Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

     Calling all Twilight-fans who are looking for another supernatural romance. This teen novel is written by amazingly cool and very much talented Maggie Stiefvater and is full of action, the supernatural, romance, and of course, an inhumanly attractive and tortured soul for you to dream about. Rather than the typical path of supernatural fiction that most authors take, Stiefvater chooses to focus on fairies. And yes, I did say fairies. Now before you completely write off the book because you don't want to read a story about a girl who falls in love with a male version of Tinkerbell, Stiefvater constructs a world where fairies are dangerous. They're sneaky, unpredictable, and certainly can be vicious. They do not care about the human race and they live an immortal life of fun, mischief, and pleasure.

     This book of fairies is not a happy, utopian world. Lament does not have a shortage of violent episodes and a suspenseful, bloody climax that will have you on the edge of your seat. Lament helps to rewrite mythology about fairies and chooses to focus on the fairies who aren't frilly, sweet, and about pure goodness. Fairies are real and they are dangerous. Cloverhands are the humans who have the ability to see fairies, and once the fairies know who you are, they are attracted to that person. They view their interactions with humans as games--and their games can easily turn to bloodshed.

     Maggie Stiefvater proves to us her adaptability as an author. I read Scorpio Races first and this book is nothing like that one. I'm a fan of her work, so I decided to give Lament a shot. I did not expect to be hooked and finishing the book in a matter of hours. Lament is part of a series and is the first book in that series, so there's lots to love. The premise is a mortal girl, with a strange ability to see fairies, falls in love with a tall, dark, [*cough* handsome], and dangerous stranger who is not all that he seems. The theme of "love conquers all" reigns true in this book--even if you're basically a hired hit man and you're supposed to kill the one you love. A love triangle, various interesting characters (both fairy and human), and music are all important components of the book. As someone who grew up in a musical home (7 years violin, 6 years flute, 2 years piccolo, 1 year piano), I appreciated the inclusion of music in the book.

     More than the Dee (protagonist's) musical abilities on the harp (also, an amazing choice for her characterization), is the fact that the Dee suffers from social anxiety. I can identify with her in how awful and crippling social anxieties can be to deal with as I went through a bad period of battling it. Dee faces anxiety when having to publicly perform and ends up vomiting before every performance. I am a huge fan of authors who create an imperfect protagonist for us to root for because it makes them more human. The "ordinary, rather lonely" girl/boy protagonist is overdone. It's boring. I love that this protagonist has a real flaw, something that thousands of people can relate to, even if they have never experienced it themselves. It teaches young adults that something as crippling as social anxiety does not make you a weak person by any stretch. People with social anxiety can still be heroes, they can be strong, they can fall in love, and they can be loved by someone who is as impossibly perfect and devoted as Luke is.

     The book is definitely worth a read if you're interested in supernatural romances, mythology, or if you just like teen/YA novels. Maggie Stiefvater is definitely a perfect addition to any bookcase.  I enjoyed Lament so much that I've added Stiefvater's Shiver trilogy to my list of books to read next. Lament is beautifully written, exciting, and surprising. You will never look at fairies, clovers, or rabbits again. Also, you might think twice about going into the woods alone. Apparently vampires and werewolves are not the only dangerous things out there...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review: The Titan's Curse (Graphic Novel) By Rick Riordan

     I love the cover image for this graphic novel. It's absolutely my favourite cover image out of all Riordan's books. There's something about Percy looking all powerful--looking like a true son of the sea god--but this image really stands out to me. I love the ghostly images of the Big Three, with Poseidon front and centre above his son. Each god looks ancient, powerful, and a little frightening. Poseidon looks wise and thoughtful, while we see Zeus' power and fury in his dark expression, lit up by a bolt of lightning. My sole complaint about the image is of Hades. He looks so...unappealing; unappealing and maybe a little Voldemort-esque (yes, I just made up that word and used it in a sentence!). The lord of the underworld shouldn't be appealing in the sense that Zeus is often depicted as appealing, but he's certainly not sinister. I do like the dark, celestial background his face appears in. It's alluring and makes me think of the afterlife. The flecks of gold make me think of the fires of Tartarus, though maybe I'm reading too much into the image after reading through HoH. Regardless, his expression and colouring of his face and eyes bothers me. Hades is misinterpreted 98% of the time as being a villain. If you read mythology (or Riordan, for that matter, it is clear that Hades is not evil. He's bitter, but not evil).

      Moving on, the artist has Thalia is on his left, holding Aegis, her terrifying shield and summoning lightning in her typical "daughter of Zeus" style, with Zeus' face above her. On Percy's right is Hades above poor little Nico Di Angelo (someone who I'm really starting to feel sorry for after reading HoH). Nico's skills are depicted with the skeletal zombies crawling out of the ground. 

     I really could go on and on about how much I love this image. Everything from Percy's expression to Nico's frightened, but determined stance in the background fits well with the content of the novel. I also am a fan of depicting Percy as a teenager, though in the book he's only in grade eight.

     This graphic novel is as action-packed as the other two before it, although my overall lower rating comes from my disappointment in one particular area: the representation of Riordan's characters. Aside from Hades, what really bothers me is the depiction of Thalia. I spent several minutes trying to figure out who the dark-haired boy with Percy was. Thalia is supposed to be a little bad-ass, with short, spiky hair, a leather jacket and combat boots, but I quite literally could not figure her out until Apollo showed up and named her as the daughter of Zeus. There were SOME pages where Thalia is shown very close up with thick lashes and feminine features (the cover included), but for the most part, she looks like a scrawny, poorly drawn male. I'm disappointed in the artist here, but also in Riordan failing to ensure that even if the artist wanted to do an interpretation of the characters, that at least the readers would be able to recognize Thalia for who she is.

     I mean, really, we really couldn't make Thalia LOOK like Thalia, when Riordan himself already has included an image of her in his book The Demigod Diaries; an image that also has appeared many times over Facebook?

     I also struggle with the fact that all the faces of the older men in this book look too intense and almost mean, no matter what emotion they are trying to convey. There's one scene where Chiron is comforting Percy, but his expression looks just downright cruel. I'm sad to critique the art of this graphic novel, but it really does bother me that there's a breakdown in the characters, which in turn, affects the narration of the story. Subjective interpretation is always a factor in these graphic novel-spin offs, but Thalia is so undefined and poorly represented that I, as an adult reader with an English degree, who has read the Percy Jackson book multiple times, had a lot of difficulty figuring out who the tall, scrawny boy was.

     The expressions of the characters are just as important. The dialogue is almost secondary to the images in a graphic novel, but in many of the scenes, to take away the dialogue would be to completely alter the story in the reader's interpretation. The book does a good job at capturing the story and it follows a trimmed version of he plot of The Titan's Curse but if you're looking for a more faithful adaptation, the first two graphic novels were far better. Here's to hoping The Battle of the Labyrinth is a bit more on the mark...

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Review: Marie Lu's Legend

Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent will love this book. Marie Lu's Legend is a fast-paced, YA, dystopian novel about a futuristic United States. The book is centres on two characters: Day, a male hero and outcast, and June, a heroine who is as lethal as Katniss and as brave as Tris. The book ties tropes of love, survival, loyalty, and betrayal into one exciting tale. 

Legend is centred on a world with a militaristic government and one that is heavily divided by status. The heroes of the novel are caught up in a corrupt government's plan to rid the world of the weak and unworthy. The heroes, who come from opposite ends of the society, are drawn together by an unlikely and tragic incident. 

Lu's novel reminds me of 1984 by George Orwell, in the use of surveillance and centralizing on government conspiracy. It's a shorter book than Hunger Games and Divergent, so it's a faster read. Don't let the length make you think this book is lacking. This book is suspenseful from page 1 to the exciting conclusion. 

It's written in an alternating narrative between two heroes: June and Day. The narratives are easily distinguishable in voice and in the typeface used. It looks as issues of family and friendship, conspiracy, militaristic power, and what is right and wrong. 

The book is definitely worth a read if you're a fan of these types of novels. It's length makes it easy to carry around with you (less bulky and heavy than aforementioned dystopian YA titles). Also a good sign of the book's worthiness on your bookshelf or as a Christmas gift this winter: CBS Films holds the movie rights!