The next ten best books I’ve reviewed this year, chronologically speaking.
While I have this labeled under vampires The Band really wasn’t a pack of vampires. They were revenants, corporeal entities stuck in the middle between the living and the dead because they have some unresolved stuff sticking them to this half-afterlife. They have to recruit like-minded teenagers to replace the members of their band that actually did move on in order to even out the imbalance and move on themselves. The only downside is they take the perfectly viable human teenagers with them into death. Bummer. There was a hint of blood exchange going on but not really and while they were definitely night people and only drank a particular wine they could still come out during the day (they just didn’t prefer it) and they didn’t actually feed on humans. It’s something different and as much as I like my vampires it was nice to see a change.
I really liked the world(s) Williams created and how familiar they were but were still foreign at the same time. The concept was that many people, after they died, went to the second realm where they experienced a new level of existence mutually exclusive to the first realm, or the one we live in. Earth’s myths and legends were loosely based on the creatures and stories from the second realm and a lot of the facts were lost in translation because a lot of it just couldn’t be translated. There are elements of the second realm that just don’t transfer to the human one. The third realm is more of an afterlife as we know it, where if you die in the second that’s where you go. And then there’s the underworld and the semi-world that the Nail, who’s trying to merge the first and second realms so he can wreak havoc on the worlds, occupies that exists in this kind of active limbo. It’s not as complicated as I’m making it sound, if I’m even describing it correctly, but it’s all incredibly detailed and there was never a moment where I couldn’t picture what was going on in my head regardless of how foreign and fantastical the worlds were.
Well she is rather guarded and plays her cards closely to her chest. For years she’s been a killer and that’s it. She hasn’t admitted any other human emotions to herself for most of her life until Po comes into it. So I would imagine to have her secrets, secrets that she won’t even admit to herself, laid bare for someone to see, would be the ultimate intrusion. Someone that could show Katsa what she truly is would be horrifying indeed. She’s been in IT for so long, the king’s THING, that to be exposed as human would be quite painful. This isn’t someone she’d want others to see so knowing that there are people out there that could just take that information and use it against her would send someone like her, someone unable to process her own emotions, into a rage because that’s all she knows.
Not a lot really happened in SUPERNATURALLY but what did happen was still enjoyable to read. I mean the opening of the book is Evie getting kidnapped by some cloud fairy thing. She gets stink eye from all manner of fey throughout the book, gets stalked by a deranged vampire, encounters some trolls and has to deal with a friend that’s a little too ditzy and upbeat for personality. It’s exhausting and exciting and what’s even better is the book is what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. I like quirk in my books but I’ve found lately that they tend toward the extreme and it only ends up sounding forced. Not here. It’s normal and quirky and snarky and, most importantly, BELIEVABLE. I didn’t feel like I was getting slapped with quirk.
I was never too big of an Archer fan so once Brigan came into the picture and stopped being a douche I was all over that. He and Fire . . . they needed to get on that. Seriously. That relationship just broke my damn heart. Like crying at work while reading it broke my heart. How’s that for embarrassing?
The whole issue with Leck developed really creepily and it completely fit him. A real Village of the Damned and Damien smash and have an unholy offspring kind of creepy where he can do the same thing as monsters like Fire can but he takes it to a whole new level, even beyond what her father did and it brought goosebumps to my skin. Going into it you know that Leck will survive whatever Fire throws at him because he’s an old man in Graceling but to see him get there was an adventure unto itself. Fire, for all her self-imposed meekness, knows how to stand her ground and not crumple when she wants something done.
The second the book started I was reading it with an accent in my head that kind of sounded like Shelby Foote, well to-do person from the upper echelons of the south that have a more cultured drawl about them. That was the tone of the book for me. And it fit oh so well. The over the top level of propriety and gasp and SCANDAL was just ungodly amusing to me as I sat there reading it, squealing in delight at the moments of SHAME and FLUTTER and QUIVERING THIGHS. Clutch the pearls, ladies. It’s wonderful.
It was very much over the top in terms of writing style but it fit. The story was over the top, the situation was over the top, the gasping and lack of propriety was over the top but you know what? I couldn’t get over the top enough. The sexual tension between Lydia and Vincent was extravagant and I just wanted to scream DO IT ALREADY. I’m imagining this is indicative of writing within the confines of this era because that tension was drawn OUT until no one involved, including this reader, could take it anymore. FINALLY it happened and oh steamy thigh quivering it was phenomenal.
The love interest aspect of it reminded me of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms books between Raisa and Han, the queen and the pauper, basically. That’s what happened here with Bitterblue and the Love Interest whose name escapes me. It was very push and pull, there was a lot of lying going on and it was all rather tumultuous but it was interesting to see it develop. It was also rather heartbreaking knowing that Bitterblue had to be so secretive about everything. She’s a queen that’s doing the best she can in the aftermath of a manipulative, sadistic tyrant who also happened to be her father but it’s not ever good enough. She’s cracking under the pressure and escaping to this other world within her city is a means for her to really see what’s going on and put her duties in perspective.
Because everyone’s finally come to terms with their places in the greater game of humanity everyone’s finally come into their characters and I got to see who they really were. Church effectively became a broken messiah, becoming the spearhead of the fight. He did it because it was his destiny. There was a little bucking and fighting but he finally came to trust it all and it always played out in the end. Ruth finally embraced her powers and became the powerful nature warrior she was tasked with being. It wasn’t without its consequences but she grabbed that power by the balls and made it her bitch. Shavi showed the least change, only because he accepted his path long before the others. Veitch teetered on acceptance and completely breaking down. His emotions swung wildly in ALWAYS FOREVER and he was the character that became the most unstable as the story went on. He seemed to fight back against what was happening while at the same time being accepting of it. Tom . . . Tom finally let the human in him show and it was heartbreaking. As for Laura, she finally got over her crap. And oh my god what a wonderful character she became. Seriously. She really is an awesome, snarky, strong character when she isn’t being an abhorrent bitch. That piece of herself she left behind in book 2 and good riddance I say to that.
From the second I started reading I was on board with the characters, the setting, the voice, everything. It’s written in such a way that it evokes the time it’s trying to portray. A bit more formal, a higher level of voice. But Shecter doesn’t overdo it, even when she swaps Tag’s slave POV to Lucia’s highborn POV. There isn’t any trying too hard or overly intellectual language going on. It’s realistic and I bought every second of it. I should go back to Tag’s POV for a second, though, to say that he and Lucia grew up together and that Tag is just as educated as Lucia. He’s a medicus (basically a healer/doctor), is proficient in Latin and Greek and had all the privileges Lucia did as a youth. He was lucky. So their voices didn’t really differ on an intellectual level but Tag maintained his intelligence even amongst the gladiators. There weren’t any slips and he wasn’t wearing two faces at all throughout the story. He was never trying to be something he wasn’t. He was just Tag.
And then the end just comes in and blows my brains right out of my head because it went ahead and surprised the hell right out of me. I did not expect the book to go the route that it did and it more than made up for the slower plot the rest of the book had. The ending elevated Rosie to a new level of Awesome Character and it really gave me answers that finally gave reality to the book. There was no longer a question of what was going on.
The voice itself is really compelling and I think that’s what kept me reading in the beginning. The writing was nice and I like reading nice writing. But then O’Brien started playing with my head and I loved her just a little more for that. I think it takes real talent to be able to warp someone’s perception like that and mak them question what’s going on in their own heads, not only just with what’s in the book. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in book two. And damn do I have a long time to wait for that.