“Darkness was a beautiful thing.”The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Hi, everyone. I hope you’ve all had a manageable February. My own was pretty uneventful, even though I had some time off work this month. It’s quite hard to have an exciting vacation in lockdown, but I still enjoyed sleeping in. You would think all this free time would result in me reading some more but no. I get most of my reading done on my commute, so when I don’t have that, I don’t read as much. But take a look at my stats for the month:
I read a lot of short books this month, short meaning 300-400 pages. The number of pages is still quite low though, and I attribute that to the fact that I didn’t love a lot of the books I read. There was only really one of them that I was itching to pick back up, and I started the month with that. So I’m sorry in advance because there’s going to be some ranting in this post. But I still hope you enjoy the six mini-reviews I have for you this month.
Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: May 1995
Buzzwords: Orphan, court politics, ultimate animal companion trope
Synopsis: Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill–and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.
A character-focused story about court politics that also explores themes of family and loneliness? And it has a severely depressed main character? Of course, I’m going to love that! So much that I’ve written a review describing how much! Some of it is spoilery because I couldn’t help myself.
Author: William Shakespeare
Published: A long, long time ago
How do you review Shakespeare? My answer: You don’t. I can only say that I really enjoyed this, and found a lot of relevance in it, even though it’s 400 years old. I mean, you have a “villain” who is both racist and misogynistic, and he’s saying stuff that isn’t far from what you hear today, although with more flourish, which feels like something I’m allowed to miss. And he is really despicable! Certainly a character that is easy to hate because we get to follow his scheming as other characters are unaware. I liked how you could easily predict the train wreck that was about the happen while being powerless to stop it.
Whenever I mention Shakespeare, I feel like I mention how much I love how dramatic his writing is. It adds a hilarious twist to all the misery his characters go through, and it’s what makes me want to watch this play sometime whenever we’re allowed to go outside again.
The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Published: August 2nd, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy
Check out the synopsis for the first book in the trilogy, The Kiss of Deception, on Goodreads.
Everything about this one’s ending was ridiculous. What the hell?? All of my frustrations are tied to spoilers, so I can’t even explain to you how stupid this was. Not that the first part of the book was amazing, but the ending made me wish I could give this one zero stars.
Before we got to the ending, though, I was mostly annoyed by how convenient everything was. Like, the characters would face a problem with a very simple solution, but they wouldn’t utilize that. The only explanation: “We can’t do that.” Nothing more. They needed to find the most dramatic way of solving the problem because the book needs to be exciting, right? That reminds me that I never really figured out what the supposed Gift was that Lia has, other than it being another sign of the author’s lazy plotting. Don’t know how to make the characters go somewhere? Answer: The Gift!
Finally, I briefly want to talk about how Lia is a perfect example of that whole “strong female character” trope done wrong. She’s clearly written in a way where you’re meant to perceive her as strong. But I’m reading about her and thinking… that’s not strength. She lashes out at the slightest provocation, she is too stubborn to listen to advice, and she doesn’t hesitate to use violence to solve her problems. Lia is not a strong character.
Author: Christina Henry
Published: July 4th, 2017
Buzzwords: Peter Pan re-imagining, violent, Captain Hook POV
Synopsis: There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.
Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever. Peter lies.
I liked the idea behind this book about re-imagining Captain Hook’s origin as one of the Lost Boys. I think my favorite thing about the book was how that choice ended up representing Peter. His character was very interesting in the way that he was portrayed as something both dark and magical. I always love representations of Peter Pan that aren’t the cute Disney version. However, that might also be the only thing I liked about this book. The writing is very simple and straight-forward, which isn’t to my taste. It didn’t exactly create the atmosphere of Neverland that I so craved. The writing also turned quite repetitive when it came to the characterizations, like everyone only had one or two traits to their personality… and I had to be reminded of them constantly.
Also, yes, this is Horror, which I never read, so that also made it difficult for me to judge. I didn’t mind the Horror-elements, but they didn’t exactly make me love the book either.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
Author: Garth Nix
Published: September 22nd, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buzzwords: Urban Fantasy, fast-paced, quirky characters, alternate London
Synopsis: In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.
Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.
Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.
Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.
This story takes place in an alternative version of London in 1983, but after having read the book, I cannot tell you why it needed to take place in the 80’s OR why it couldn’t have been our own version of 1983. When you change the setting from our current day reality and make me learn all the world-building that goes along with that, I need there to be a pretty good reason. The only one I found in this book is connected to be the fact that a lot of the characters’ problems wouldn’t really be problems if cellphones existed.
Several aspects of the world-building bothered me quite a bit as well. There were so many unnecessary details that I suspect were mainly there to show how #quirky this book is. And I am so not the target audience for that. We would get a detailed and long-winded description of something (object, magic, place), which sounded very cool… but we would never hear about this thing again. It contributed to the overall feeling I had about this book which was that everything was a joke. Except suddenly, it became very serious without having prepared me for it. It gives a very disjointed reading experience.
I’m generally incredibly disappointed that a book with the greatest title to ever exist was this horrible.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Published: May 9th, 2017
Buzzwords: Loneliness, humorous, mental illness
Synopsis: Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
I stepped out of my comfort zone with this one, and I’m glad I did despite how it made me slightly uncomfortable at times. It definitely isn’t a book I would recommend to people who don’t like to experience secondhand embarrassment when reading because that’s practically unavoidable. Eleanor is so socially inept that she often finds herself in what I as a reader can only describe as toe-curling situations. Not that she herself realizes that she should be embarrassed, but I certainly did. Many of these situations lead to some quite humorous comments and thoughts from Eleanor that managed to put a smile on my face several times. I loved the book for that.
I also really enjoyed the book’s focus on themes such as loneliness and mental illness, although it wasn’t written in a way I personally related to. But somebody else will.
My main criticism is that it was quite predictable. It didn’t surprise me at any point, and there was definitely a middle part where I felt a bit bored. The author hinted at twists quite obviously, so I was just waiting for them to be revealed. And then it’s just not as shocking, you know, although I did like the twists.
There you have my mini-reviews for the month of February. I hope my March turns out a little bit better reading-wise, and I’ve already picked up the next book in the Farseer Trilogy to make sure that happens. Please let me know what you thought of these books if you’ve read them. Happy reading in March!