This is a review of all three books, mainly because I feel that they’re all rather formulaic at their core. These are fantasy novels written by the ostensibly left-wing feminist Kristin Cashore, and they take place in a mystical realm with two major landmasses separated by a mountain range: The Seven Kingdoms and The Dells. Graceling and Bitterblue both take place in the Seven Kingdoms, while Fire, the middle book, takes place in the Dells.
In the Seven Kingdoms, there are people with special abilities called Gracelings – each of these people are gifted in one area. Someone might be a phenomenal cook, someone else might be able to read minds, etc. They are distinguished by their odd eyes – one eye might be green, the other blue.
In the Dells, there are brightly colored animals called monsters. There appears to be no other major difference to these animals other than their outlandish coloring. There were human “monsters” with brightly colored hair and special abilities, like mind control, but they died out, and the book Fire starts out with the last human monster in the Dells – a dark-skinned, red haired girl named Fire.
I should be ashamed of myself. Not only did I read the (bad) reviews before reading the book, I read reviews AFTER reading the book and have (almost) nothing original to say about it! In fact, I AM ashamed of myself, but I wanted to write about it anyway.
By the way, I read this back in January, and wrote the first draft of this review way back then.
Brief summary of the book can be found on Good Reads. I will copy and paste the first paragraph:
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The review is kind of spoiler-ish…
I read this in an afternoon. I was bored and had nothing better to do.
This girl named Dylan Mahoney ends up dating one of the most popular boys in school after her two friends tell her that he’s a player who will just use her. Turns out her friends were right. She spies him cheating on her and she gets revenge by smashing up his car. He retaliates by sending the topless pics she sent to him to everyone in school. From then on, she’s the school pariah – a crazy golf club wielding slut (she used his golf clubs to smash the windshield or whatever).
In her loneliness she finds the blogs of these Christian fundamentalist girls who honestly sound more like the Amish, but with computers and electricity. She and her family are far from religious (including a speech by her father about how he doens’t mind those crazies as long as they don’t push their sky god beliefs on him), and that makes these girl bloggers even more interesting to Dylan. She admires one girl in particular – Abigail Dean, the Queen Bee of the Christian bloggers. Dylan eventually sets up a fake blog and persona named Faith, and it is Faith and Abigail who become friends to the point that Dylan/Faith travels to rural Illinois to spend two weeks with the Dean family.
This was an interesting but kind of sad ghost story. It is also one of my favorite kinds of ghost stories – the ones where the ghosts all gravitate towards one person (usually one person who can see them and communicate with them) whom they need to pass on a message to those they left behind. I’ve always been interested in the afterlife, if one exists.
Liza Layton loses her mother to influenza, and it’s up to her to ensure that her father is taken care of. He’s a very talented but eccentric carver and spends most of his time carving – so much that his in-laws want to have him committed to a work farm called Elysian Fields. Lyza must overcome her fears to get him the help he needs.
When it comes to ghosts and the afterlife, there isn’t anything here terribly groundbreaking. It’s pretty standard – person starts seeing ghosts, ghosts need person to pass on messages to the living so they can move on, person lives in fear of going crazy and being institutionalized.
That being said, I really liked it. The author says that the story came to her in a dream, so the story was written with a dreamlike quality and I have to agree – the story does have a dreamlike quality to it. I kept picturing Lyza’s house with an overcast sky and fog surrounding it. That’s dreamlike to me, anyway.
I think this book was originally released in 2009, but was re-released in April 2011. I was able to read this thanks to NetGalley.
I didn’t like this one too much. The main character Sarah was an unlikeable skank, and the book was mostly really boring – the build up of Sarah’s relationship with Agnes and Maddy took forever. The good stuff happened a few chapters after the fawn died. I never was able to muster up any sympathy or caring for Sarah at all. I thought the relationship between Agnes and Maddy was far more interesting. I only finished it to see how many random strangers Sarah would sleep with (only two; three if you count the random person she slept with in high school). I don’t know what it is with authors and their penchant for writing distinctly unlikeable characters – this whole casual sex thing is a rather contrived character flaw. Not only a contrived character flaw, but a half-assed character flaw that also seems to be some sort of political statement. I dunno. I just think there’s a difference between truly flawed characters and truly unlikeable characters with a boatload of very bad habits and characteristics.
The ending was also really sad. I think this book was marketed as a paranormal young adult novel, but there wasn’t anything really paranormal about it, other than the possibility of Maddy casting a spell on Sarah to make her chubby.