somewhere in upstate new york, there's a secret college for magicians that's most definitely not hogwarts. getting into it doesn't involve being whisk...moresomewhere in upstate new york, there's a secret college for magicians that's most definitely not hogwarts. getting into it doesn't involve being whisked away by a felicitous note, but instead a day-long SAT/practical exam on nonsense ("The room was filled with a collective rustling of paper, like a flock of birds taking off. It was the motion of a bunch of high-powered type-A test killers getting down to their bloody work."), with a mind-wipe for those without passing grades. and once you get in, there will be no silly incantations or wand-waving: it's all professor snape's class, all the time.
Grossman has written a deliciously subversive take on the fantasy coming-of-age-tale. magic college is hard work, with just as much cram sessions, drinking, and ill-advised sex as you remember in your more mundane college days...and post-graduation holds just as much world-weariness as any other bored, privileged , hipster yuppie lifestyle. in fact, the grind gets a little too realistic, dragging down the middle section, though it feels genuinely honest. there are startling moments of beauty and brutality scattered throughout the fantastic prose, and i have huge props for anything that surprises me enough to literally make me drop my book to exclaim "holy ^$@!!"
I honestly have no idea wha to make of this book. maybe I'll ponder it for a while, and come to some final epiphany, or maybe this meandering bit of n...moreI honestly have no idea wha to make of this book. maybe I'll ponder it for a while, and come to some final epiphany, or maybe this meandering bit of notes is all that's going to come of it.
I haven't the slightest who recommended this book to me, I just remember it was described in such amazingly glowing terms that struck just the right chord with me, and I knew I'd love it. I'm not at all sure whether or not I liked it, though, and right now, it's just a wandering bit of contradictions.
though it was pitched to me as a fantasy supernatural-flavored horror novel, that's not this book. 'the red tree' is a southern-gothic, creeping-dread sort of descent into madness, with a narrator so unreliable that there's no assurance of anything fantastic actually happening at all. Kiernan writes some amazing prose. the words are sharp and precise and then spin out into flowy description that's all so sparely lovely that it made the heavy use of the word "fuck" almost a distraction. written as a journal, the immersal into the author's mind was intimate almost to the point of voyeuristic - in her head, at least, she's very frank about her sexual desires and exactly what she thinks of the whole useless world. the dreams she writes in her journal are amazingly rich journeys begging for archetypical dissection, but then noting actually happens in the waking world.
wow, I'm going to have to read something properly fluffy next. (less)
a son of a sultan sneaks out of the palace at night to listen to a more-than-half wild creature tell him wonderous tales. she's an orphan of unknown p...morea son of a sultan sneaks out of the palace at night to listen to a more-than-half wild creature tell him wonderous tales. she's an orphan of unknown parentage living out in the gardens of the palace, and she has innumerable stories inked across her eyelids that she spins out unfinished night to night like Scheherazade. as the characters in each tale interact with someone else, they begin telling their own tale before finishing the first, resulting in a russian-nested-dolls approach to storytelling. in the hands of a less-gifted author, the approach would have come off as gimmicky or forced; in Valente's hands though, it's utterly fascinating and makes this book extremely hard to put down. it's not an easy book, as you're required to keep threads of many different lives straight at once, but those threads are each very brightly colored and the effort is well worth it. fans of old stories and myths will be consistently delighted at the tales that are clear variants of old faves, and perhaps even more so that the many shiny new workings that sound just as familar.
highly recommended, with the caveat that the 2nd book is a continuation of the first rather than a sequel.(less)
somewhen in the future, north america has become a collection of districts ruled over absolutely by the central capitol. as permanent penance for the...moresomewhen in the future, north america has become a collection of districts ruled over absolutely by the central capitol. as permanent penance for the long-ago lost revolution, each district must send an annual tribute of 2 teenagers to fight to the death in the capitol's arena. when hunter Katniss' sister is chosen as tribute, she takes the younger one's place and is shipped off to be brusquely prepped to kill her peers in the annual hunger games.
though it's tempting to dissect this down to it's constituent ideas (decadent mother Rome harvesting gladiators from everywhere in her scattered empire; the princess stepping up to take everyone's place in 'dragonslayer's lottery, the brutality of 'battle royale'), this is so much more than the sum of these parts. Collins skillfully creates a tale where the emotional stress and moral ambiguity of killing to survive feels horribly real. characters are vividly unique and utterly memorable, each with their own motivations and responses to the pressures to do whatever is necessary to survive. somewhat flawed by an overlong post-climax and soft ending, but more than enough to make you want to immediately snap up the sequel.(less)