Posts tagged ‘fantasy’

September 17th, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Fire

Author: Kristin Cashore

Published: October 6, 2009

Number of Pages: 461

Rating: 4/5

Goodness! What is this we have here? Madeleine? Here, of all places?

Yes, yes, it’s me. Finally emerging from the waters of homework, school, and utter exhaustion that I’ve been in the process of drowning under. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been around! I hope to get school under control soon and be able to return to my usual habits. Also, thanks for the wonderful response to my Megalodon of a Giveaway! If you have not entered, please do!

Quote:

“Well then,” Roen said briskly, “are you sleeping?”

“Yes.”

“Come now. A mother can tell when her son lies. Are you eating?”

“No,” Brigan said gravely. “I’ve not eaten in two months. It’s a hunger strike to protest the spring flooding in the south.”

“Gracious,” Roen said, reaching for the fruit bowl. “Have an apple, dear.”

Synopsis:

She is the last of her kind…

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next. [From the Jacket]

Review:

As many of you know, Graceling (the companion book – review is here) blew me away. Wow.

And then you have Fire. The friend (Harmony) that originally recommended Graceling to me has yet to read it because she is afraid it will somehow ruin Graceling.

No need to fear, Kristin Cashore’s apparent awesomeness is here!

Fire is magnificent. The beautifully written passages with concise and clear descriptions hold strong. Characters with depth and an uncanny ability to make you love them scuttle throughout the book. A gripping plotline involving war and deception is simply a plus.

Parts of this book – as parts of Graceling did – remind me of The Hunger Games trilogy. Only in small and hardly noticeable ways, however. Fire can certainly hold its own.

As can the main character (also named Fire, incidentally). Fire is instantly likable. I have very few problems with her character or personality at all. The conclusions she comes to, her feelings – I can respect them all. I love it when I have so little to say against a character, so little to find flaw in. My only issue is one I’ll discuss later. Essentially, Fire is a headstrong, lovable, and remarkable main character with a voice that seeps through the pages of the book.

Fire’s story is a long and life-changing one. So much happens in this book that I can hardly fathom how it fit within about 460 pages, yet somehow it doesn’t feel like it’s been constrained. Like the plot was wrestled and bound in order to make it fit within some desired page count. No, it moved flawlessly from scene to scene, conflict to conflict, conclusion to conclusion. The environment and world that Fire lives in fascinated me and made me wish I lived there. Such beauty and contention simultaneously – all wondrous.

I found the history and very existence of “monsters” to be quite interesting. Their vibrant colors and  incredible beauty (even in the case of the human monster, Fire) manage to put people under a spell. Their power to control minds certainly doesn’t do harm to their wonderful qualities. The way Fire could walk into a room and immediately have both people’s attention and occasionally their minds (even if she doesn’t mean to) was awesome. Some men would throw themselves at her feet simply because of her presence and looks. Despite how great it might sound originally, there’s no doubting that being a human monster can be a curse as well as a blessing.

The love story is different from most of the many, many love stories I’ve read. I mean, it doesn’t get much weirder than a seventeen year old and a twenty two year old. There are some other facets of their reality that make the circumstances even more out of the ordinary. Cashore must have worked some sort of magic to pull it off without making it seem freaky. Believe me when I say that the development of it will keep you reading even if the plot doesn’t (which I can’t imagine).

The colorful array of characters that are the foundation of this book will hold your attention from minute one. Amazing. I love the people in this book! Graceling and Fire introduce you to so many new friends and people to wonder at. I read books often to find more things to love. Actually, that’s why I write them, too. What better thing is there in this world than love? None. This book satisfied that requirement perfectly.

Another thing that struck me about Fire was the totally unexpected and odd number of illegitimate children. I’d read about another crazy story and think: Okay, we’re done with the “Hey, look! There’s this baby over here that you didn’t expect”s and the “Hey, whoops, we had a baby and weren’t supposed to”s! But Cashore must have a thing for surprise kiddies popping up out of nowhere. I felt like there’d been a dozen by the time the book was over, but I might have been exaggerating (only a little…).

A factor that might have had something to do with the number of illegitimate children is that the characters seemed to have very little problems with sleeping around and teenage sex/mommies. My post on this hasn’t been written yet (and will be part of a week-long bit on love in YA), but I’m not a huge fan of teenage sex. (Uh, at all.) What was with the young parents and the lack of parental worries over their children’s sex lives? I don’t know about you, but I’d have problems with my seventeen year old sleeping with a friend of hers. (Archer and Fire have a peculiar friendship…) I could rant forever on this part of the book, but I’ll leave it be with: It was weird.

Overall, I loved the book. I couldn’t get enough of it. Infatuated is an understatement. I can’t encourage people enough to read both Graceling and Fire*. Kristin Cashore constructs sentences and chooses words in a magnificent way, encompassing me (at least) in a web of characters, plot, and setting that gripped my attention and threatened never to let go until the book was finished with. The third companion book, Bitterblue is on its way. Needless to say, I’ll be pre-ordering.

Because there’s something sort of kinda amazing about these books.

*I just want to remind y’all that both Fire and Graceling are in my blogiversary giveaway!

July 2nd, 2010

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Demon’s Lexicon

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Published: April, 2010 by Simon & Schuster

Number of Pages: 352

Rating: 3/5

Take Note (or don’t, but I’d appreciate if you’d read this): For at least this post, I’m going to employ Goodreads’ synopsis of the book. The synopses are always the most difficult for me to write. That’s my main motivation for copying, however, a friend of mine (Sara), has a better way of thinking about it:

I like to share the synopsis that made me pick up the book. Or made me wary of picking it up!”

So, mull over that while reading the copied version. Please let me know if you’re fine with this new way of doing things!

Quote:

My life was going to flash before my eyes, but it decided to hide behind my eyes and quake with terror instead.”

Synopsis:

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick’s mother stole — a charm that keeps her alive — and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon’s mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase…and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is des-perate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians’ Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon’s Lexicon. Turn the page. [From Goodreads]

Review:

Yet another book for which I have mixed feelings. Not mixed the way combination pizzas end up mixed (where does the pepper and and the onion begin?!), but mixed as a fruit smoothie is mixed. You couldn’t separate the ingredients if you tried with a strainer, chopsticks, and a defibrillator. (I have absolutely no idea what you could do with those things anyway.)

I found fault with Nick’s character. By page twenty, I firmly believed that there was no way the author could persuade me to like him by the end of the book. My friends, after a few rants of mine on Twitter, assured me that Nick is wonderful/awesome/a great main character, and that I had to reach the end to fully understand the cause behind their enthusiasm. Needless to say, I reached the end. I did understand the cause behind their adamant “he’s awesome”s, but I still can’t join in. I was happy to find out that he has some redeeming qualities, but I’m left grasping at the very little number of said qualities. I hope that his character develops further in the second book, which I hope to check out from the library soon. Overall, I’d say the book’s most major downfall was its main character. In blunt terms, he’s surly, uncaring, unsympathetic, rude, cruel, disrespectful, and has a nasty sense of humor – not to mention (which, you’ll notice, we always say before mentioning) murderous at times. Sound fun? These personality “quirks” are slightly justified, but that doesn’t make it enjoyable to read from his POV.

I also felt that the pace was a bit slow for the first half of the book. It didn’t help that I wasn’t enjoying Nick’s thoughts very much, and that I thought the tense was awkward. It wasn’t until I was halfway to three-quarters through the book that I truly began to enjoy myself.

The bits of the “culture” of this fantasy world that I saw were intriguing and occasionally beautiful (though sometimes in a creepy, disturbed kind of way). I loved the visit to the Goblin Market. If I went into further detail, I’d probably pass over into spoiler territory, so I’ll resist. Let’s leave it at: It was fascinating.

I think the motivation behind my rating this book 3/5 as opposed to 2/5 has to do with Mae. I loved her, and I’m incredibly grateful that book two in this trilogy is supposed to deal more with her story. She was spunky, strong, and kind. I was happy to have her as the womankind representative in this book dominated mostly by men. I believe that most readers will like her from the start because she radiates a sort of confidence that is irresistible when found in anybody with half a heart and half a brain (which, let’s admit, makes a decent enough person).

There are a couple advantages to a surly, unlikable MC:

  1. Nearly every other character seems to be best-friend material
  2. Whenever they say anything nice, you experience a surge of happiness that will keep you reading

In the end, I appreciated that Sarah explained the cause behind Nick’s personality further and gave us a collection of side-characters that are easily loved. And Nick did grow as a character in increments. However, I’m looking forward to a book from Mae’s personality a lot more. It’ll be a relief to spend time with someone… pleasant.

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this book, but that fact that I’m eager to read the sequel goes to show how much I understand my feelings! If you’re into fantasy and books with a w-i-d-e range of characters, this book is for you. If you hated Gone With the Wind because of Scarlet, I’d pass.