I would read this book again and again. It was simply lovely, a beautiful mix of story, legend, and history, and one of the most satisfying books I've read this year. It was mysterious in all the right parts and ways. If you have any inclination towards faerie folklore or magical realism, you are sure to find this delightful.
I really enjoyed the first book so I picked this one up, but straight off the bat, the second book started following in the footsteps of Twilight love triangles and brooding, overreactive teens who really aren't that interesting. Once the characters start dissolving like that, then the lack of a solidly built world and mediocre plot start sticking out. So the result is that just a little more halfway through, I gave up. I'm not finishing this book or continuing with this series; my time is too valuable.
I found myself surprisingly caught up and pleasantly surprised with this audiobook. The story wasn't anything like what I was expecting, but it was wonderful. I've been on a ghost story kick lately and I think I assumed this would be akin to that...and in ways it was, but it definitely went in a different direction. It was very fun to go on this journey, I would definitely listen to this again.
Some minor flaws that I noticed but that wouldn't deter my recommendation:
1. There were a few loose ends, a few unexplained things, some of which I suppose could be excused because of the nature of the house, but others I felt just weren't adequately realized but could have been.
2. In an attempt to sound casual, the narrator tends to narrate in run-on sentences, then awkwardly pauses or elongates mid-word. Narrating female characters is definitely not his strength. That being said, he was very good at giving a different voice for every character, male or female. I never wondered who was talking.
I will admit, I only had any curiosity about this book because it seemed to come right on the heels of "The Night Circus", of whose summary it seemed extremely similar to. Coupled with the additional "steampunk" quality it boasted, I was initially convinced that this was nothing more than a cheap shot riding two very popular coat tails.
That may or may not be true of this book, but I can say that the story itself was more unique and interesting than I expected.
The narrator, unfortunately, was awful. I will never listen to anything Scott Aiello narrates again. If I were stumbling across this for the first time again, I'd buy the book, not the audio.
I can't understand why this book was two credits, and I feel them utterly wasted on this book. I usually enjoy Gregory's books for the way she brings a realism to such black-and-white historical events, but wow, was this was a let-down. It's the worst "love" story I've ever read, and I was disappointed the love story was so intrusive to the historical events unfolding.
If you pick up this book expecting a lot of insight into Mary and Elizabeth's socio-political affairs, this is the wrong book for you. Hannah, our leading lady, spends most of her time with Mary so you'll get the clearest run-down her actions, but Elizabeth's doings are usually from afar, and there is never any real explanation as to how and what Elizabeth and Dudley and Dee are accomplishing behind the queen's back, even though Hannah is playing spy and errand-runner for them. There's never explanation as to how and why Hannah was arrested. There's no real explanation as to why France and England were fighting this time, or what Mary's consort had to do with it.
Every aspect of Hannah feels like a forced plot device. She dresses like a boy, but everyone knows she's a girl. There's no pattern to Hannah's cleverness and gullibility, other than that it's convenient at the time for the author to have her be one or the other. She's extremely lackluster about her Jewish heritage, and yet she clings to it (which is it, Gregory, decide!) Both Mary and Elizabeth know her as and use her as a spy, and yet continue to favor her, even though she's a nobody with nothing to offer their causes. Her visions are predictable and obvious, yet she's constantly confused (to the point that it's kind of cheap and cheezy...her visions are not as mystical and eerie and poignant as say, Jacquetta's power in Lady of the Rivers). Hannah adopts the bastard son of her cheating husband without any real reason or desire, and suddenly turns into mama-bear. None of Hannah's qualities or actions feel at all natural.
Hannah was generally weak-kneed and wishy-washy, but it seemed that she was being built up to be a strong character in time. But as soon as I thought she had finally come into her own, she did this odd about-face and seemed to become everything that she had said she would not. It was so disheartening, because there wasn't even a plausible reason for her to fail this way, it just seemed to be what the author wanted to do next, no matter that she had built her characters to behave another way.
1. Don't read this if you're looking for a feel-good 'girl-power' story.
2. Don't read this if you're interested in the socio-political affairs and shift of power between Mary and Elizabeth, or anyone at all.
So, overall I really enjoyed listening to this, much more than I expected. It seems that the concept of the Green Rider was taken from the pages of Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, except it presents a much more realistic presentation of the position, social relationships, and politics (it also helps that Britain is a better writer).
Yes, it's probably a fantasy written to appeal to those just getting into the genre, but there's nothing wrong with that. I appreciated that the main character was more in depth and rounded than the angsty teen runaway I was expecting. She was a strong, convincing female character without overdoing it.
While I somewhat agree with some above comments that it never felt like our leading lady was any 'real' danger, she does have an extensive adventure and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Some things could have been better; the pacing was occasionally jumpy, and it felt like there were 3-4 climaxes which *almost* made the story too long, but I'm just nitpicking here.
tldr; great story, great characters, excited to read the next book.
My only real complaint is that I wish it could have been longer. Great escalation, and great parallel to my favorite classic.
Holy terrible narration, Batman! Nearly all the characters (with the except of the main guy) were over-exaggerated to a painful level, many difficult to understand, and others just bizarre. I don't understand why the faery folk had Mexican accents, or Arabic, or whatever it was he was trying to present. The narrator also tended to slip in and out of dialects, and often read too quickly, making it sound like a bunch of run-on sentences.
The concept of the story is neat, but you never get a full sense of any of the parties, so I found myself not caring about any of the characters or their situations, with the possible exception of the faerie seeker. It's never very clear for the reader how the different magics are working together. Since the characters don't know what's going on either (just that the right things seem to be happening at convenient times) it feels like a cheap cop-out.
Instead of the authors explaining how the theocracy's ideals or deep magics work as part of the story, they chose to right an essay-like epilogue to explain all the disjointed chaos you just read. I didn't like feeling like I had to 'study' to understand this story.
If you're thirteen and Twilight is your favorite series EVAR, then this is probably the book for you. I picked this up hoping for an intriguing tale of faerie folk akin to others I have read but many parts of this book are unbearably juvenile. The lead character is reminiscent of Bella Swan, although not quite to that extreme. Still, she's introverted and moody and although she deflects everyone's attentions, she stubbornly remains the subject of everyone's fantasies and desires. Seth's character is completely unrealistic and plays into the 'what teenage girls dream boys were like' category. Also, all the emphasis on !Zomg!punkfashion! and piercings was a little ridic, not to mention nearly useless to the story itself. Sometimes the story read more like sex-ed (minus the sex, all the advice).
The story is somewhat hallow. I'm trying to keep in mind that this is a YA read, but even comparing to other YA's, it was disappointing. It's an urban fantasy, which I find much more difficult to pull off. I thought the way the author was trying to portray it was actually a good, believable start, but the plot was weak and full of circumstantial or predictable acts. I never really felt like anything went particularly wrong for the characters you wanted to support, or that they had to work particularly hard to achieve their goals.
I had no clue what was going on half the time. It doesn't seem like the author did either. I don't know if the author was rushed to make a product in light of the popularity of the first book, or if she just used up all her good mojo too quick, but from the middle of the 2nd book to the end of this one, everything was a complete mess.
The main character has epiphany after epiphany, and each time she seemed to emerge with a solid decision, and I eagerly read on, hoping the story would finally progress. But each time, Katniss regressed without much reason and eventually devolved as an intriguing character. She, like many others in the book, start behaving irrationally from what we know of them, and the plot was all over the place, if present at all. The ending was a cop-out and didn't bother explaining itself.
Huge disappointment. The first book should have been left alone as a stand alone. It was so much more powerful that way.
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