Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy, Publication date: June 5th 2012, Rating: starstarstarstar/5

shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024.jpgShadow and Bone, written by the immensely talented Leigh Bardugo, is the first installation in the Grisha trilogy. It introduces us to orphan girl Alina and her childhood friend Mal in a made up country heavily influenced by Russia, Ravka. In the middle ofthe country there is a dark rip where creatures live. When Alina and Mal make the dangerous trip, Alina discovers a power she never knew she had. Along with her discovery of Grisha-power, a group of people with different abilities called the Small Science. She is quickly rushed to the castle to be introduced to the king of Ravka and to hone her skills. But leaving Mal behind begins to tear her apart, will the mysterious Darkling be able to fix her wound? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Leigh Bardugo is without doubt currently my favourite YA Fantasy writer. Her language is simple yet she manages to toy with your emotions and change your perspective numerous times within a sentence. I don’t know how to explain it but her writing completely strips the reader of their reins and she forces us into her narrative. It’s kind of freeing not having to make up your own mind about different plot twists and characters. Having just finished A Game of Thrones where the entire series is dependent on how you choose to read into it, this was a refreshing relaxing book to delve into.

The plot was solid and followed a simple and straight red thread. Leigh Bardugo is an amazing FANTASY writer but not an equally amazing ROMANCE writer. The “relationship” scenes felt forced and were wholly unexpected. There was no natural flow between what was going on, what the main character was seeing, and what suddenly was sprung on the reader.

Having read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom first, easily her best writing, easily THE best piece of YA Fantasy out there, the characters fell kind of flat in comparison. I really do sympathise with the main characters and their friends but I was more drawn to the plot rather than the characters. The characters weren’t boring or uninteresting, I actually really like Alina and Mal and the Darkling and everyone everyone everyone! The plot was more interesting and engaging than the characters. For example, in The Raven Cycle it’s the complete opposite, where the characters are the driving force of the book whilst the plot is mildly interesting.

However, this was an amazing start to the trilogy and I have already picked up the second installation in the series, Siege and Storm!

A Game of Thrones

Genre: High Fantasy, Trigger warning: rape, abuse, violence, Publication date: August 1st 1996, Rating: starstarstarstarstar/5

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A Game of Thrones is the first book in the series of A Song Of Ice And Fire by George RR Martin. If you live under a rock I’ll give a quick summary of the story and then delve into deeper themes of the story.

The story is set in a fantasy universe where winter and summer last for years. In the start of the series they are having one of the longest summers they have ever experienced of almost ten years. In preparation for winter the King’s council are responsible for rationing their food supply and use. And everyone wars that after a long summer comes an even longer winter. The Seven Kingdoms are largely ruled by King Robert Baratheon that waged a war against the old rule for his abducted betrothed Lyanna Stark. Mostly, he drinks and fucks and enjoys his other royal engagements whilst the Hand of the King rules. When the Hand dies, the King travels up north to retrieve his old friend, and Lyanna’s brother, Eddard Stark to be the new Hand. Unfortunately, the safety and emptiness of the north doesn’t ready Eddard for the corrupt south and he finds that power is unevenly distributed within the country. As he tries to amend the broken system he is supposed to deal with he is betrayed and broken by everyone he holds dear. The first book ultimately finishes with his ultimate loss of control and what comes after is a fucking shit streak in comparison to the piss stain the first book is.

Although I won’t be continuing my reread of ASOIAF until after the series airs, I want to add this review to the collection because this book and series mean a whole lot to me. I’ve been trying to finish this review for a while but it’s impossible since nothing can be said without giving away a major plot line/twist.

The series is written from different POV that take you across the whole ASOIAF universe. Despite being written in third person every chapter has a special sense to it, they’re never similar even though they’re not strictly first person. It’s not enough to say that GRRM has written a book series, he has created an entire universe. If he’s not a genius he must be a god. The writing is engaging and your reading experience depends on what characters you prefer. Interestingly enough, the book never takes its own stand on any issues and allows you to form your own opinions on each character. GRRM shows you who the characters really are, down to the nitty gritty and horrendous details. There is not a single chapter that isn’t necessary to the plot and story, and each book being a thousand pages long might give you an idea of how complex the ASOIF-universe is.

GRRM has a talent in not only displaying how horrible human nature truly is but how it develops by greed, hate, jealousy, and societal restriction. He explores sexism in depth and in different cultures, maybe not in this book but the entire series is a dismantling of human nature and oppression of women and slaves.

All in all, it is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read and probably will ever read. It is although not my favourite of the entire series but maybe I’ll go further into that once I finish my reread.

 

Norse Mythology:

Norse-Mythology-by-Neil-Gaiman-e1487486255635Norse Mythology is the most recent book by Neil Gaiman, published February 7, 2017. The book is a compilation of short Norse tales that chronicle some of the events in the Norse mythology. Gaiman bases the stories on various songs and other collections that is explained in detail in the foreword by the author himself.

The first few chapters encompass the backstory of the Norse gods; it begins with the story of the story of the world and goes on to map the relations between the different gods. For example, in contrast to popular belief, Loki shares a mother with Odin and is Thor’s uncle but they have a very leisure relationship. The reviews for the first few chapters can be read here, here, and here.

The following chapters are about how the different gods acquired their powers; how Odin popped his eye out to be able to see more, how Loki’s mischief plans win the gods their different special gifts like Thor’s hammer, and how the great wall surrounding Asgard was built.

The last chapters of the book are made of stories where the gods show their strength. The stories are about how mischievous Loki really is, how strong Thor really is, how power-hungry Odin really is, and how independent Freya really is. And the absolute last chapter is about Ragnarok and how the world will crumble and Heimdall will blow the Gjallerhorn to wake the sleeping gods and prepare them for one last war at Vigrid, the final battle field. Noble warriors, lead by Odin, will clash in the loudest clang of sword against sword with the evil dead of Loki.

In the end, Yggradsil will be the only remain of the Norse world and within it are Life and Life’s Yearning that will begin the world anew.

The stories were interesting and incredibly easy to follow and the chapters were set in a logical concession of each other. They were written in short parts that was incredibly smart since the stories were very dense with information and action. This “info-dump” is possibly Gaiman’s best talent especially with the different accounts and translations he was trying to incorporate into one story. Despite this, I do not necessarily think Gaiman’s writing fit the narration the stories deserved. Although the information was distributed evenly, the writing felt choppy and didn’t flow smoothly. I was expecting a narration closer to my kindergarten teacher when I was a child and she told me some of these stories. The lack of classical story-telling techniques almost took the magic and mystery out of the stories.

I hesitantly give it a 3-star writing; it is a great collection for new people interested in Norse Mythology but it lacked in being anything more than a future source of information.

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Norse Mythology: Before The Beginning, And After

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The beginning of the world started with nothing, two shapeless settings. To the north was the cold Niflheim with eleven rivers and to the south was Muspell. At the edge of Muspell stans Sutr, a non god before the gods, that guards his land and will not leave his post until Ragnarök comes and the big war begins. In between Miflheim and Muspell exists a void making up the “yawning gap”, there emerged the sexless Ymir that birthed a six-headed giant from it’s legs and a male and a female from under his arm.

This short chapter describes how the world according to the Norse Mythology was created. How Odin came to be the father of all. How Odin and his brothers Ve and Vili created a world within the skull of the father of giants Ymir, clouds from his brain, mountains from his bones, oceans from his blood that ultimately drowned all the giants except one.

Incredibly succinct, the chapter manages to give an overview over Norse mythology of the creation of the world we live in today and how it will one day end. These questions are generally cornerstones in every religion and it is interesting to see how similar some of these beliefs are to Abrahamic religions.

For example, it is believed that the three brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve created a man and a woman from clay that were called Ask and Embla. Anyone else find the resemblance to Adam and Eve? Similar to Muslims, Norsemen also believe that humans were made from clay.

They also believe in a great war that will come, Ragnarök, when the Sutr with the flaming sword will leave his post in Muspell, when Floki will assemble his monstrous children to fight the gods, and the world will reach the ultimate uproar.

The stories are told rather factually and I was expecting more story telling. My expectations were very different. But that is not to say I am disappointed, Gaiman’s writing is very simple that is very appropriate for such complicated mythology.

Norse Mythology: The Players

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman starts with a short chapter where it presents the three players: Odin, Thor, and Floki.

Here we learn about what their powers are and how they acquired them. Odin hung from a tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nine nights for his precious runes to be revealed to him. Floki, Odin’s half brother and NOT Thor’s as advertised by the Marvel series, has winged shoes and is the son of a giant. Odin and Floki’s mother is Nal, or needle, for her slim and sharp shape. Whilst Floki is said to have many monster offspring that will fight with him against the gods when Ragnarök finally comes, Odin has one son. Thor is the strongest god of them all with iron gloves to grasp his war hammer, Mjölnir. Around his waist he has Megingjor that is said to double Thor’s strength.

All in all, it is a good start. Although not all things were mentioned some things were hinted to be explored further on. I’m excited for the stories to begin!

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Title: Tiger Lily, Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson, Genre: Fantasy, Trigger warning: rape, abuse, suicide, Publication date: July 3rd 2012, Rating: starstarstarstar/5


7514925.jpgDark and twisted, this Peter Pan retelling is an absolutely pleasant read – for the first 200 pages or so. Tiger Lily lives with the Sky Eaters, one of the many tribes on the island of Neverland. In the wide forest, between different villages, live the dreaded Lost Boys lead by Peter Pan and his posse.

Tiger Lily, an outcast in her own village, finds refuge in Peter Pan’s burrow. She slowly falls in love with Peter Pan and is swept in the wilderness and adventurous life he leads. Told from the faerie Tinker Bell’s perspective, we see how love and friendship slowly turns sour, and how loss and grief can churn out venom out of the friendliest of souls. In a similar fashion we are exposed to how destructive colonialism and religious righteousness can be.

This book is not one I would recommend to anyone under the mental age of old. Heavy subjects are woven delicately between stories of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan’s love. The first sentences of the first chapter warn you appropriately:

This is a love story, but not like any you’ve heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn’t win.

Tinker Bell is a mute faerie, like all faerie’s are. It was very interesting and also stressful to read from her point of view. No matter how much she tried to intervene, her inability to speak to the characters, left her to be more of a bystander. It was a perfect representation of how reader’s feel and as she was unnoticeably nudging and stinging Tiger Lily and Peter Pan to warn them of danger I felt my own chest rise in agitation and trying to warn them! I was turning into my dad yelling at football players on TV…

I won’t even attempt to dedicate a paragraph to how perfect the writing was, because I think this book is known for it’s writing style if nothing else. Anderson has a talent in deceiving you with her words into willingly break yourself open and allow her to rip your heart out. For almost the entirety of the book I thought that people had overhyped how sad the book was, because until page 200 it was quite upbeat. Even up until 270 it wasn’t that heartbreaking. But the last 30 pages were a real punch to the gut.

The plot was engaging, although lacking until the very end. Not much happened, I didn’t feel like there were any plot twists or that I had been taken through a journey. The book was more like a wave sweeping over you in slow motion until you’re under water and that’s when it speeds up. And I would have preferred if the characters introduced in the last 50 pages would have been present earlier. Basically, I felt the book was too short for me to get a full impression of the characters but appropriate for the plot that was introduced. It’s like being really thirsty and only having half a glass of water nearby.

I’ve been trying to decide between a 3-star and 4-star rating for this book. It is a very solid 3-star worthy book. But it ultimately gets a 4-star rating because of the beautiful quotes I will carry with me forever.

The Whole Thing Together

Title: The Whole Thing Together, Author: Ann Brashares, Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Trigger warning: divorce, major character death, Publication date: April 25th 2017, Rating: starstar/5


31123236.jpgAnn Brashares new book is set in the family summer beach house in the Hamptons. It once used to belong to Lila, that was married to Robert, who now owns the house. In the divorce they settled to share the house, on the condition to never be in it at the same time. Lila and Robert both remarry and have Ray (by Lila) and Sasha(by Robert). For lack of more rooms in the massive Hamptons villa, they are forced to share a room that is both theirs but never at the same time. Ray and Sasha also share a job and three older sisters from before the divorce – Emma, Quinn, and Mattie.

The complete separation changes when Emma becomes engaged and the sisters plan an engagement party in the house to be attended by both families. The road there isn’t pretty and it takes a lot from both Sasha, Ray, and the three sisters. It perfectly displayed how I believe my future wedding/engagement party will be. Although my parents aren’t that crazy, my stepparents are, and I couldn’t help but picture them as Robert and Lila.

The perspective of the divorce and families focus mainly on Sasha and Ray’s experience which I enjoyed a lot. It is so odd to see how much a divorce can effect the children that can come after and it has brought me closer to my sisters from my mum and dad.

The book deals with many themes simultaneously; family tension, adoption, and love. It shows every characters own perspectives on each of the themes resulting in a variety of opinions to be represented. Robert is originally from Bangladesh but was a war baby that was consequently adopted by a middle class white couple in America. How he views his adoption and family dynamic is wholly different from how his daughters see it. Quinn feels very in tune with her blood heritage and the struggle between being who you were raised and being what you look like is beautifully handled. As a child of immigrant parents that grew up in a Swedish environment I could partially identify. I felt “Swedish” and acted “Swedish” but I didn’t look it and weren’t treated in that way either. It’s a very interesting topic to explore further and was, in my opinion, appropriately handled.

Although great it was very short, there were a lot of characters that were underdeveloped. I wanted to see more of the sisters and learn more about the family issue. You can guess the reason for the divorce but it is never explained and it didn’t offer any other information. The family dynamic also took a while to understand and I’m still not sure how they split up the time at the beach house.

Now to the juicy stuff. Nah, I’m not spoiler warning this shit because despite being such a great work of YA Contemporary it still get’s a 2 star rating from me because of the fucking incest. What went through Brashare’s mind? Is she a child of divorce? My sisters, although not blood related and rarely in contact, are still SISTERS! It did my head in to no end… I’m so disappointed by this mess that ruined the book. If Robert couldn’t stand Quinn getting a nose ring, I cannot imagine how he would react to this. I really hope he whoops both their asses…

Thank you to Netgalley for my free copy!