Tag: fantasy

Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty

best book EVAH

Well, I didn’t end up reviewing Deathless, mainly because it was so beautifully flawed that it defied description (I feel like people wouldn’t have had much time for BDSM and two-timing during the Siege of St. Petersburg. Too cold. Too hungry. But I wasn’t there, so what do I know?). Also, college fried my brain, so yeah. There never was a promise I could keep.

However, post-finals, I was looking for subpar brain candy to destress, and I found it in Cruel Beauty, courtesy of Rosamund Hodge–except it wasn’t subpar! Who says brain candy can’t also be art?

Lots of kitties
WHAT THIS BOOK DID TO ME

First of all, the setting is gorgeous. I adore gorgeous settings, probably because I can’t write them at all. Nyx Triskelion (cool name) lives in Arcadia, which is…a dome? made of parchment? I was never really clear on how to picture it (notoriously bad at following descriptive details, sorry), but it sounded cool.

The wavy, golden rays of the sun looked like a gilt illumination in one of Father’s old manuscripts; they glinted, but their light was less painful than a candle. Once the main body of the sun was risen over the hillside, it would be uncomfortable to look upon, but no more so than the frosted glass of a Hermetic lamp. For most of the light came from the sky itself, a dome of cream veined with darker cream, like parchment, through which light shone as if from a distant fire. Dawn was no more than the brighter zone of the sky rising above the hills, the light colder than at noon but otherwise the same.

Arcadia (land Nyx lives in) has been closed off from the world, seemingly forever, with only a Gentle Lord in a ruined castle to rule it. Many have theories as to why. Unfortunately, the Gentle Lord is excellent at making bargains, but they don’t always work out so well for the bargainers. There’s always a misinterpreted clause, like the one Nyx’s father falls prey to. Wife will give birth to two healthy daughters? Excellent. Wife will die in the process? Oh.

So Arcadians hate the Gentle Lord because he’s a ruthless haggler who tells tons of lies by omission. Also Nyx’s dad promised him one of his daughters. OH. Instead of beating himself up over not totally owning his Dad of the Year award, like maybe he should, he spends Nyx’s entire childhood training her as a magical weapon so that she can take her future husband down. No, really. DAD OF THE YEEEEEAAARRR.

why junshan why
Me whenever Nyx’s daddy was remotely mentioned in any way.

To make matters worse, the Gentle Lord’s hotness is in dispute.

I knew that the Gentle Lord was different enough from other demons that people could look on him and not go mad. But some said he had the mouth of a snake, the eyes of a goat, and the tusks of a boar, so that even the bravest could not refuse his bargains. Others said he was inhumanly beautiful, so that even the wisest were beguiled by him. Either way, I couldn’t imagine letting him touch me.

*checks genre* Yeah, let’s go with inhumanly beautiful. I know that it can be hard to marry an evil demon Prince, but I think I’ve read so much of this genre that I’ve gotten a bit jaded. Honestly, I was just waiting for Nyx to fall in love with him so that we could all go home already. However. Elements kept surprising me.

For one thing, Ignifex, the demon prince in question, was more of an asshole than I expected. Also, almost zero angst over what a douchecanoe he was being, which I personally found refreshing. Maybe I’m tired of cheap angst, which is something I never thought I’d say. I don’t like cheap assholery either, but Ignifex’s reasons for acting out, if not exactly laudable, are at least understandable…ish? No spoilers, though. Also, he gets better. 🙂

Maybe what surprised me most, though, was Nyx herself. I’m sad to say that in YA, I sometimes end up reading for the hot dude of the week because heroines can be a little subpar, and I hate doing it. On the other hand, I also hate reading solely for the heroine because the hero’s terrible. Not the case here! I was able to read for both. Nyx is a QUEEN, and I cannot emphasize this enough. She doesn’t take the fate handed to her lying down, but she also doesn’t waste time on pointless rebellion or wilting sacrifice. Instead, she is quietly and murderously furious, clever enough to realize that something is horribly wrong with her family, but socially conditioned too well to reject the future planned for her. She is her people’s only hope of breaking the curse, so she meets her fate gracefully.

Fortunately, her new husband is way more interested in building card towers and eating bon-bons than being, you know, absolutely terrible. In fact, he offers something that no one else in Arcadia can give her: unconditional acceptance and love. Awww. See, not that much of an asshole. More and more, Nyx starts to doubt her mission and whether her father really knows what he’s doing (obviously not). Before this book, I never wondered what would happen if the protagonist got sick of the hero gig and kicked back with the villain for some nice bonding time and snacks, but now I guess I know.

buffing-nails.gif
Actual footage of Nyx and Ignifex.

Actually, if I have one criticism of this book, it’s that it briefly flirted with the abandonment of the heroic role, only to veer back in a more traditional direction. Not that the ending I got wasn’t satisfying–honestly, I probably cried a little (POST FINALS-EMOTIONS, THAT’S ALL), but I would have loved to see a world where curses aren’t broken, villains aren’t defeated, and heroines aren’t sacrificed. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll have to write one.

I wanted to like it, but I COULDN’T, or, a review of A Great and Terrible Beauty

a great and terrible beauty

It’s not that I object to reading about schoolgirl bitchery, though it’s not exactly my preferred genre. Dumb schoolgirl bitchery, on the other hand…

I wanted to like this book. And, when I started, it had every promise of being likable. The setting of India was interesting, and the author took a risk in making her character a bit more historically accurate than most (at first). You see, Gemma Doyle is a bratty sixteen-year-old who hates living in India and makes no bones about it. I actually liked that detail because in historical fiction about Britain, India is usually presented as this far off exotic land tasting of spice and freedom–not an ordinary place with ordinary people. A sixteen-year-old British girl wanting to party in London seems pretty natural to me, regardless of how low she descends in reaching her objective. Continue reading “I wanted to like it, but I COULDN’T, or, a review of A Great and Terrible Beauty”

Siamese Mayhem finally finishes a series, or, a review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy

Chemical Garden Trilogy

One of the great tragedies of reviewing is that bad books always give me more to say. When I have an actual good book, I just can’t find the snark. Hopefully, it is possible for me to be interesting without making fun of something. However, I promise nothing. The Chemical Garden Trilogy is one of these happy few; they are the sort of books I have only good things to say about. Continue reading “Siamese Mayhem finally finishes a series, or, a review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy”

The only thing hotter than an angel is a competent heroine, or, a review of Angelfall

It is a testament to this story that it features a badass, incredibly beautiful angel and yet someone else steals the show. And no, the person who steals the show is not the adorable, funny, hot demon love interest. (Yes, I read Fallen. Yes, I squeed over Cam. Those days are behind me. I think.) It was the heroine. Yes, that’s right. The ordinary, human heroine is the most compelling character.

anime Thor and Loki
This gif accurately captures my emotions.

Continue reading “The only thing hotter than an angel is a competent heroine, or, a review of Angelfall”

Think queens, not kings

Years and years ago, when I first thought up a fantasy world, it was a cliched mess, but in fairness to myself, I was nine. It consisted of long-lost princesses, talking animals, and more cliched dreck. And the men were mostly in charge. This country didn’t have queens; it had kings–even though the primary religion had a goddess. Storywise, it wasn’t a terrible gender dynamic. Throughout history, we’ve seen a similar story play out; no matter how friendly to women a society might seem at first, men have generally ruled the lands. For an author who wants to write history-based fantasy (think Game of Thrones), gender roles like these are a great idea. It is not, however, the only model available. The point of fantasy is imagining what could be different, be it dragons, chimeras, or gender equality.

Or maybe even matriarchy.

Continue reading “Think queens, not kings”