Sigh. It feels like the few 4-star first halves I’ve found from this year all have 2-star second halves: Life After Life, Dark Triumph, this. Well, I...moreSigh. It feels like the few 4-star first halves I’ve found from this year all have 2-star second halves: Life After Life, Dark Triumph, this. Well, I guess it’s not clean in half; in chapter 18 (of 30), an incident occurs that leads to a fight between the protagonists, and after that the book drops in quality and doesn’t manage to recover. And I suppose the book feels like it’s at its best when the two are hanging out, which doesn’t start till chapter 13.
Anyway, I prefer the book when it’s set in the present. The flashbacks to the backstories of the jinni and Schaalman don’t hold my interest, and are there to set up a plot arc that I’m not into. The book works best when it’s magical yet realistic, telling the story of two supernatural beings who also happen to be immigrants to America struggling to find a way to fit in enough to skirt discovery of their different-ness and maybe even find some measure of happiness. But as the book goes on it goes more and more into the fantasy genre, with plotting straight from a Christopher Pike novel, overly convenient contrivances and all.
Aside from the titular characters, the only character I care for is the rabbi. Michael is saintly. Schaalman is a caricature of eeeevil. Anna is a silly girl. Arbeely despite being around a whole lot comes off as merely petty and flat. Fadwa’s presence forms the basis for the stupid plotline I don’t like. Sophia doesn’t really matter, though she’s a vague sketch of a character plucked from a novel centered around the marriage plot, which is a genre I enjoy. Saleh matters, but he’s not interesting enough for all that character arc-ing he gets. I would probably like Matthew if he got to have a personality. (less)
ACTUAL RATING: 4.5 stars Definitely surpassed my expectations. When the book came out I read a thorough plot summary and was like, “But nothing happens...moreACTUAL RATING: 4.5 stars Definitely surpassed my expectations. When the book came out I read a thorough plot summary and was like, “But nothing happens. Bleh.” So I decided to save the reading for when the next, actually plotful book was about to come out. Which was a good idea, as when I got around to it this week I really needed a distraction. And, okay, not much happens per se – the ending to this book easily COULD have replaced the ending of Changes, and the time lapse implied at the beginning of Cold Days could have explained the rapidity of the post-Changes changes back in Chicago.
However, this is very much a transition-y book, sort of like a season premiere of a TV show. There is definitely a lot of exposition, both unfolding parts of Harry’s past that we didn’t know too much about and showing how a Harry-less world holds up. The villain is a repeat one who while formidable isn’t particularly exciting to see return, and the inevitable defeat of the villain doesn’t rank high up on the list of Dresden book climaxes especially after Changes’ climax. But in the context of the purpose of this book, that makes sense. The book is very much about closing a chapter on some things, opening a new one on others, and reflecting on Harry’s past while giving a glimpse into how it might shape his new, exciting future.
If all this was done in a regular, action-packed Dresden File – which I’m assuming Cold Days will be – it’d have felt overstuffed and likely not very cohesive. So it’s not really about plot, this book, it’s about characterization, setting, and those other elements we learn about in our school days. And the book does a great job at furthering them in ways that are realistic and grounded in what we know, yet surprising because while the possibility of Harry being gone from Chicago has always been dangled with his various dangerous experiences (and, y’know, other things that Changes caused), no one but Butcher knew exactly what it would be like.
But I can’t quite give the book 5 stars as I gave the last bunch of them; the villain is malevolent and makes sense given the plot twists Butcher is going for, but the discovery of the identity of, and the destruction of, said villain aren’t that exciting because I never cared that much one way or the other about this character. Harry also spends a bunch of pages overthinking/emo-ing/moping about how things stand – yes, he often spends a long time thinking about things in past books, but it’s generally productive and/or entertaining, two adjectives I wouldn’t necessarily apply to a lot of what he does in this book. It kinda reminds me of this other book…I think the Fever series’ most recent installment, though Ghost Story is far more satisfying than that book thanks to maintaining the Dresden Files’ rich and nuanced world full of memorable, realistically flawed beings who keep holding our interest. Even when I thought GS wouldn’t satisfy me, Cold Days was at the top of my list of anticipated books for 2012, and now it’s…even more so.
A few quotes: (view spoiler)["Oh yes. I feel I have grown tremendously from my experience of nearly being incinerated." "You’ve finally been inside me. I feel like I should be offering you a cigarette.” (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
(view spoiler)[Notes while reading: 3 bil people dead. No Unseelie queen. Seelie king off ignoring duties. Walls down. Father in torture over his poor s...more(view spoiler)[Notes while reading: 3 bil people dead. No Unseelie queen. Seelie king off ignoring duties. Walls down. Father in torture over his poor soon. Isla O’Connor biomom. Is the bk in her? Cruce is the bk 2. It’s like she’s the king’s daughter. That’s…convenient. Sinsar dubh Starts out moving slowly. “Alina had been dressed like a sunbeam, and I’d been a rainbow.” – This again. “Women fight differently from men. You couldn’t get me to hurt a woman’s breasts for anything.” – I just learned about this from someone… “The one place I thought I might make friends was at the abbey, among my own kind. Now, thanks to Rowena, that opportunity was closed to me.“ – I like that. She avoids the clichéd route. “I am not Pri-ya!” – Dunno why I find the word so amusing. The only sensor. “I didn’t care for that “best hope for your race” stuff. I test poorly. I’ve never functioned well under pressure.” – Makes me think of HP, again. “It’s just that in the Deep South, women learn at a young age that when the world is falling apart around you, it’s time to take down the drapes and make a new dress.” – Love GwtW. “Steer me around like a horny little divining rod.” – Black sexual humor, interesting. Also, multiple levels working here. “People said sadly, and never quite quietly enough, ‘Poor MacKayla, Alina got the brains and the beauty.’” – I like that this is touched upon but not in a patronizing “and that’s why she’s nice” kind of way. She is nice, though. The stones and the book and the 5? That’s a fecking lot of stuff. A Seelie traitor stripped of his faerie-ness. “You might as well have raped me. In fact, that’s exactly what you did!” – Now I’m thinking of Dresden Files. “Deep down, I just wanted to go back to being the girl I used to be.” How very Btvs. Seriously, Fiona? You just don’t stop sucking. Well, they may not touch the other court’s stuff, but can the Seelie still be killed? 21 libraries is excessive for this # of people. More like a uni. 7 circles…like hell. “The leader of a cause is never the cause itself.” Well…depends on how you define cause. Oh my, incompetence. Fair and reasonable. The only club? But you were a cheerleader. “He’d managed to . . . well, rise above it.” – Innuendo win. “Doesn’t sound like an association to me. Sounds like a tyranny.” – And at least at this point she still recognizes it as being in such a realm. Well, what about men who think great pillow talk is revealing damaging info? What about them? I don’t think she’s dumb. But neither do I think this dumb talk is a Mary Sue fake flaw, so I’ll sit on how I feel about this. I like Jayne. Even if he is slightly clichéd in the Super Good Cop way. “What is the greater good but tyranny’s chameleon?” – Okay mostly true (and also HP reminiscent) but not always. “You trust my word?” “You’re an idealistic fool. Of course.” – Kinda funny, but this is less playful banter than being an ahole. Do not want romance. I enjoy the reminders of her past life; it grounds her and makes her more real. “Jayne was a brilliant idea and you know it.” – Yes, own it. Yay self-cutting? That’s not a particularly good lesson. It’s probably more effective than warding off snowballs a la Dresden Files though. Hunger is what it is. Also makes me think of Dresden. “Chocolate should make you fat and flowers should die. Those were things you could count on.” – I do enjoy the casual throwaway lines this author excels in writing. I like the Peter Parker thing, where the hero really doesn’t have excitement at playing the hero but feels like they have to because they can. And that people who would be clichéd mentors are all morally grey. And kinda douchey. Sum: Queen the boss, only Seelie. He made the Unseelie so he could make life too. The mirror so she could travel, amulet to shape reality and make her Fae-like, box to help her loneliness (heh?). The bk has his knowledge so he could beg to lead them w/o the darkness. Only king/queen can touch all things. Um…this seems like a lame ploy. Like really lame. “I have not been her lover for . . . some time,” he offered, watching me carefully. “Oh, get over yourself! That’s not why I cried.” – Comical win moment. Interesting word choice. I’m sensing…a shift in their relationship, closer towards an evitable True Love. I hope that’s delayed. Humans are suck, yes, but that trope’s played out. “I gave up the idea of going home a long time ago, Barrons. One day I will. When it’s safe.” – Effective heartstring tug. Like Faith Lehane, I’m feeling it. “Do not construct your world around mine. I’m not that man…I’m not that man either.” – He sure is cocky. I will accept that he can be funny, but I still don’t like him. I want chocolate & raspberry. Yum. Oh look more abuse. A good reminder of why I don’t like him. “It’s only if I eat pink cakes that I can hunt the Book!” – I must say, I really like how long the author’s been able to make pink & rainbow an actually resonant part of Mac instead of being, well, stupid. Brava. I don’t like how she’s kinda okay with it. Well-done with tying together love/goodness/power in a physical way. The city’s Dark. How thrilling/scary. Hmm, turning to high-ish fantasy? Kinda zombie-ish too. Hello 4 horsemen…okay not a good way to end the abstinence. Sex + music? Ok then. “And she will. That was my promise in her words.” – Ooh I like how much she liked those words. 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As good as the first book. I like Mac's character growth, and still admire the characterization of the other players while not actually liking them. W...moreAs good as the first book. I like Mac's character growth, and still admire the characterization of the other players while not actually liking them. Which I think I'm supposed to by this point.
Notes...though mostly quotes...while I was reading the book. Not sure if my lack of comments means the quotes aren't amazing or if I wanted to hurry on and read more.
(view spoiler)[No he doesn’t beat you. Now. "I catch myself trying to decide if they’re lefties or righties. Alina used to laugh and say if you can’t tell, Junior, you don’t want to know." I just realized that she doesn’t really do stuff besides careen into trouble (but not damsel-like, so +) and look for OOPs. "I sounded like a bad actor in a worse movie." "I’d bet he had a six-pack. He was a serious leftie." Lol. Grand mistress. "I enjoyed recommending great reads and discovering new ones from the customers." – I forgot she really liked reading. Pink, rainbows. “A man’s ego is roughly the size of his pickup truck, and women get an early and interesting education in the not-so-subtle roar of testosterone.” "I loved being a bookseller. I’d found my calling. Instead of serving drinks and watching people turn into drunken idiots, I was being paid to give people wonderful stories to escape into." – A bit too heavy with the Aesop there, eh? "I seem to be surrounded by attractive men lately." Overdramatic but realistic, yes. "Run after him and offer yourself on a silver platter to get him to turn around?" Ahole. "Hell has a special place for men who abuse women." “Perhaps it depends on the man doing the owning.” Ew. "Two gorgeous guys in the same department, two normal guys!" – It’d appear so. "I think I’d rather die in a nuclear holocaust than live in a concrete box for twenty years." Cruce’s cuff, ehh? "I was the one who’d lived.+ - Shades of HP "It was proof of his villainy, and now things would fall miraculously into place and finally begin making sense, but his reply was perfectly logical." Dani. 47 kills. No males? That’s…curious. “That’s what most would call a no-brainer, Ms. Lane. Cursed mirror(s). “If I were the type of person to kill O’Duffy, I would also be the type of person to lie about it.”“So, did you, or didn’t you?” I find her very observant gaze of which direction things hang to be hilarious. Partially since I don’t think she’s done anything with any guy since the series started. Well, maybe an unwanted kiss. A billion? That’s 10 digits, not 8. Ok, so here’s the sexy. "No is not maybe. It is not I like to play rough. And it is never, never, never yes." 82k? "I’d always been planning to get serious about life and here I was, being exactly who I’d been back then, taking the path of least resistance, the easy way out, doing what made me feel good right now, consequences be damned." This is a better motive than true love. 6 hours=1 month I was losing the ability to quail and I would never again be the kind of girl that looked away “The only things you feel are greed, mockery, and occasionally you probably get a hard-on, but I bet it’s not over a woman, it’s over money or an artifact or a book” Oh look more abuse. Quaint. “Just when I think you’re all useless fluff and nails, you show me some teeth.” “Your general password, Ms. Lane, was ‘Alina.’ Your e-mail password was ‘rainbow.’” Fae in human. Toss me over your shoulder and tote me around like a divining rod while I was unconscious?” "If he thought becoming evil was a solution, not a problem, he was right, we were." "I was going to start stabbing humans with my spear, golden rule be damned." The sword & the spear. Stop over-using sisters. “We aren’t sisters in anything,”- lolyes "Hardly seemed fair, even to me. I wasn’t interested in fair. I was interested in my own survival." "Not very big of me trying to blame Barrons, but at the moment, under the circumstances, I wasn’t feeling big." "Although it may not seem like it, this isn’t a story about darkness. It’s about light. Kahlil Gibran says Your joy can fill you only as deeply your sorrow has carved you. If you’ve never tasted bitterness, sweet is just another pleasant flavor on your tongue. One day I’m going to hold a lot of joy." - I think this is my favorite quote of the book. "Bury me in a bikini, I thought. Lay me next to my sister." "Before we could never again go back to being the uncomplicated, happy young southern girl we’d been. She didn’t get that it was already way too late for that." Better to be useful than liked. … Better to be a weapon than a woman.” She has strength but not power. Interesting. (hide spoiler)]["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
So far so good. I wouldn't say I love this series but I like it quite a bit; the writing and plot grabbed me from the beginning and for the most part...moreSo far so good. I wouldn't say I love this series but I like it quite a bit; the writing and plot grabbed me from the beginning and for the most part it never stopped. Mac feels quite realistic and feels like someone I would want to know in real life. She doesn't put to shame the possible comparisons to Buffy (though obviously Buffy is the awesome-est). The author does a good job making the whole world of nasties feel both epic and real - partially through Mac serving as a very effective audience stand-in. Some series make the mistake of the protagonist instantly accepting these amazing things, others the opposite in such a way that it's hard to sympathize or like him/her. Someone else could argue the latter for Mac, but I think that if I were in her shoes I would react the same way - intense denial of all this crazy knowledge before being forced to confront the truth, but remaining skeptical of my seemingly arbitrary Chosen One status and not changing the entirety of who I am so that I can go off and save the world the way people are pushing me to.
I appreciate how well-drawn the other characters are, and while I am preemptively skeptical of Mac for eventually falling for one or more guys who are pretty big a-holes, at least at this point she is very admirable in how she's handling/feeling about the men in her life. She may notice supernaturally or just naturally hot guys all around her, but unlike, say, Rachel Morgan from The Hollows she seems reluctant to jump into bed with every single one of them. The cover shown for this book is not the one I would have chosen, since it's far more about epic Urban Fantasy than Sex Sex Sex. But I suppose if it gets people to read this great book, it might be worth it.
Notes while reading the book: The first few sentences, while not hugely original for the genre, instantly grabbed me: “My philosophy is pretty simple—any day nobody's trying to kill me is a good day in my book. I haven't had many good days lately.” And I like the use of in medias res and the reader already being clued in to the world the book will devolve into a year from the actual first chapter. No texting? Strong first chapter. Have I found my new Dresden Files, or at least a Rachel Morgan who doesn’t irritate me so much esp w/her obsession with every hot guy ever? I have no issue w/pretty blonde girls who are shockingly powerful – Buffy Anne Summers anyone? Although she was the Chosen One. Instantly strong authorial voice, and a protagonist who feels real.
(view spoiler)[Sidhe-seer. “Case in point, those darned Harry Potter movies. That was so not what that part-Veela-chick, Fleur Delacour, looked like.” – OMGYES love. I gave him my frostiest look, much-practiced on drunk, randy patrons at The Brickyard. Lists had become my anchors. They got me through the days. The oblivion of sleep got me through the nights. If he was winter, I was summer. If I was sunshine, he was night. A dark and stormy one I'd been putting up with the Barbie stereotype for years. That pink was my favorite color, that I liked matching accessories and eye-catching heels, didn't help much. Not a fan of abusive true love. 8 hallows. Lightstonespearsswordcauldron. Darkmirrorboxamuletbook. I like a set # of special objects. It reminds me of my Power Rangers childhood. "Alina didn't get into woo-woo stuff" "Vampires? Eew. Dead. Enough said. Time-travel? Ha, give me creature comforts over a hulking highlander with the manners of a caveman any day. Werewolves? Oh please, just plain stupid. Who wants to get it on with a man who's ruled by his inner dog? As if all men aren't anyway" 4 houses, 4 stones. Stop this abuse, plz. Again, I say this. Gray Man sucks away beauty. "Beautiful women rarely possess sufficient depth of character to survive without their pretty feathers." 24 inches eh? Seelie queen. Unseelie’s imprisoned. "And for the record, I don't always wear pink. I often wear peach or lavender." Null. Damsel-ing. Book most powerful of the ones. "Men. Take them into a classy lingerie store and I guarantee you they'll find the only thing in there made of cheap black leather and chains." Ew. The Unseelie royals are hotties only. 2 stones. "The world notices pretty, well-dressed young women. And it tries real hard not to see the unattractive, sloppy ones." Hmm, sex faeries. Cruce "I'd never had any desire to save the world. Decorate it? Yes. Save it? No. Until a short time ago, I'd been a small-town girl with smalltown dreams and perfectly content with my lot in life." "One of Womankind's greatest mistakes: falling in love with a man's potential." Hmm, she sure is overcome w/desire a lot. Not sure if it’s a + or -. JC spear. Can X any fae. As it was, I'd been sidetracked by the vision of my own good taste lying there on the floor. I wasn't sure if I should be relieved or appalled by how shallow I was. “Books and movies. You stake a vampire, it goes poof and disappears.” "Well, maybe it's in… London or something," I persisted. "Did you check out other cities?" Yeah, exactly where does her previously non-existent fighting ability come from? Magic? (hide spoiler)]["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"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Actual rating: A million...as in, it deserves a million times more success than basically every other ongoing YA series right now.
OMG not only is this...moreActual rating: A million...as in, it deserves a million times more success than basically every other ongoing YA series right now.
OMG not only is this the first really good YA book I’ve read this year, Days of Blood and Starlight in fact surpassed my sky-high expectations and very well may find a place on my list of Best Books Ever. Taylor is definitely one of the most beautiful, lyrical authors around, YA or no, fantasy or no. No middle book syndrome for this series, unlike almost every other recent YA book sequence I’ve experienced – this book feels really needed and I’m actually wondering how in the world this series can be wrapped up in 3 books with all of these balls in the air. Which is way better than sequels like, say, Insurgent with little enough plot that it easily could have squeezed in as the last few chapters of Divergent and/or the first few of whatever the third book is – and this phenomenon seems to be the norm nowadays.
But Days is in fact BETTER than Daughter. DoSaB was really, really great, full of beautiful writing and building two wondrous worlds. But…the later part, super-heavy on exposition & true-love-building, wasn’t as exciting and constantly page-turning. This book does not quite have that problem. It’s very different from the best parts of DoSaB too, with the title fitting the book as perfectly as the first title did.
Far more darkly twisty, with every side dealing with morally ambiguous issues, with villains and heroes who can’t really perfectly embody what those roles might signify in a simpler work. Both the seraphim and the chimaera have leaders and soldiers who alternately want true peace or utter destruction and power, with most simply having to take part in the war because that’s all they know they’re supposed to do in a seemingly endless conflict. And both sides have innocents who wish the conflict would end and have to suffer despite not taking any part in it. I mean, yeah, obvs the reader is meant to root for peace and understanding, but it’s probably very difficult for a people to just forgive centuries of mass killing of their own.
The very root of their war while painting chimaera in a more sympathetic light still involved a rebellion consisting of massacre and a targeted if understandable attempt to wipe out the collective knowledge of another race. Given how our world is full of conflicts that have lasted many generations, in which both sides adamantly believe themselves to be in the right, it’ll probably be very difficult to resolve this in a way that will be satisfying and realistic. In the real world, huge conflicts usually end because one side wins, not because of a sudden agreement of peace and understanding. With that ending, something like that feels even less likely. I feel confident in Taylor’s abilities, even if other fantasy-ish series which have had similar plot twists have fallen off the track of non-suckiness as a result.
Character-wise: Akiva hates himself for what he’s done, because he had a huge role in all this. Normally I hate it when there are Chosen Ones for no discernible reason, but in this series the reason the two central characters ARE so important is not because they’re just so Super Special; it’s fallout from their relationship that causes a lot of stuff to go down. Akiva only gained the knowledge that caused so much destruction as a direct result of his love being discovered by the chimaera. Karou is only in the position she’s in because of her punishment for falling in love with the wrong person – well, that and her eagerness/willingness to learn from the wishmonger. In most ways, both of them would have been not very different from the rest of their kind; neither was given extraordinary abilities above and beyond just because the author wanted them to be the main characters and save the world. And I like that.
Zuzana and Mik provide an excellent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Great for comic relief in a realistic, oft-sarcastic, well-written way. Super quote-worthy in how they throw off lines in a casual throwaway manner – such that you can see just how impressive Taylor is in her craft.
I will say the book’s not perfect – I understand the desire for perspectives from minor characters to show scope and give us a glimpse into what’s going through the minds of the normal folk not busy planning epic things and/or being at the center of the story. But…I felt it to be unnecessary for the most part. I’m usually not a fan of many perspectives, and in this specific book, apart from Karou & Akiva, the only super-needed POVs are Zuzana’s and Ziri’s. The others don’t take up too many pages, but the book would have been even more tense, exciting, and cohesive without them. I also have to say that the book could also have been a tad shorter via fewer pages from Akiva’s POV; certain chapters seem to just stand there to be like “War=Pain & Badness, yes.” Which is necessary since Karou’s not out there on the front lines, and his overall actions do end up being very very important, but I didn’t need quite so much of it. But…despite how long this nitpicking paragraph is, it’s relatively easy to just read these parts more quickly, and my rating for the book remains 5/5.
Now, my running head commentary while I read the book, with my thoughts below serving as an accurate assessment of most everything I felt, possibly more so than my review above:
(view spoiler)[So far this book is bleak, depressing…and breathtakingly beautifully written. Brava, Taylor. I really feel the sad yearning on both Akiva and Zuzana’s parts. And I’m dying to see what’s up with Karou. So much anticipation…of course, the year between books helped. Is she the one killing angels? She’s really just a human – one with powers, though…including one unique one that could explain it.
“Extreme be-with-able-ness” – So adorable. Ah, I see Zuzana/Mik will be our light side. Thanks, Taylor.
Oh back to bleakness. Awesome bleakness. I can’t imagine how it would be, going from living a…well not normal exactly what with the teeth missions and having chimaera as a family in the first book…but mostly normal life as a teenage girl to being the key figure in a war between two entire races. It’s why I love Buffy so much, and thus I think this book may just turn out to be the best book of the year. I should keep reading so I don’t keep saying that and then end up disappointed…
“‘I have your tooth,’ he called. ‘It just landed on my head.’ Well, hell. She couldn’t very well pretend to be asleep if she had just dropped a tooth on his head. And she didn’t want him to think she was hiding from him, either. Damn it, why did he still affect her this way?” – Amusing, yet dark and fraught with unanswered questions. Is this a love triangle I smell? Hopefully not, since in the first book he really wanted her and she just found him to be a scary a-hole. Of course, sometimes we think someone’s like that and it turns out there’s awesomeness underneath. Hmm.
She’s the only one willing to not bend to his will? That can be a sign of Sue in many books, but not here…especially given her most excellent point that I’d actually forgotten – he murdered her. But she acknowledges he had an excellent point, as her saving him led to tons of chimaera dying, and this is probably why she’s torturing herself and working herself to the bone resurrecting, to atone for that. Wow, such thorny, morally ambiguous issues.
To help me keep track: Angel emperor Joram, father of Akiva. Thiago the Wolf, Warlord his father – Does the Warlord do anything? “What my father and Brimstone were to our people” – So the Warlord is dead? Oh I thought the teeth represented the tithe. Poor Brimstone. And Karou. How much pain is it?
He was in love with her? Hmm, I’m not entirely believing this scene. But I didn’t entirely love the romance in the first book, so. “Yes, well. It was good luck for you that a spare resurrectionist happened along.” – I like that she can still be witty and snarky in the face of great devastation. Very Buffy. I feel very uncomfortable with the wings – both because of trying to fight the seraphim by being more like them, and…the incursion into the human world. This is going to get messy. Neither side is right. Ack. This is much. So much more complex than a young adult book is expected to be. Way better than that Hunger Games thing with its one-dimensional characters and one-sidedness.
Oh, so Akiva didn’t kill Karou’s family personally. That’s…better?
“From the time Karou was old enough to hold a pencil, she had been drawing this story of monsters and mystical doorways and teeth. Always teeth.” – Not news, but these sentences make me feel sad and yet again impressed with the power of the writing. Why are you so great, Taylor?
“And you use smileys” – I generally dislike smileys. I like Mik all the more now. “I feel happy…. I feel happy….Karou did not feel happy. Zuzana was suddenly sick.” – I love that Zuzana loves Karou so much. Their friendship feels so real. It makes me think of Sarah Dessen, but I’m more impressed here since Taylor has to balance an epic fantasy world wrecked with war and human (or, um, being?) relationships and does it so well. Also, Zuzana’s tiny fierceness makes me think of my current #1 series Dresden Files.
“Wouldn’t I be sorry next time I died?” – Maybe not if you prefer to end this cycle of resurrecting to constantly fight. Ten is (one of?) Thiago’s personal guards. Hmm, I wonder if she does have hidden intentions. Razor – priest. Ziri – Non-ahole? I hope we don’t have too many characters to keep track of.
“ I love you, crossbar,’ whispered Karou, and petted it” – OMG so funny.
Ziri is of her family. He was 12 when she died…so he’s 29 I think? He’s in his first body. I have to admit, the parts of the book not from Karou or Zuzana’s points of view are less great. Like, war, pain, terror – yes, they’re terrible, but it’s getting a tad repetitive.
“It made Karou realize she was spying, because they never laughed when she was around and would surely stop if they saw her.” – Ugh, she felt so lonely in the first book even with her family of sorts and her best friend. Now she’s found her kind, and she’s even lonelier because almost all of them hate her. So tragic.
Tangriss/Bashees – Shadows that Live. Super deadly –why? “He could have his own personal Shadow That Lives.” – Oh, so are the shadows like how Razgut was a shadow for whatshisface? Oh right…Razgut. What’s he been up to?
Dominion – the elite soldiers, b/c they come from rich fams, though they’re sucky at battle compared to the Misbegotten. So class issues w/in the race too. Dominion serve under Jael, emperor’s brother. Yeah, overall I’m not feeling Akiva all that much in this book. Back to Karou. Joram wants to put down renegade seraphim? Odd. Stelians, Akiva’s mother’s people. Lots of family stuff going around here.
The new strategy: kill the angels’ innocents.
I also love characters who are normals but are super-awesome in the face of extraordinary circumstances…like early Willow Rosenberg and Cordelia Chase. For once, Bast thanks her for a resurrection. Aww. “I’m just making the bodies.” “Oh, is that all?” drawled Mik. “Ho hum.” – Lol. “How is it obvious?” Karou demanded. She had believed she was human her whole life; she would not be persuaded that she had somehow been unconvincing at it. – Again. “Yeah. That was awesome.” A pause, followed by “Ow,” suggested elbow punctuation on the part of Mik. – How Taylor balances so many emotions perfectly is amazing.
Why can’t Razgut fly?
“And then unmelted. In a new and exciting shape.” – I just love Mik/Zuzana. Maybe I should just start quoting without commenting if I can’t find new variations on saying this.
What an a-hole.
“For the life of one, yes, and the hope of more,” said Hazael. “The hope of her.” – Ugh this is so emotion-evoking. Maybe one day Taylor can run a TV show so we can get her brilliant writing13-22 times a year instead of annually. He wants to kill Joram? How…foolhardy.
Issa! Well, Brimstone would have made it too easy.
“Man,” corrected Mik, insulted. “Look: sideburns. Chest hair. Sort of.” – Yes. But, please, math is not more painful than, um, pain.
“Kill the Monster Change the World” sounds suspiciously like “Save the Cheerleader Save the World.”
The Shadows are dead. Japheth crown prince of the angels. Coward. Jael, interesting. Oh right, Razgut. Oh, flip, Jael wants to rule Earth. Is Thiago really dead? Hmm. Yes, Christians can be evil. Jael was cut by Akiva’s mother? Festival. Haz dies.
Misbegotten + chimaera vs. angels…not sure exactly where the humans shall be. Hmm.
Resurrect a seraphim? Ooh girl you’re in trouble. Or…resurrect your would-be rapist. So dark, this “young adult” book. Wait…who the eff is he then? One of the people who stood up for her? What a great plot twist, Taylor! Oh, I’d guess it might be him, but…he agreed to lose his body for her? How impressive. Though it probs means more triangle fodder. A non-sucky one though. Shocker. Oh Ten is not Ten either. Ok I hope this doesn’t end up coming off as too much of a wacky body-switching hijinx.
“How at the Warlord’s ball and later at the temple they had whispered “hello” to each other, again and again like a shared secret. It had been on his lips” – I’m reminded of brilliant Taylor, Swift this time, in Enchanted. Oh Taylors just do it better.
Why does she have to have everything be kinda her fault? Sigh.
“The fuse burns brighter and nearer, so that Karou and Akiva almost feel as if they are touching. Tomorrow they will start the apocalypse. Tonight, they let themselves look at each other, for just a little while.” – So beautiful. So…WHY is it going to take a year for the next one to come out? Why can’t it be, like, a day? This might be even more maddening than “There was no more happiness. But under the misery, there was hope. That the name Brimstone had given her was more than a whim. That this was not the end.”
Such a huge, monumental paradigm shift from the beguiling beginning of Karou’s saga: “It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark—in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight—but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze. On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time. Snow and stone and ghostlight.”
If this is what Taylor gave us for a middle book, how AMAZING and perfect will the last one be? I think I’m gonna go read her unfinished middle-grade books while I wait, even if I suspect I’ll like them only as much as I liked Lips Touch. Le sigh. (hide spoiler)]["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"]>["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"]>["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)
A YA trilogy that I still have high hopes for, even though the first third or so of the book is amazing while the rest of it is dominated by a romance...moreA YA trilogy that I still have high hopes for, even though the first third or so of the book is amazing while the rest of it is dominated by a romance that prevents there from being much of a plot. The writer's greatest strength is beautiful prose; hopefully later installments keep the excitement level at the level of the first part of the book.
The writing is masterful and shows that the author knows exactly how to deal with characterization and how to evoke the emotions she desires in the reader at the given moment. I quite appreciated the fairy-tale-esque aspects being acknowledged but not dominating the novel, i.e. not letting building of that tone take on more importance than such things as interesting characters and story (*cough Night Circus*). It is beautiful and lyrical yet quickly adjusting to whatever genre the scene most fits at the moment; I learned to appreciate such grace from Buffy. As with Buffy I shall eagerly await the next installment by a wonderful writer.
An issue I do have, though, is the storytelling. It’s far above bad, or even average, but the first quarter and probably the first half moves at a breathtaking pace when appropriate while other times dwelling on crucial establishing exposition (which feels too natural to be exposition-y) to make the reader care about what happens to the characters and what the answers to the heroine’s questions are. Meanwhile the second half doesn’t work quite as well. The mythos about the other world is put together well but the buildup/telling of it takes a long freaking time, too long in my opinion. Regardless of how I felt about the content, the very fact that the back end feels too long shows that my attention waned…since it’s pretty much comprised of flashbackstory slash twu luv building.
I mean, I’m all for true love, but if I wanted to read Twilight I would watch the Taylor Lautner version (as Stephanie Meyer is the only author I can think of that I disdain more than Jane Austen). Almost nothing actually happens in the present in the second half. It feels incongruous, and while Karou’s discovery of who she really is (through the telling of the story rather than, you know, a hero’s journey or whatnot) matters quite a bit to the narrative, it really could have been shorter and the tone in these chapters doesn’t really match what comes earlier in both content and quality. I was still more or less hanging on every word because Taylor’s writing remains great, but I couldn’t bring myself to care all that much about these events that came before. And usually when it comes to fiction (either in books or onscreen) I’m the type who’s like “OMG Backstory, Yes!” Perhaps the payoff would have been greater if Karou had done more to earn the unlocking of her past, or the author had had more exciting events happen in the second half so that Karou’s past could feel more revelatory rather than more of an extended break from action. I admit though that it serves well in making the very end immensely and believably heartbreaking.
Also, the beginning made it seem more like the book would revolve around wishes and fallen angels, when neither concept is nearly as crucial or intriguing after the first quarter or so of narrative. Hopefully both of these take more prominence in later installments because I think Taylor can continue the magic she does with them there. Based on the ending of the book how prominent will depend largely on what Karou does. She’s my favorite kind of protagonist, a female with many skills allowing her to be her own hero thus promising further adventures in which she would realistically be able to save the world rather than laying around damseling. She’s complex and flawed – her reckless curiosity leaves a fairly high level of fallout and when she criticizes herself it’s from self-awareness, contrasting with certain other books’ flat protagonists with BS-y aspects that exist only to make them not look like the Mary Sues that they are. But her interactions with her friends, her likely soulmate, and especially her family (She admits herself she would likely choose her family over true love.) show how loving and great she is with them, and how worthy she is of their – and theoretically eventually the readers’ – love.(less)
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars (possibly bumped up to a 4 rating if I like the next book, as there is massive potential which may be fulfilled or squandered...moreActual Rating: 3.5 stars (possibly bumped up to a 4 rating if I like the next book, as there is massive potential which may be fulfilled or squandered)…which I believe still makes it my #4 book from 2012, sad as that is. My 12th favorite of 14 Dresden Files, I suppose.
My #1 most anticipated book of the year – finally getting to see what Winter Knight Harry is like over 2.5 years after he took up the mantle in the most exciting installment yet of my favorite ongoing series. It turned out to be…disappointing. Not bad, but disappointing, and a bit like the Summer Knight retread I feared it could be. I am going to cut it some slack because Butcher described Changes as a season finale, and it’s unfair to compare a regular episode to a finale; especially in a premiere there’s lots of exposition to set up what’s coming (Ghost Story is more like a BBC Christmas special.).
But it wasn’t even that aspect of the book that most threw me off; it’s…the writing. Until around page 300, most of the book reads like fanfic (or a Butcher ghostwriter) because the writer makes a relatively good imitation of the voice and characters of the Dresden Files but it doesn’t truly feel like a Dresden File. I’m loath to say that Butcher should have spent even more time on this book, but maybe he spent too much time on padding out the first 300 or so pages; what happens in them could totally have been condensed – perhaps making the book faster-paced in such a way that Butcher wouldn’t overthink things. The latter part of the book reads pretty much as smoothly as any other previous installment – maybe Big Things Happening and climactic action scenes helped re-excite Butcher, or maybe he finally got back into the rhytm of things. Because for the first 12 books, there was a maximum of 12 months between publication dates, and the books were mostly and increasingly great; it took an extra 3.5 months for a book that kept Harry and Butcher’s voices intact but didn’t have that much plot movement, and now it’s taken an extra 4 months for a book that has the reverse. Characterization and especially dialogue feel very self-conscious and obligatory, like “insert Dresden curse here,” “insert Star Wars reference here,” “time for a joke about Harry being dumb”…there’s just a feeling of being forced. Harry also does a bit too much wangsting for multiple pages at a time, but that’s not entirely new – however, I hoped that Ghost Story being a pretty reflective book would have gotten him some psychological breakthroughs already.
Some parts of Ghost Story may have been important for character development and such that bleeds into this book and presumably future ones, especially for Molly, but a lot of the misery Harry’s friends were going through seems almost retconned because a number of characters here are suspiciously hunky-dory in such a way that it diminishes the pain they had to go through before this book - (view spoiler)[Thomas being separated from his love for years because their love burns him is fixed thorough the magic of threesomes…though this happened at the end of GS, it’s here that we see the effects. Butters has a girlfriend. Molly after spending a year as a homeless avenger torn apart by grief is now living in a huge apartment and is restored in health – I suppose the obvious explanation is her LUV for Harry, but that’s a bit insulting. While other characters talk about how oh so tortured Karrin is and how she’s pushing everyone away who cares about her, it’s just that – Butcher telling us, even though he doesn’t show Karrin being much different from the Karrin in the first 12 books. She certainly seems happier than in Ghost Story – and she’s even making out with Harry a couple of times as she’s conveniently no longer attached to Kincaid, which is a plot development I did not need. I don’t really “ship” Harry with anyone, but I might anti-ship this coupling. Oh, and that whole Mab having a tiff with Bob pops up as a plot contrivance – one that makes sense, but still – and she actually wants his help with something, so no more smashing of stupid talky skull I guess. I’ll forgive this last one if Harry’s new knowledge becomes important down the line, like in an apocalyptic showdown.
What else? Oh, cast of characters. So we get the usual gang, plus all the major faerie figures. Except awesome Lea, who’s the awesomest faerie. But no appearances by any of my other favorite recurring cast members - Ivy, Marcone, Lara, Lash…I think I’m forgetting one of my T10 – oh duh Susan (hide spoiler)]. Plus the werewolf representative in this book is one I’ve never cared about either way, instead of Billy. As villains we get characters who I’ve never been a big fan of – I prefer villains with visible elements of humanity in them who choose an evil path. The whole Black Council…thing is so mysterious despite being apparently the (or at least a) main Big Bad that I can never get myself to care about them that much. Sometimes their assets can be awe-inspiring and exciting to read about in their havoc, but it’s like Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock (and I specify since he’s only in like 2 of 40something Doyle stories) – it’s like ooh mysterious but it’s hard to care except when he’s actually on the canvas, even if the show insists that he’s sorta been orchestrating all the crimes in the series. And (view spoiler)[while it’s been indicated before that Black Council is working with Outsiders, I don’t like that it’s all chalked up to being infected by some vaguely defined dark psychic ailment that sounds suspiciously like the Dark Side of the Force. Or the insanity defense on L&O: SVU. I do like that the only cure so far appears to be torture and being frozen into a statue by Mab, as it isn’t something you’re eager to have your infected friends sign up for.
As for new characters: Sarissa’s okay, I guess, but I prefer Lily or even Aurora. She doesn’t seem to have much of a distinct personality. Still, who she becomes given who she is has a lot of potential, and she could be awesome in the long run. One could kinda count Titania as a new character since Harry’s never talked to her. I thought her entrance would be omg, at least as impressive as Mab’s first meeting with Harry, but it is not. I hope the series’ as-of-late obsession with parenthood subsides a bit. Kris Kringle…it does make sense that he would be Winter. He’s okay, I guess, though he’s not as starkly drawn as, say, the Santa that Buffy’s Anya describes, he whose gifts to children involve disembowlment. Dresden’s moniker of Bowl-Full-of-Jelly gets old. I think the ending indicates that he’s actually Odin, but I’m uncertain. Redcap and Sharkface…they’re the kind of woowoo villains that I can’t care about because they have little depth aside from being Super Evil. Plus they’re minions (probably).
Major Plot Points: A) Molly is the new Winter Lady; Maeve’s mortal sister Sarissa is the new Summer Lady (which makes me wonder about the identity of the father). B) Mab’s primary role is to keep the Outsiders from invading the universe; the Outsiders and the Black Council are working together, changing beings to their will. C) Demonreach is a Merlin-made prison for all sorts of supremely powerful nasties (like on Angel with the Old Ones). D) Some parasite is in his head giving him headaches.
I’ll go in reverse order: I thought the headaches were an effect of over-using magic esp hell/soulfire, and that time that Lash took a psychic bullet for Harry that would have fried his brain. It feels like Lash would have caught wind of this parasite if it was there before she left. Apparently Harry will need Molly’s help with this, which seems weird…my first guess was Lasciel (not Lash), but I don’t think she could burst forth from his brain as an entity. I wonder if eventually we’ll meet Merlin. I’m guessing we’ll see a prison break in a few years, but more interesting to me is why Demonreach and Harry are intertwined – what’s so special about Harry, aside from being born at the right time, saving the world multiple times, and now the Knight thing? Who was the Warden before Harry? Is this possibly the mantle that Ebenezer was considering for Harry? The whole Outsider thing makes me think of A Song of Ice & Fire…the Ice part of the series. I choose to believe this is not retconning, as I wouldn’t expect a thirtysomething wizard to know all the ins and outs of faeries. I do wonder if Titania has a ton more free time if she mostly checks the power of Mab while Mab balances Titania and protects the universe. And if there’s a supreme Outsider – it’s possible it doesn’t matter that much, as the Red King was introduced in the book he died, but I figure this battle will be the one to end the series. Sarissa might end up like Lily a bit – it’s unclear if Titania will be eager to mentor her archnemesis’s daughter, or if Mab will want to spend that much time with a Summer Queen. Mab’s already trained Sarissa to an extent, but that’s before Sarissa had powers. The book also hints at some sparks between Harry & Sarissa, which would be better than Harry & Karrin, though I figure Molly would be absolutely infuriated if Harry & Sarissa started because they can relate to each other so well and their experiences together – given that Harry & Molly have both of those factors in spades.
Speaking of Molls..OMG. I thought that eventually one of the Swords of the Cross would go to Murphy (not a difficult guess, though she has turned it down a couple of times) and one to Molly. My backup is Thomas. I will say that the whole plotline reeks of a retread – a Lady goes mad and schemes to destroy part of the world hoping to come out on top, killing an important vassal along the way before dying herself. But Lily and Fix…I don’t care that much about them, especially Fix who I’ve always found to be on the annoying side. There weren’t great implications because neither of them was someone that important to the grand scheme of things before the change – a pretty model and a good mechanic. Plus apparently Fix's main role is to thwart the Winter Knight, so I guess he's just been spinning his wheels for the last decade. But now the Winter Knight is Harry and his Lady is Molly.
Molly who’s wanted to be closer to him since she was a kid, who thanks to Harry’s new Knight nature he’s been seeing as a woman he might want to have, whose family is protected by a cadre of God’s angels who might frown on the dark viciousness of the Winter Court, whose dad is the man Harry respects most in the world and might have some choice things to say about Harry causing his little girl to become a queen of Faerie, who’s been fiercely fighting her darker nature ever since her nearly fatal act of mind-raping her friends and has certain control and discipline issues, who’ll have to fight the part of her that will start to mold her in the exact vein of crazy Maeve.
I’m not sure exactly how awesomely this will turn out, but this plot twist is a large part of why this book might deserve 4 stars. If the book had simply ended with Sarissa taking Maeve’s place, it would have been pretty ho hum. But this opens up all kinds of doors for the series to go. I’m still not exactly sure where it is going, since the structure of the first 12 books was (relatively) simple with Harry being a wizard who spends much of his time just hanging out and doing nothing particularly exciting. In the course of the days in which each book is set he has a huge case to solve, but even the end of book 11 was as simple as “I closed the door behind me, while life went on,” life being beer and a role-playing game. One could even argue that Changes until the last page appears ready to close on a light note, being nervous while awaiting consummating his love with a woman. And that last page doesn’t necessarily indicate a particularly stressful situation for him, as he “distinctly heard the horn and the engine of an oncoming train.” With this book, we’ve seen now the first changes in Harry via becoming the Winter Knight, and they aren’t particularly positive…now he’ll have to deal with fighting that part of him while helping a woman who trusts him with her life to fight a new part of her nature. I’m very excited for the next book, and I hope it A) takes 12 months or less this time and B) recaptures the voice of the Dresden Files the whole way through. (hide spoiler)]["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)
Great book; feels like things are really changing.
Sample funny parts: (view spoiler)["It was hard not to be flattered. All of this to make good on hi...moreGreat book; feels like things are really changing.
Sample funny parts: (view spoiler)["It was hard not to be flattered. All of this to make good on his promise to me? Trent was still a murdering drug lord, but he had honor. Not to mention a huge disrespect for innocent lives. & Well, they’d probably not be on my side, but I’d probably not be on their hit list anymore. They’d grant me respect, maybe? Oh crap. Did I want their respect? They’d probably want me to do stuff for them." (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)