I went back and forth between 4 and 5 stars for a long while on this one. It's a sort of wriggly, swishy kind of a book for me; I had trouble gettingI went back and forth between 4 and 5 stars for a long while on this one. It's a sort of wriggly, swishy kind of a book for me; I had trouble getting started on it, and it's not perfect by any means, but I finished it in the wee hours of this morning and I've quite literally been thinking about it all day. That broke the 4 or 5 tie for me.
I suspect being a Horse Person(TM) made a difference in how much I liked the book, as a lot (really, most) of the story deals with training and care of the animals, albeit intertwined with development of the characters' personal quests and other plot points. If you really couldn't give a darn about horses, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to you. If you think horses are nice but unremarkable, not unlike having clean socks or finding there's still one cookie left when you thought they were all gone, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to you, either.
That said, if you don't like horses but DO like (predominantly) Gaelic mythology, I might suggest giving it a whirl anyway. I really liked the author's interpretation of the Kelpie lore and the way the fairy lore (the iron, the bells, etc.) was weaved in without massive info dump-age.
My main criticism of the book is that every move is telegraphed way ahead of time (at least, they were to me). Within the first 20 pages or so, you'll likely have figured out who dies, who ends up with whom, who wins the big race. Heck, you'll probably have figured out some of that from reading the cover blurb. I'm tempted to let that go because it's YA, but on the other hand ... I want my YA to "reach", too. It's hard to criticize this too much, in any case, because even though I was 99% sure what was going to happen, once I got into it I was still frantically turning pages until the end.
My other (somewhat spoilery) criticism is that (view spoiler)[ the author chose fairly minor characters to die, in addition to one more-major-but-really-obvious character. It took some of the teeth out of the deaths; these weren't particularly impactful characters and thus their deaths weren't particularly impactful, either. Again, it's YA - no one dies except the best friend yadda yaddda - but it still felt a little flat. (hide spoiler)]
The good - Puck, Sean, Dove and Corr - character development isn't really strong here, but I like this group the way it is. These are people I'd like to know. - The atmosphere and setting of the island. Cheeky, off-hand references to Somewhere Possibly A Bit Scottish. - The slow-burn sprinkling of romance. No soppy insta-love here.
The bad - Slow start. I'm not even sure why upon reflection; it's just a little hard to get into. - Some of the secondary characters and their plots were a bit awkward (for instance, the priest always seemed like he should be doing something more, to me, or not been there at all). - The plot is not particularly sophisticated. The book drifts along on the author's lyrical phrasing, the world of the island and the interest (if you have it) in the characters and animals, but you'll know what's going to happen pretty much right away.
Final tally Definitely recommend horse people give it a try. I'd also suggest it to fairy and/or mythology fans, as well as YA fans who are sick of "I saw him/her for 30 seconds and then we were IN LOVE!" and don't mind horses that occasionally snack on their riders. I haven't read any of Stiefvater's other works, but they immediately went on my to-read list after finishing this. That is a pretty strong recommendation, in my books.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I actually had to force myself to put this down so I could do other things with my day. I would have been perfectly content to plow through all 600+ pI actually had to force myself to put this down so I could do other things with my day. I would have been perfectly content to plow through all 600+ pages in one sitting.
The copy of the book I got - not even on the shelves in the store yet - had a shiny new "The Original Survival Game!" stick on the front. Apparently the publishers are ready to cash in on the fact everyone seems to think The Hunger Games is a rip off of this story, too. Do I agree? Hmm.
The premises are, essentially, the same. A group of teens is taken to a remote location by a corrupt government and forced to fight to the death until only one remains. Taken at that level, sure; I'd have to agree it looks like Ms. Collins was inspired by this book. But looking into it more closely ... I dunno. Superficially these works resemble each other, but below the surface...
Battle Royale was a hard read for me. An emotionally hard read, that is. Because I knew most of these kids were done for, and there were so many of them that I wanted to live. (view spoiler)[Shinji. ;o; (hide spoiler)] I found the work more complex in this way; there wasn't one person you were obviously 'supposed' to be cheering on. The relationship between the kids added to that - they weren't complete strangers but classmates, in many cases for several years. In this respect, I think the emotional content of this book was head and shoulders above THG and that alone, to me, is enough that they are completely different reads. Rather than comparing them directly as one copying the other, I'd almost rather say they share an archetype harkening back to gladiatorial fights.
Speaking of differences ... my original comment about how the book was to my husband was "Very Japanese". I would never claim to be an expert, but as a student of Japanese culture and literature (and yes, a fan of anime and manga, too), I'm used to a higher tolerance for violence in their works in general and specifically for kids. This book is no different. It has a lot of graphic violence in it. A lot. Like, if they're going to sell it in the store as "If you loved The Hunger Games..." I think they might have a lot of pissed off parents bringing it back. Not saying that your average 13-year-old Team Peeta Team Gale girl might not like it - I would have liked it at 13 - but I'm really sure my mom wouldn't have appreciated me reading about Japanese kids butchering each other in gory, squishy, intestines-like-sausages detail. Not for the faint of heart, this one, and I'm not 100% sure I'd say it's broadly YA-appropriate on a North American standard although, again, I'm no expert on that.
I think there are a few places where the translation probably hinders some of the text (in nuance, at least), and I kind of hate the printer for putting how many students remaining in bold text at the end of each chapter. Spoilers, people.
This book was breathtaking and shocking and beautiful and horrible and I loved it to pieces. Sticky, shrapnel-covered-in-brains pieces.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more