RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, United States | Member Since 2011
Anyone who reads even the first page of Winter's Bone will not deny that Daniel Woodrell can write. This book centered on the milieu, and on the struggle of the main character, Ree, who is one of the toughest heroines I've ever encountered. This book is a tutorial in how to write strong women.
The violence and grittiness of the story fit the subject matter, and the resolution of the book was satisfying. The only thing that kept this book from being five stars was Woodrell's propensity for spinning Ree's internal metaphysical experiences out a little too long, and a little too often. Those moments occasionally worked, but often distanced me from Ree and made me question the veracity of her voice.
Read this book for Ree, Teardrop, and Gail. Read it for a tough heroine and a fascinating milieu that will make you look closer at the world around you. The audio version of this book is excellent, and highly recommended.
What stood out about this story was the world building, particularly the division between the classes through the use of language, and the idea of magic inherited through the female line. I never really got a clear picture of the world itself, though--how the symbiosis of technology and medieval government worked. Queens, castles, caste systems, and public executions...and guns, scan-able ID tags, and night clubs? There was promise, but the concepts never quite fused into something I could adequately imagine. What kind of technology there was and who had access to it?
Narration: The narrator did an okay job with emotion, but I think she was a poor choice for the story. Her voice was too high-pitched for the character, and didn't lend appropriate gravity to the situations in the book. Some of the readins of the dialog was a little awkward as well. I think using accents for the different language-speakers might have helped the audio medium of this story.
I liked the base concept of this world and this power so much that the let-down of the execution really frustrates me. Charlie's power could have had SO much potential to be cool. For example, if she and all the other blonde girls in the kingdom had been given the "honor" of working in the queen's castle as servants (as the queen tried to figure out which one of them was the lost princess so she could nom their souls) and Charlie used her power in a more active way to spy on them and figure out what was going on...which is sort of what I thought the book was going to be about.
The plot just didn't seem to flow naturally from the potential conflicts of the story-concept.
The reasons this wasn't five stars:
The biggest characterization issue I have is with the main character, Charlie. She was way too passive, and never stopped being so. Her ONLY skill is this ability to understand all languages. But what does she do with it? She understands all languages. My frustration with the heroine was that she never, even in the end, ceased to be a pawn. Everyone wanted her to do something, but rather than breaking away from what everyone else wanted and carving her own path to her desired outcome, as I expect from a novel heroine, she let everyone else in the story make decisions for her. She's does little besides react to what's happening around her, and though I kept expecting her to take the reins and act, she never did.
Even in the end, she took the throne she really didn't want, with this creepy old lady partially inhabiting her inside, and her only consolation was that the ho-hum hero Max (who did little besides fall for her on sight, swear to protect her, and then stand around while she nearly got her body snatched by grandma) ended up in her bed.
I had absolutely no idea what Charlie's goal was for the first several chapters, until it became apparent that her goal HAD to be protecting her sister, which she eventually completely fails to do. Her lack of something to want gave me nothing to watch her fight for, and since I didn't buy her abrupt relationship with Max (love at first sight that doesn't get much deeper), I found myself unable to care about what happened to her.
The only interesting things she does in the story are helping the girl who tormented her, and asking a group of soldiers to take her sister into a shelter.
Which is so frustrating, because I feel like that could have been pointed out and fixed! The concept of Charlie's character (descendant of a royal line in hiding, power to understand all languages in a society where knowing anything beyond your own caste's language is punishable by death) is damn interesting and has so much promise, but the STORY didn't fit with the potential conflicts, rendering her power, her personality, and her desires unimportant. The only use her power inevitably has is to identify her as the princess.
2. Predictable plot.
"He's the prince." "She's a princess." "Her friend's part of the rebellion." "They're brothers." I figured everything out chapters ahead of the main character, which just left me even more frustrated with her. Nothing in this book surprised me, except for that I was never wrong.
If this had been a book I was reading on the page rather than one I listened to on my iPhone on a long trip, I would have put it down.
3. The Queen's POV. (And in third person?) I was fine with a prologue from the queen's perspective, just to give us an idea of what kind of power she holds and what might be in store for our heroine, but the intermittent glimpses into her head throughout the book not only jarred me out of the story and dropped a few less-than-subtle hints about Max, it destroyed the tension with a villain that seemed to do little more than sit around thinking about how evil she was. Her segments were completely unnecessary, and I think the exposition in her chapters could have been far more deftly worked into Charlie's narrative.
4. The magic. We never get a decent explanation of the magic and how it works, and I kept expecting someone to eventually tell me what the deal was with these powers. I could have let it slip by, if not for the fact that the entire resolution of the story hinged on Angelina's ability to make Charlie and herself glow. I was on board with the healing. I have no idea what the silver glow was and how it could have possibly helped to eradicate the queen's control over Charlie. My best guess is radiation.
5. The romance. Didn't buy it. I didn't care about Max in the least. I figured out he was the Prince the scene after we met him, and never understood his attraction to Charlie beyond her being the "lost princess". It's not like they had a conversation--they just saw each other for a couple of minutes and basically fell in love. It rang false, and his insistence that she was "so beautiful" reinforced my feelings about the shallowness of their relationship. I far preferred his brother, the anarchist, who at least had some fire. In fact, I think his brother had more of a conversation with Charlie than Max ever did. Unfortunately, he was conveniently paired off with another chick, who seemed to be there for little reason other than to disqualify him as a love interest.
From the title of the book, I guess "the pledge" Max makes is supposed to be important. In the end, though, it didn't really have much of an effect on what happened in the story. It wasn't Max who protected her, it was Angelina. The FIVE YEAR OLD was the most effective character in the story. When I first read the back cover, I'd assumed the book was going to be about a "pledge", similar to a "tribute" in Hunger Games.
Parts of this book stood out. The reconciliation with Sydney was good, and I really liked the descriptions and characterization of Brooklyn, who felt like the most realistic character. Overall, this book felt like a promising world with an uninteresting story. The prose itself was decent, but I probably won't be reading this author's work again.
I admit I had my doubts about whether Hearne would be able to keep up the fast-paced, hilarious, lovable, puckish pitch of Atticus O'Sullivan from HOUNDED and was prepared for the second book to be a let-down.
HEXED did what a second book should do--it deepened the problems from "that sucks" to "OH S--T", tangled Atticus up in even more problems, introduced even more lovable and hateable characters, and continued adding layer after layer of complexity to the story. Hearne weaves his tale both backwards and forwards, deftly showing where Atticus has been before, and giving us delicious hints and portends (through the various pantheons and divinations) of what to expect in the future.
Atticus's draw is undeniable, and if you're not sure whether to invest in the second book or not, I will put my full weight behind shoving you off the precipice of doubt. This book is worth it, and having listened to all four books that are currently out, I can definitely promise you won't want to miss this.
Luke Daniels is an extremely talented voice actor as well. His accents are impressive despite an extreme variation, and I especially appreciate the way he reads female characters--without resorting to the falsetto or extreme breathiness of other male voice actors. Yet somehow, I can always tell when a woman is speaking. I hope we get to hear Daniels read quite a bit more--he's fast approaching my favorites list.
Of all the first-person, present-tense, Y.A. dystopian novels with female narrators, Divergent scores right up there with The Hunger Games and Matched. In fact, I would describe it as a cross between the two, with many of the strengths of both.
The one thing Divergent has that I felt both The Hunger Games and Matched lacked was a male love interest I could REALLY get into. I was prepared for my immediate crush to be relegated to the sidelines...and then he wasn't! Veronica Roth's writing is clean and doesn't distract from the story, while still being elegant.
Triss was a wonderful heroine - not as jaded and cold as Katniss, and not as good or innocent as Cassia. She's a great balance of brave, strong, and selfish. She's tough without having to resort to being a tom-boy.
I'm really curious about what will happen in the second and third books. I've got my fingers crossed for this series, hoping it will be like Hunger Games with a more satisfying ending.
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