too believable.
It's also great adventure story. Every page felt charged, as though anything might happen. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.
But more than anything, this is a story about the characters, and war's effect on humanity. This is actually a darker novel than the first two, because even the bright spots from previous books have been affected by the battle with the Capital. The battles Collins puts her characters through test their morals as well as their physical abilities. As the book progresses, the question becomes not simply whether the rebellion will succeed, but whether success is worth the price paid.
This book made me laugh out loud in places--we never forget that the characters are humans with warmth, humor, and families--and sob so hard I couldn't read the words on the page. Collins never lets the narrative or her characters take the easy way out. This is an incredible ending.(less)
Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of curse workers--people who can kill you, erase your mind, change your luck, shape your emotions, etc, at will. "Wo...moreCassel Sharpe comes from a family of curse workers--people who can kill you, erase your mind, change your luck, shape your emotions, etc, at will. "Workers" have been known to the world for hundreds of years, but because of their huge, and often dark, powers, being a curse worker is illegal. The Sharpes have been living by their wits and their curses for generations. But Cassel has no curse power of his own, and with his father dead, his mother in prison, and his older brothers trying to achieve their careers, he has nothing to do but go to class.
Oh, and try to come to terms with the fact that three years ago, he murdered his best friend. And he has no idea why.
Equal parts Momento, YA fantasy, and gangster movie, White Cat is enthralling. I read most of it during my lunch hour, and then sat testily at my desk, trying to think up ways to read the rest of it as quickly as possible. (In the end, I snuck it into the bathroom with me to finish. Yes, it was worth it.) Cassel has a quick wit, a slightly-too-smart-mouth, and long experience as a con artist, but even he finds it challenging to navigate the halls of his preppy private school, deal with his claustrophobic, secretive family, and get over his ex-girlfriend...all in addition to a conspiracy that could very easily turn fatal. And astoundingly, the plot doesn't get in the way of Cassel's character development. By the end, not only had the story twisted in on itself in darkly clever ways, but the characters were fully realized, with depths of their own. (less)
A traveling magician buys Syndelle from her family in exchange for bringing rain to their desert. At first, Syndelle can't imagine why the cantankerou...moreA traveling magician buys Syndelle from her family in exchange for bringing rain to their desert. At first, Syndelle can't imagine why the cantankerous and drunken Wayland North would want her as a traveling companion, but she soon realizes her worth lies in her ability to fix his magic cloaks. The world building, characters, and plot are all interesting, but patchy. I found parts totally enthralling, and then other chapters just dragged. Everything seems rushed--the revelations about North's curse, the development of North and Syndelle's relationship, hell, an entire duel with a dragon takes place off-page. North is a great character--sort of a combination of Howl from Howl's Moving Castle and Mr. Darcy--but we don't spend enough time with him or watching Syndelle interact with him to understand their relationship. I think a more disciplined writer or a better editor could have made this story truly special.(less)
Cally pushes herself through a mirror to escape an endless, unearthly voice. Westerly escapes his pursuers through a hidden doorway. They each find th...moreCally pushes herself through a mirror to escape an endless, unearthly voice. Westerly escapes his pursuers through a hidden doorway. They each find themselves in another world, where magic and thought have power beyond their imagining. This is very much a coming of age adventure story, full of chases and near-escapes, but it is told in such beautiful language that I found myself re-reading the descriptions of the countryside. (less)
Sylvi is the youngest daughter of the king. On her twelfth birthday she is ritually "bound" to a pegasus, as all royalty are. But for her, the binding...moreSylvi is the youngest daughter of the king. On her twelfth birthday she is ritually "bound" to a pegasus, as all royalty are. But for her, the binding is not just a rote gesture--she can actually hear the pegasus in her head! Everyone is shocked that she and Ebon can communicate, and the very idea shakes the magicians' guild to the core. Sylvi tries to find a way to bring humans and pegasi together, even as rocs threaten the kingdom and the head magician threatens her bond with Ebon.
SO DISAPPOINTING. The writing is tangled and muddled. Suddenly we'll be three years in the future, but then it seems McKinley forgot to add some details, so we get a memory from a year ago, and then back to three years into the future, but then oh wait we forgot to add this other inconsequential anecdote so back two years, and so on and so forth. It reads like short story or a bare outline that got clumsily expanded. This might have made it difficult to keep the timeline straight except that absolutely nothing changes or develops over time. Sylvi spends the entire book thinking she should tell her parents she can communicate with pegasi. 400+ pages without any resolution to that storyline. Sylvi and Ebon start flying together, and that storyline goes absolutely no where. Same for whether the magicians are mistranslating, or questions about the Alliance formation, or the magic grass the pegasi live on, or what Fthoom is up to. No development of any of this--just plot hooks introduced and left hanging. And speaking of Fthoom, this reminds me of why I literally dropped the book in disgust when I finished it. So for 400+ pages no actual plot takes place. There's no sense of danger, no sense that anything is changing or developing. And then about ten pages from the end of the book, abruptly a roc attacks the kingdom and Sylvi's older brother goes to fight it. While he's gone, Fthoom declares that he's found an ancient document. It's the deathbed confession of a roc (the ancient enemy of pegasus and human alike) in which the roc declares that pegasi and humans can never be close, because they will never understand each other, and trying to understand each other will destroy them. Everyone at court freaks out and immediately the pegasi are forced to leave. But--why would anyone trust a roc's word? Even if the ancient document is real, and a roc really did say that an alliance between pegasi and humans would destroy both cultures--why believe them? It's in the rocs' best interest to drive their enemies apart, after all! OBVIOUSLY this is not true.
So. Basically. No development of anything (I still have no idea how this kingdom functions, what its economy is like, if it trades, if it has serfs or what), no plot until the last ten pages, and a nonsensical plot at that. There is no way I'm reading the rest of this series, because just reading this book actually made me angry at how badly it was written.(less)
It is the mid-nineteenth century, Queen Victoria is on the throne, and the British Empire stretches into the stars. With their absent-minded father fo...moreIt is the mid-nineteenth century, Queen Victoria is on the throne, and the British Empire stretches into the stars. With their absent-minded father for their only human company, Arthur and Myrtle live in a ramshackle house named Larklight floating in deep space. But then giant spiders invade Larklight and kidnap their father, and Art and Myrtle barely escape. They join up with a pirate crew led by the notorious Captain Jack Havock and have a number of thrilling adventures whilst evading the spiders.
I really, really wanted to like this book. The illustrations are charming, and the combination of steampunk and ya should make this book a slam-dunk. Reeve has created a universe filled with sentient storms on Saturn, a plague that turns people into trees, ships powered by alchemical weddings...It's imaginative, though a little heavy-handed. But it just didn't work for me.
The main problem I had was the characters. From the very start, Art continually jibes at his sister for being so prissy and priggish. Turns out, the author didn't like the sister much either. Myrtle is unbelievably awful, in this very specific way that only female characters are. She keeps asking Art what's going to happen next and demanding he reassure her--even though she's years older! They get rescued from certain death by pirates, and she complains that the pirate ship is dirty. She gets kidnapped by obvious villains and thinks that just because they have nice linen they must be good. Running from more certain death, she refuses to run across the villains' lawn because it has a "keep off the grass" sign. She whines constantly. She saves the day literally completely by accident. And then she and the Peter Pan-type character fall into each others' arms, for no reason I can discern.
If I hadn't been so annoyed with Myrtle, the plot would still have frustrated me. It's a series of set pieces, all culminating in a deus-ex-machina. I don't think I was worried for even a single paragraph. Disappointing!(less)
Caroline is beautiful, musically gifted, and good; she is the shining star of a small town on the water. The story is told by her twin sister Louise,...moreCaroline is beautiful, musically gifted, and good; she is the shining star of a small town on the water. The story is told by her twin sister Louise, who is almost sick with jealousy and longing. Louise is not a flawless person, but I loved her just the same: her work-roughened hands, her terrible puns, her puzzlement at her anger when a friend falls in love with her sister. It's a good book about complicated family relationships, and Paterson never pulls back on showing the truth of it. In the end, both sisters manage to break free and become their own people.
An atom bomb gives little Sadako cancer. She (and an ever-expanding group of well-wishers) starts folding paper cranes in the hope of wishing herself...moreAn atom bomb gives little Sadako cancer. She (and an ever-expanding group of well-wishers) starts folding paper cranes in the hope of wishing herself well.
It doesn't work. She dies.
Every time a child reads this, they cry for days. (less)
Ethan can't wait to leave the little town of Gatlin. But then Lena Duchannes shows up, and he realizes he'd give up anything at all to keep her safe a...moreEthan can't wait to leave the little town of Gatlin. But then Lena Duchannes shows up, and he realizes he'd give up anything at all to keep her safe and happy. Ethan has no power to do so, however, because Lena is a powerful Caster and Ethan is just a mortal. What can he do against the dark forces seeking Lena's soul, or the fate that has tainted the Duchannes line for generations?
I loved the portrayal of Gatlin, with all its comforts and constraints and traditions. It felt like a real place. Ethan and Lena are a great couple, both as individuals and together; I bought their relationship entirely. I thought the plot was a little scattered, but I was so enthused by the role reversals in this book that I didn't care. That said, I liked the recent movie better.(less)
A good accompaniment to the Little House series. A widower seeks a new wife as a help-mate, and in response to his newspaper ad comes Sarah, plain and...moreA good accompaniment to the Little House series. A widower seeks a new wife as a help-mate, and in response to his newspaper ad comes Sarah, plain and tall. A sweet little story about the developing relationship between a step-mother and her new family, and a nice snippet of frontier life.(less)
The final confrontation between the Shadow Academy and the Jedi Academy. Zekk, his pain all too clear, attacks his former friends Jaina and Jacen. Ten...moreThe final confrontation between the Shadow Academy and the Jedi Academy. Zekk, his pain all too clear, attacks his former friends Jaina and Jacen. Tenel Ka takes out the witch Tamith Kai. And Luke destroys the evil Academy, with his former apprentice (now evil) Brakkis, within it. I was so, so excited to read this when it came out, and I don't believe I was disappointed.(less)
The Jedi trainees go to Kashyyyk, where they hope to help Lowbacca's younger sister complete a dangerous rite of passage. I liked the insight into the...moreThe Jedi trainees go to Kashyyyk, where they hope to help Lowbacca's younger sister complete a dangerous rite of passage. I liked the insight into the Wookie culture, and it helped differentiate Lowbacca for me, who I'd previously passed over. (less)
The Jedi trainees are ready to make their lightsabers, but Tenel Ka is impatient with herself. She rushes the delicate process, and her lightsaber giv...moreThe Jedi trainees are ready to make their lightsabers, but Tenel Ka is impatient with herself. She rushes the delicate process, and her lightsaber gives out during a training duel with Jacen--and his lightsaber promptly cuts off her arm. Stricken, Tenel Ka returns to her homeworld. She has always defined herself as a warrior, and now she thinks herself useless. But her grandmother's tough love, and her friends' good sense, convince her that she can still be a warrior, and she returns to the Academy to complete her training.
I loved this book. Tenel Ka shines, and the friendships feel real and specific. There's a scene where the twins teach her to braid her hair with only one hand that I remember to this day. And the book doesn't pull back in its portrayal of her grief and feelings of worthlessness. In this book, the characterization IS the plot.(less)
Jaina and Jacen return to Coruscant for a vacation and see an old friend, Zekk. But though the twins have had plenty of adventures, they've never expe...moreJaina and Jacen return to Coruscant for a vacation and see an old friend, Zekk. But though the twins have had plenty of adventures, they've never experienced the problems Zekk has. Orphaned, destitute, without any support, Zekk has been making a living in the underworld of the city. He feels humiliated by his old friends' success and obvious privilege. They try to include him, but after he eats the centerpiece at a feast (thinking it to be a salad), he refuses to have anything to do with them. Instead, he is recruited by the Shadow Academy, where the witches twist and train him to be a dark Jedi.
It's fascinating to me that there are still serious class issues and poverty in the New Republic, but it makes sense--Lucas's universe is based on the ideal of elitism. For a young adult book, there is a great deal of tension here. (less)
The witches of Dathomir, introduced in The Courtship of Princess Leia, are back. And they've started an evil "Shadow Academy" to train Jedi for a resu...moreThe witches of Dathomir, introduced in The Courtship of Princess Leia, are back. And they've started an evil "Shadow Academy" to train Jedi for a resurrected Emperor! And they want Jaina and Jacen to join! Hahhaha, wut? Still, lots of fun, not least because there's a good bit of Luke and some more characterization for Tenel Ka.(less)
Oh how I adored these books. It took two weeks of saving up my lunch money to get each one, but they were worth it. Jaina and Jacen are bestest friend...moreOh how I adored these books. It took two weeks of saving up my lunch money to get each one, but they were worth it. Jaina and Jacen are bestest friends, and they are training to be Jedi Knights at their uncle's academy. Through a series of adventures, they become good friends with Chewie's nephew Lowbacca (who I sadly do not remember at all) and the proud Tenel Ka. Lots of pep and energy to these books, and a nice lack of any huge Imperial plot or resurrected Sith.(less)
Perfect for kids who love Star Wars. Little Anakin Solo has started his Jedi training, but he's scared that he'll fall to the Dark Side, as his name-s...morePerfect for kids who love Star Wars. Little Anakin Solo has started his Jedi training, but he's scared that he'll fall to the Dark Side, as his name-sake did.(less)
Following Katniss's final act of defiance in The Hunger Games, the oppressed people of the Districts have begun a revolt. The Capital decides that the...moreFollowing Katniss's final act of defiance in The Hunger Games, the oppressed people of the Districts have begun a revolt. The Capital decides that the best way to solve this is to send Katniss into the 75th annual Hunger Game, as a special "treat" to the viewers.
Another fantastic, gripping adventure story. The revolts themselves feel much more natural and realistic than the majority I've read--Collins does an excellent job and conveying the hunger and cold and hopelessness that drive both apathy and revolution.
What really struck me about this series were the characters. Katniss is best at hunting and killing; she lacks emotional intelligence and eloquence. Her sometime-boyfriend Peeta loves to paint and bake cookies; his first instinct is to negotiate, and he is always kind and generous. A reversal from the usual gender roles, and yet it doesn't come across as forced--the characterizations feel perfectly natural. The background characters are a mixture of races and genders, and no one group is pigeon-holed into a role. There are no stereotypes here: even the stylist team hired to make Katniss look good for her tv appearances have depth.
In the very near future, gladiatorial battles to the death have become a worldwide phenomenon. And despite her pacifistic stance, teenaged Lyn is righ...moreIn the very near future, gladiatorial battles to the death have become a worldwide phenomenon. And despite her pacifistic stance, teenaged Lyn is right in the middle of it. Her mother has married a succession of gladiators, each dying in the ring, and Lyn and her brother have been raised knowing little but "Glad" culture. Lyn is mocked and bullied in school, but everywhere else she's a minor celebrity. Only a few people understand her odd position: her childhood friend Mark (himself the son of a former gladiator) and her step-father Tommy, the top-ranked gladiator in the world. But then tragedy strikes, and Lyn is forced to make an impossible choice.
The world building feels a little forced here: Lyn's life is ruled by the Glad bylaws, but why would gladiatorial fighting rules created in the 20th century have rules about women's dowry braclets, even while women fight as gladiators and there don't seem to be actual dowries or stigma attached to premarital sex (well, no more than there is today)? It seems more like the author forced random rules into the story in order to push Lyn into a love triangle. The characters themselves are great, and their relationships are the truest, best part of the story. They have fantastic conversations, each clearly coming from their own specific circumstances, with different experiences coloring how they read situations. The plot races along, pulling Lyn with it as each of the pillars of her world crumble. But near the end, the plot takes a turn for the disappointing.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT
Because Uber picked up Lyn's dowry bracelet, the bylaws say they have to marry. And if they don't, Lyn's family will lose the house and their money, making it nearly impossible to care for Lyn's disabled brother. But then Lyn decides she'll fight Uber instead, and pushes Caeser's (the owners of the gladiatorial games) to accept that as a viable alternative. All through the novel Lyn has had flashbacks to her many instances of training with gladiators--she was raised by them, after all--and we've repeatedly seen her have a ruthless killer instinct. But instead of actually fighting Uber, she decides to send in a Second Life character with her face to fight for her. (If they can make holographic projections of people, why spend all this time programming a Second Life character to look and act like her instead of just taping Lyn and using her actual body and moves? The inclusion of Second Life felt really unnecessary.) Even this would be a cool idea--I thought maybe she could use the success of the fight to convince Caeser's to use realistic holographic projections to fight instead of real people actually dying. But no, she ends up fighting Uber anyway, and accidentally runs her disabled brother through with her sword. I though maybe THIS would finally bring down Caeser's--they created a situation where a young girl almost kills her even younger brother, on live tv. But no, instead Lyn narrates a quick epilogue about how now she's suing Caeser's but nothing else has changed. She's using her increased fame and notoriety to get access to the original creator of the games (who no longer controls them). Finally, I thought, this will be how she brings down Caeser's, the company that made her life hell, killed seven of her fathers, drove her mother to suicide, tried to force her to marry her father's murderer, and is not only glamorizing violence, but actually seems to be taking over the country. And...still nada.
So basically, despite many, many ways in which Lyn could have defeated the evil corporation poisoning the world, it ends up with Lyn embroiled in a court case and hoping to go to college someday. All the plot about her training and killer instinct meant nothing. All the plot about her growing friendship with Uber and his own distaste for Caeser's meant nothing. Even running her brother through with a sword meant nothing--despite his recurring prophecy that he would become the most famous person ever (which I took to mean outrage over his death would be the lynchpin to pull down a multinational corporation). Very frustrating! It might be more realistic, but c'mon--don't promise a "girl in the arena" in the title and then not even have her fight a gladiatorial battle, let alone win anything.(less)
After her parents died in a freak storm, Olwen has grown up alone on the alien world of Isis. She spends her days roaming the planet she considers her...moreAfter her parents died in a freak storm, Olwen has grown up alone on the alien world of Isis. She spends her days roaming the planet she considers her own. The only person she speaks to is the Guardian of Isis. But at last, colonists are coming to Isis.
This book feels very dated. The style of writing, the gender norms, the tech, all felt very golden-age scifi. Additionally, the OMG PLOT TWISTs are excrutiatingly obvious. Once they're out of the way, the story improves. Overall, I did quite like this story. Although Olwen is almost excessively feminine in some ways, she is also incredibly physically courageous (fans of Cashore's Graceling will appreciate her) and self-sufficient. And most of all, I love the basic message of this book: that being yourself and free is worth more than romance or even companionship. (less)