“Lord of Shadows” by Cassandra Clare (The Dark Artifices Book 2)

“Lord of Shadows” is enormous at 699 pages. Not that I’m complaining, because I definitely needed this latest Shadowhunter fix. The cast of characters is enormous and includes references and some appearances of my favourites from “The Mortal Instruments” and “Infernal Devices” series as well.

If you are reading Clare for the first time, “The Dark Artifices” series is not the place to start. It builds too much on the “Mortal Instruments” series. Start there, and read your way through.

“Lord of Shadows” builds more on the fairy world, including the Seelie and Unseelie courts. It is very reminiscent of “Wicked Lovely,” where fairies are sexy, dangerous, tricky and evil. Werewolves and vampires barely show, but I didn’t mind. The fairies are pretty interesting and anytime a deal shows up, you know the Shadowhunters will get the short end of the stick.

As always, the relationships shine in this novel. The Shadowhunter world is dominated by who they love and why they love them. Many ships will sail in this series. Many. Sometimes I wish the emphasis wasn’t just on who wants to date who, but it’s interesting and addictive. 😛

Emma and Julian’s relationship where they have forbidden parabatai love confuses me. I understand that parabatai are supposed to fight together and have a strong bond of friendship, but not have romantic feelings for each other. I understand that there is a curse if they fall in love. I understand that it’s taboo in Shadowhunter culture. But why Emma refuses to tell Julian all the details about why she can’t love him and pretends to date his brother instead, just… why? This obstacle towards them making their relationship official doesn’t quite work.

I really liked Christina, Kieran, Mark love triangle. How will be resolved in the future? I need to know.

“Lord of Shadows” has lots of diverse characters. Some are from different cultures, some have disabilities, many are LGBTQ. I really like the inclusiveness of the series and of Clare’s work in general. With a cast this size, I sometimes find it difficult to know all of the characters, but when I do get to know them, I generally like them.

Also, the latest threat in “Lord of Shadows” is a group of racist bigots trying to dominate the Clave and wipe out people who are different, like the Downworlders. Take of that what you will.

The more I read about Clare’s world, the more complete it seems. So much so, that when I’m finished I feel like I could buy a plane ticket to Idris.

If only. 🙂

 

“The Novice” by Taran Matharu (Summoner book 1)

Taran Matharu’s “The Novice” took me by surprise. Fletcher, a blacksmith’s apprentice, discovers he has a talent for summoning demons and after a nasty brawl with the village bully, flees his home forever. Soon enough, he is directed to summoning school and meets a diverse group of peers.

Although “The Novice” does have typical fantasy tropes, including a magic school, demons, and creatures from middle earth, it turns them into something refreshing.

If you like your fantasy to contain lots of world building, “The Novice” does not disappoint. Much of the dialogue revolves around discussing every detail of every demon and the culture of dwarves and elves, two species living often in conflict with humans. Often these descriptions become longwinded and the plot comes to a standstill. However, I didn’t really mind due to some unusual political commentary.

“The Novice” deviates from the norm in fantasy and frequently discusses race relations and inclusion. There are clear parallels between the dwarves and Sikhs. The message opportunities for foreign or disadvantage communities in education is clear. The only elf and dwarf in the summoning school encounter challenges due to discrimination and prejudice.

The hero Fletcher provides the reader with a role model. He never discriminates, although his peers can be cruel to elves and dwarves. He asks the elves and dwarves polite and curious questions about their culture and breaks down cultural barriers.

Compared to the racist nature of his peers, Fletcher’s open attitude seems to be an anomaly. And this was my small problem with the characters – there are very few morally grey situations. Either people are horribly racist or extremely politically correct.

Also, I’m curious about the main villain in the book – the orcs. They also are their own race with their own culture. And yet, dwarves, elves, and humans are convinced they are pure evil. (Although the summoning school investigates some of the orcs’ summoning practices.) Hopefully, this will be addressed in the next two books in the series.

I liked “The Novice” a lot. Often literary lovers complain that fantasy is pure escapism and “The Novice” definitely challenges that statement. Although, the demons are pretty cool and the final battle is epic, so if you’re looking for escapism the “The Novice” delivers that as well.

“City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve listened to Cassandra Clare’s “City of Bones” audio book three times in the past three months as I fall asleep. I’ve also awoken in the middle of the night to a scream of “JAYCE!” with the headphones still dangling from my ears. This doesn’t mean I find the book so boring that it puts me to sleep. Nothing could be farther from the case!

And the reviews on Goodreads seem to agree with me. People just can’t put this book down. I recommended it to someone a while ago, and she still can’t take it out of the public library because the demand is so high – and this book was written in 2007 peeps! That’s some serious staying power.

Although, I’ve read some scathing reviews on Goodreads about this book too. Anything from Clary being a Mary Sue character to “City of Bones” being a blatant Harry Potter rip off to the similes being too frequent. The truth is: I don’t care.

“City of Bones” works. It works so well that I am willing to listen to it time after time again. And that is testament to something that is pretty kick-ass.

So why is “City of Bones” so awesome?

This, my friends, is why:

1) The characters. You walk away from “City of Bones” thinking something along the lines of “why is Simon so annoying?” “Will Jayce and Clary ever end up together?” “Why can’t Alec just accept that he is gay and Jayce is straight?” “Could Jayce be gay? That’d be kinda hot.” “I wish I could be as badass as Isabel.” “Why isn’t Clary as badass as Isabel? Girl, get with the Shadowhunter program!!!”

2) The relationships. You become seriously invested in who ends up with who, and the betrayals, man. The betrayals.

3) The setting. Urban fantasy works on so many levels, because wouldn’t it be nice if this world right now contained magic and demons and warlocks and shadowhunters and possibilities? The reader sees themselves in Clary’s world right away. Urban fantasy takes “what if” to a level grounded in reality.

4) The action. “City of Bones” has a nice amount of fighting where the stakes are high.

5) Jayce. Is. Seriously. Hot. This books also is clearly inspired by anime with the whole demon fighting bad boys type thing. I don’t know what it is about the bad boy character, but jeez can they work the dialogue. I actually laughed more than once when listening to this book the first time. Also, the dialogue itself is excellent as a whole.

So, without trying to spoil this book too much, where does it fall flat?

The whole middle section involving a rat goes on for too long. Also, the big twist at the end that may remind you of Star Wars – you’ll know what I mean when you read it – nearly stopped me from reading the rest of this series. However, the desire to know what happened next trumped the annoyance with the plot and I did read the rest of the books.

In conclusion, I think virtues of “City of Bones” far out way its flaws and that it is worth a read for its dialogue alone.

“Dream On” by Kerstin Gier (The Silver Triology)

I greatly enjoyed German author Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red Trilogy, and since her most newly translated series has hit the shelves, I’ve been reading them avidly. Fans of Ruby Red, the Silver Trilogy doesn’t disappoint!

What if you could travel the dream world while asleep and enter other people’s dreams? The Silver Trilogy takes lucid dreaming to a whole new level.

“Dream On,” the second book in the Silvery Trilogy carries out the whimsical themes of the dream world and the absurd humour that is so typical of Gier to perfection. Even though I enjoy my books dark like my soul, Gier’s writing has a lightheartedness to it that I truly appreciate.

Liv and her sister Mia make a hilarious duo as they adapt to living with their mother’s new boyfriend and his two teenage kids. Add a crazy extended family tea party to the mix and you have a very believable family dynamic which definitely made me laugh.

The nasty school gossip blogger, Secrecy, also makes a nice commentary on cyberbullying. The interlude of blog posts in between chapters is a funny and sarcastic summary and I’m still trying to guess which character is the blogger’s identity!

Also, Liv’s boyfriend Henry is equal parts cute and mysterious. The second book definitely leaves you wondering why he is so private about his home life and why he won’t reveal what he’s up to. I guess we’ll have to read the third book to find out.

My one complaint, and this is typical of second books in series, is that the threats in the dream world did not seem overly threatening. With Anabel behind bars, the new villain isn’t quite as harrowing, but still towards the end it did turn into quite the page turner. Also, I was left with a lot of questions, but as I’m sure the third book will reveal all, I guess I have to wait to discover the answers!

“Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

I must be the last person on the planet to read “Vampire Academy.” I know it came out a while ago, but holy crap is it good. Rose is such a kick-ass heroine and Lissa is such a gentle soul. Their halfway mind connection, where Rose can see her best friend Lissa’s thoughts but not vice-versa is a nice plot technique.

The world building of vampires with their damphir bodyguards (half-human, half-vampires who have serious martial-art skills) creates a lot of exciting action sequences. But it’s not all blood and guts. There is some serious romance.

Damphir Rose balances her bad attitude with loyalty to for friends. And her attraction to her older teacher Dmitri is H-O-T. Of course, maybe I have a slight bias towards shipping them, since I met my husband in a teacher-student relationship. Just like Dmitri and Rose, my husband-to-be was seven years older than me. But he didn’t teach me martial arts. He taught me calculus, which also led to some potentially lethal lessons, haha.

Anyway. I shipped Dmitri and Rose. Hard.

Also, this series has a unique approach to discussing mental illness. Lissa is a vampire who has an unusual power called spirit that is poorly understood. She basically has healing super-strength, which is great for other people, but not so great for herself. Using her powers, even though she often wants to, causes her to feel depressed. Even though Lissa is strong, she has to learn how to balance self-care with caring for others. Bringing the dialogue on mental illness into the fantasy arena surely will help reduce stigma for readers who suffer from the same conditions.

So yeah. “Vampire Academy” isn’t just about fighting and kissing, it has some additional depth. Although, honestly I like the violence and romance just as much as the deep parts.

 

“Winter” by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles)

I just read Marissa Meyer’s “Winter” and it did not disappoint. Ever since “Cinder” stole my heart with her cyborg awesomeness, the Lunar Chronicles have made a serious impression on me. There’s a strong message of being yourself no matter your background and abilities. Each novel in the series introduces a new character and romance to the cast to overthrow the cruel Lunar Queen. And each is loosely based on a popular fairytale – Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.

“Winter” is the final episode in the battle against the Lunars and is a hefty volume at 823 pages. Of course, the cast of characters at this point in the series has become quite large, so Meyer needed a fair amount of space to describe each of their contributions.

At first I found Prince Kai’s participation in the plot a bit tiresome – how many times must he attempt to bait the Queen into a marriage that will make her empress over the Commonwealth? And then, it hit me over the head with the brilliance of it. This complaint is usually one I have for female characters. Why is Princess So-and-so only valued for her marriageable eligibility and sex appeal? Why is her only plot device the betrothal and the wedding?

Here, Prince Kai is the sex muffin who is traded around in marriage, a typically female role. His love interest, Cinder is the one who has to save him – a girl who’s part cyborg, part human. Now, I’m back to remembering why I love this series so much. The feminine empowerment is incredible.

Winter, the newest character in the cast, suffers from mental illness. In spite of her struggles, she triumphs. Cress overcomes her shyness. Scarlet tames the beast. I found the parallels between the long list of couples to cause characters to become indistinct at times, however this didn’t freeze my heart to “Winter.” The message of loving someone despite of their flaws is a good one.

Will they all live happily ever after?

Read “Winter” to find out.

 

“The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

I’m a huge Holly Black fan ever since I read “White Cat.” She writes urban fantasy with a thriller undercurrent that you just can’t put down. And boy is her work dark! Yikes! (But in a good way.)

“The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” is a vampire story, but not the sexy, sparkly kind. It’s a blood and guts and fear vampire story with a strong science fiction background. A virus infects humans and turns them into vampires after they feed on human blood.

Tana, the heroine, has to make a lot of difficult choices and it is those choices that made me keep reading to the end. Tana is not a character that I really liked, but, paradoxically, I liked her that way. She seemed gritty and abrasive and real. Tana’s decisions belonged to her alone, and I wasn’t living vicariously through her since we didn’t have a lot in common. This was good, because in a dark tale like “Coldtown” you really need some distance.

However, Tana had a lot of redeeming qualities too, like protecting people she loved, keeping her promises, and risking her safety to help others. So, she’s not super unlikable.

I also appreciated how this novel seemed placed in an alternate present. Too often I read post-apocalyptic future books where the message is like “the future sucks peeps and we’re all going to die.”

This book had some of that going on, but the cyberworld and reality TV seemed identical to today’s, so I took it to mean “the present sucks in this alternate world peeps and we’re all going to die.”

I guess I found that comforting, because it didn’t seem as much as a commentary on where we’re headed as a parallel universe where vampires exist. Unless vampires actually exist in this world, in which case don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. 🙂

Thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Let me tell you about my Harry Potter activities of the past year:

1) I attended a Harry Potter party that coincided with the beginning of the school year at my local library. There was a wide range of ages from students of Hogwarts to Alumni. We drank butter beer (caramel soda with syrup and ice-cream), made crafts (wands, spell books and tote bags), and watched a local improv comedy group preform themed skits.

2) I read “Beedles the Bard,” the collection of Wizard Fairytales written by JK Rowling.

3) I listened to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” on audio book. Let’s just say that Voldermort still scares the crap out of me. I barely slept the night after listening to the final chapter. Funny how my bathrobe on the back of my chair looks exactly like Voldermort with the lights out. Oh my god.

4) Sometimes I wear a Ravenclaw pin on my button-down shirt. I know it’s more trendy to be Hufflepuff or Slytherin, or some weird combo like Griffinpuff, but. I just can’t. I’m a Ravenclaw thorough and thorough.

5) I’m rewatching Harry Potter movies 4 (Daniel Radcliffe has the best hair in this one), and 7 parts 1 and 2 just for the feels.

I tell you guys. The magic’s still going strong even with the muggles.

But I wanted to talk about another item on the list entirely.

5) I read the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Yep. I did it. Out of peer pressure from my YA book club.

Harry Potter has always been a franchise, but this latest creation really demonstrated how low it could go. People tell me “Scorpius! Such an original character!”

I say, “Puh-lease. The whole thing’s a rehash of book 4.” (And I just listened to book four, so I know.)

It didn’t knock me off my broomstick to say the least. And I was disappointed. Very disappointed.

There were so many directions the play could’ve gone in. A whole new year at Hogwarts, a whole new threat to conquer, a whole new cast of characters that didn’t involve the golden trio. And some of this happened, but it wasn’t exploited to the fullest extent. Instead, the writers relied on one thing above all others: fan service.

Fans want more official Potter in any shape or form. It doesn’t matter about the quality, it just matters that it exists. It doesn’t matter how many times people joke about Voldermort’s lack of a nose. It’s still funny… or is it?

Let me just say it: Watching Harry, Ron and Hermione in office jobs with greying hair, parenting problems, and developing guts is not magical. It’s *bloody* depressing.

“But they’re just like us!” You cry. “There’s nothing wrong with offices, aging, parenting, and obesity!”

No, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I like Harry Potter to stand for hope. For light in the midst of darkness, for extraordinary among the mundane. And to see the hero of my youth reduced to someone more muggle than wizard, that was very depressing indeed.

As for the plot involving the kids, it was a tired rendition of the plot from the fourth book. Bringing the threat of Voldermort back in the running killed the satisfaction of the seventh book’s resolution. Can’t there be other dark wizards? Must we always rely on Voldermort? Why can’t Voldermort stay dead where he belongs?

Harry Potter is the Iliad and Odyssey of our time. We know the myths inside and out. We don’t need a rehash, because the original work is timeless onto itself.