How do you review a painting? You may discuss contrast, contours, use of colours. But it is meaningless if the person you are discussing it with hasn’...moreHow do you review a painting? You may discuss contrast, contours, use of colours. But it is meaningless if the person you are discussing it with hasn’t seen the painting already.
How do you review a madeleine? Here is Proust’s take:
”I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory — this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?”
Even Proust can but convey the feeling it inspires. I understand it. But I still have no idea what that madeleine tastes like.
Yes, unlike the examples above, the review and its subjects are in the same medium and therefore closer. But I say that reviewing Swann’s Way is an exercise just as futile. You have to read it. And I have to go to eat that Madeleine de Commercy.(less)
My first impression of this book was "I thought it would be thicker". My final impression is "I wish it was thicker".
I know it is impossible; author ch...moreMy first impression of this book was "I thought it would be thicker". My final impression is "I wish it was thicker".
I know it is impossible; author chose to focus on Ragnarok, not Norse or Germanic mythology in general. The long introduction of dramatis personae is merely so we would feel more connected to the characters that participate in the end of the world.
But it's been a while since I've seen Norse mythology presented in a work of fiction without being bleached for kids, Christianised or otherwise shifted into black&white or black&grey spectrum. (I'm looking at you, Neil Gaiman.) So I wish the author tackled more myths, not just Ragnarok and parts relevant to prepare for it.
The narrative might not be everyone's cup of tea. Byatt is no Tolkien and trying to affect the poetic style does not always work out well. I actually liked the view from the perspective of the child in wartime. Parallels weren't too much "in-your-face". And living through a war does shift one's perspective. My father swears a lot of books he read before it held a new meaning when re-read after it.
I disliked the final part, "Thoughts on Myths". It reminded me why I like skipping or skimming through introduction, afterword and other discussions of authorial intent. It started out well enough, mentioning some references I intend to look into, but then it shifted into preaching. Was it really necessary? The only purpose I see for it is upping the very low word count.
Still, even with flaws, the main part is good enough for me to love this book to the point it gets five stars. I can't guarantee it will be that enjoyable for everyone else.(less)
Well, Valente is far from the first to try writing her own fairytale "for adults". I will admit that the idea of using Russian stories, however, is no...moreWell, Valente is far from the first to try writing her own fairytale "for adults". I will admit that the idea of using Russian stories, however, is novel. (YA using random elements lifted from Wiki does not count.) She gets even further credit because she did do actual research.
However, if you are to speak in the language of a fairytale, you have to narrate like one, too. Valente breaks the convention. I understand it's the style of the genre she named, Mythpunk. But it didn't work out for me, and from what I see in the other reviews, it was problematic for many other readers. It would have been better if it was more original fantasy only based on fairytale world. As close as Deathless plays it, though, up to and adopting stylistic elements such repetition and threes, sudden switch to modern narrative techniques creates a dissonance. Maybe it disturbed me even more because I'm familiar with some of the stories and this kind of fairytales.
First, there is the not-prologue. Basically, it's a scene that takes place somewhere in the book. It resembles a teaser just before the TV episode. It's not only cheap play at getting reader's attention. It's also very misleading. It doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the book. The event in it is irrelevant (view spoiler)[and doesn't take place until near the very ending (hide spoiler)].
Then, the final part. There is a sudden POV switch – for no purpose that I can see. It brought us no new knowledge. And it happens only once. It's just awkward.
Frankly, the twist at the end sounds a bit not-planned-ahead, too. It seems as if though the author wrote herself into the corner. And I understand: there were not many ways to write a story with that kind of characters and get the kind of the ending she obviously wanted. The kind of ending I wanted, to be honest. But I can't help wondering if there wasn't a more elegant way to resolve it and if that whole episode was really necessary.
Valente's language is often talked about. Most of the time, it works, particularly considering how close the story is to a fairytale. But sometimes, it goes too far:
“Her cheek warmed where a child slapped her once, years before.”
(view spoiler)[We actually see the slapping scene mentioned near the beginning. But the link is a bit too much of a stretch. (hide spoiler)]
Another thing that felt a bit over-the-top is BDSM lite. No, it's not explicit. And yes, I understand that such relationships would be relevant here, but it seemed to be taken a bit too far. Very cavalier open relationship between Marya and Koshchei seems a bit unrealistic, particularly since we don't see much emotional development of either. It sounds like it's based entirely on sex and powerplay. Which is okay, except that then we're supposed to believe it's love after all. Again, not impossible, but we really don't see much of the attachment there. As far as the relationships go, one between Marya and Ivan was fleshed out better. Yes, classic fairytale romances are not developed and are pretty much straightforward, but if you are going to give it the third dimension, you can't stop halfway.
Still, as far as love triangles go, this is a good example of how to do it right: it's not about who's a better choice. Heroine, too, is hardly a typical protagonist. The way fairytale meshes with "real world" is very well done too. I loved the take on classical characters, particularly the dragon.
I really liked this book, but I felt that some things could have been done much better.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Don't be misled by the summary: this is not your average spiritual book. "Meditations" are witty short stories. Even if you aren't looking for enlight...moreDon't be misled by the summary: this is not your average spiritual book. "Meditations" are witty short stories. Even if you aren't looking for enlightement, it's a fun read.(less)
I was about to leave the book unreviewed. But it deserves better, even if “better” are my random and awkwardly phrased thoughts.
I liked the heroine –...moreI was about to leave the book unreviewed. But it deserves better, even if “better” are my random and awkwardly phrased thoughts.
I liked the heroine – a rare occurrence for me these days. I like how author handled her “disability” – yes, it is somewhat convenient but at the same time it gets her into trouble more often than not. And this trouble will lead to other consequences much later on. This particular plot device is oft-used and nearly as often misused, but Hartman did it as it should be done.
This brings me to another thing I liked – the way plot is woven. There are a few Chekhov’s guns lying around. And twists, while surprising, still seem natural. You won’t ask yourself “How?” when revelations come, but “Why didn’t I see it?”
But what I liked the best was the worldbuilding. Without infodumps. Yes, you read that right. There is a fantasy novel set in alternate universe without a few pages of exposition about it. Oh, there are sections where parts of history, geography and culture are explained, but they come up when relevant and only on need-to-know basis. You learn more about the world as the story progresses. It might have been close to the other extreme – too little – at times (particularly geography), but I cannot see the way author could have explained more and kept the story flowing as it is.
This story flow is another important quality. Most of critical reviews pointed out pacing as the greatest problem. I didn’t have it. (Then again, I’ve read and loved books with slower and possibly uneven pacing.) The book was a page-turner. See the status updates? I had guilty conscience about halfway-read ARC and other unfinished books so the first part is choppy (I had to force myself to put the book down), but when I finished with priorities, I sat…and swallowed the second half in one sitting.
Other things I liked: 1) Strong, female characters (NOT strong female characters) 2) Love interest. It was obvious and yet not – it’s quite possible it was obvious only because of genre savviness. Even with that, I doubted it at times. I like how it developed. And I liked the character. I finally empathise with the concept of YA book crush
This is technically YA, isn’t it? I’m actually reluctant to sort it as such. Thanks to the recent reputation of genre, and my own misgivings about this “YA books must be dumbed down simplified” philosophy that seems widespread among writers, calling this book YA sounds degrading to me. But there you have it. I’d hope this is a herald of positive changes in the genre, but I know better.
And now, allow me to tell you how I felt about this book.
Dear Rachel Hartman,
PLS RITE MOAR.
Sincerely Yours, Fans Starved for Quality Fantasy(less)