Review | Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Summary

Cath may be the greatest baker in all of Hearts. All she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend and maid, Mary Ann.

But Cath is also the daughter of a Marquess, and daughters of Marquess’ do not start businesses with their maids. Daughters of Marquess’ marry their King, if he has his eyes on her–and the King of Hearts certainly does.

Except Cath doesn’t love the King. He’s a simple man who, while fifteen years her senior, acts as though he’s fifteen years her junior. He, like most of the kingdom, prefers to sweep problems under the rug rather than take them head on. And he loves her baked goods, but even Cath knows Queens can’t be bakers.

Still, Cath goes along with the King’s advances to please her mother and society. What should she care, she will probably open her bakery, and reject the King in the end. And it’s not like she’s in love with anyone…

…until she meets the King’s new fool, Jest.

Review

The first half of Heartless is brilliant. Up to par with what she presented in The Lunar Chronicles, Meyer’s Wonderland draws on the source material and makes it her own. I was entirely enchanted with her world. I loved how she didn’t explain the rules of Hearts, giving just enough context so the reader could accept aspects of the world without worrying too much over the details. I am, of course, referring to the dreams that result in material objects.

Likewise, her characters were well designed. I liked the way Cath’s obsession with food was conveyed through the language used to describe the desserts. I was completely enthralled with Jest, who was charming and kind. It was very easy to sympathize with Cath over the King (god, he was annoying). I especially appreciated how rounded Cath’s character was. I identified with her dreams, I understood her indecision, and I recognized her flaws and judgement.

But Heartless just drops the ball halfway through. It was such a strange experience–I was so invested in the story for the first half, and then it suddenly bored me. I can even pick out the exact scene where it happened.

I analyzed it for a while, and I think what made me so disinterested was that the story got lost in the source material. It tried clinging to original elements from Alice in Wonderland, without truly explaining it.

And I know I mentioned earlier in this review that I enjoyed how Meyer didn’t completely explain the rules of Hearts. But the rules of the treacle well, looking glasses, and the maze sort of need explaining. I didn’t understand the political struggles at all, and cramming this information without properly expanding upon it made me disinterested and distanced. It took the tension away from the climax. It took the excitement out of the ending.

And yet, I wouldn’t completely disregard the book. I think the story itself is fairly compelling in terms of considering the effects of our decisions, about who we put first, and about what happens when we aren’t active in our fate. I think I’m going to end up posting a few more thoughts on this later on, because despite it all, this novel really made me think. And while the story may not have been as compelling as I expected, the themes certainly were.

Final Verdict: Maybe. As much as I appreciate and respect Marissa Meyer, I don’t believe this was her best work. While I enjoyed her writing and premise, the story loses momentum halfway through.

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10 Reasons Why I Refuse Cursed Child As Canon

I know I’m not alone in disbelief that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is meant to be the long awaited Book 8.

Spoilers will be present in this post so beware. (Though, let’s be honest, tumblr has already spoiled the lot of it.) Also, I have not watched the stage production, and so there may be subtleties and character traits that I can’t judge because they are in the way the actors portray their characters. That said, Cursed Child was published as script only, and therefore it’s valid to subject to scrutiny as text alone. 

1. Missing characters. 

Where’s Teddy? Victoire? Why is McGonagall around but not Flitwick or Neville? Harry is Teddy’s godfather for crying out loud. Knowing the impact Sirius had on his own life, and especially seeing as Teddy has no parents, wouldn’t Harry be heavily involved in his life? 

Admittedly, I’m willing to forgive this because of the limitations of a stage production. But this problem is just the tip of the iceberg. 

2. Characters missing character. 

While Cursed Child does a better job with Ginny and Draco’s character than the movies did, and the new leads are spot on, it does a poor job with almost everyone else. I would have loved interaction between the Potter siblings, because as a person with siblings, I know the only people who truly understand what it’s like to have your parents are your siblings. 

I’m fairly disappointed with the handling of our core trio, particularly Ron. I just felt like he was used for comic relief. Albus mentions he’s more of a family man, but he doesn’t even interact with his daughter! 

As for Hermione, while I totally believe she would micromanage the Ministry, she came off as really panicked and unprepared, which isn’t like her at all. 

Surprisingly, I’m okay with most of what happens with Harry. I can believe he’s having trouble parenting, and I believe he’s having trouble with his son. It makes sense. But something about him seems missing. Is it the sass? Is it the lack of conviction? I’m not sure, but he just isn’t Harry. 

3. In an alternate universe, how the hell does Ron marry Padma? 

There are a lot of leaps in logic when the alternate universes generated by Albus and Scorpius. Some of these alterations make sense, like the underground rebellion run by Snape, Hermione, and Ron. 

But Cedric the Death Eater? Ron married to Padma? Hermione the evil professor? In many cases, I feel like these changes were made to shock more than follow a logical progression of events. 

Ron married to Padma is very near the top of this list because Ron was never attracted to Padma, and Ron, as evidenced by Half Blood Prince, can’t help but fall in love with Hermione. And yeah, they make a point that Ron is still in love with her, but marries to Padma really really doesn’t make sense. 

4. Queerbaiting AND Pandering

Who do I ship? Scorose? Scorbus? Why is this such a dilemma? 

Granted, Rowling never even hinted at the romance of the next generation, the fandom just sort of took them and went wild.

But it is not cool to have Scorpius physically display attraction towards Rose (albeit rather sincerely), but emotionally be attached to Albus. What I mean by this is Scorpius does all the stereotypical things a shy boy does when he likes a girl: he tries and fails to talk to her, he tries and fails to ask her out. And I can see fans getting excited over this…thete are plenty if Scorose fanfics out there to suggest support for this ship. 

But by any other means, Scorpius is in a deep relationship with Albus. He tells him his problems, he relies on him, he is irrevocably broken when they are separated. And then they end the play as friends. And I completely believe that people can be soulmates without being romantically involved. But something about the way Albus and Scorpius interacted felt inherently romantic to me. Contrasting that with how Scorpius acts with Rose, I find it hard to believe he likes her romantically at all. 

I’ve seen the interpretation that Scorpius is only showing an interest in Rose to avoid coming out of the closet to a world that already gossips about him. And if that’s the case, I would genuinely be surprised by that level of nuance. 

5. Voldemort + Bellatrix = Baby

I can’t get that (rather disturbing) image out of my head. This pairing made sense in Starkid, where they are parodying the series. But would canon Voldemort have a baby with Bellatrix? Merlin’s beard, no. 

Canon Bellatrix fears Voldemort just as much as she adores and respects him. I think she would be shocked by the idea of getting it on with him, perhaps even terrified. On the other hand, Voldemort hates himself for being a half blood, and wouldn’t dare have a child since by his hand, a mixed blood child would be produced. Furthermore, we all know what Voldy feels about family (i.e. nothing) and he was always concerned with living forever. Who needs heirs when you rule until the world ends? 

Again, the defense theory of this is that Voldemort was planning to turn Dephi into a horcrux, as the time of her supposed conception lines up with Voldemort discovering that Harry is destroying horcruxes. I doubt this for several reasons… One of them being that it is much easier to kill a man than destroy a posessed inanimate object. Then there’s the fact that Tom Riddle chose important artifacts for his horcruxes, and Voldemort is so far from a loving father figure to think his child is a worthy horcrux. Nope, the whole concept of Dephi is dumb. 

6. There’s no sense of real risk. 

Nothing that the protagonists do is particularly…dangerous. And I realize how stupid that sounds since they almost die a few times, but hear me out. 

The Ministry has previously been broken into via polyjuice potion, so we know it works, decreasing the risk levels dramatically. This is furthered by the ease of Hermione’s riddles (seriously, I answered them as soon as I read them).

And besides, the stakes aren’t high until the end of Part 1. Later on in this post, I’ll talk about how the time travelling bothers me in a plot device way more than an actual conflict, but as Harry points out, when he was a kid, he had adventures because the danger was thrown at him, not because he was seeking it out. 

And the reason Albus ends up in trouble could have easily been avoided: just don’t try to help a crazy old man. If Voldemort taught the wizarding world anything, messing with death is just as dangerous as messing with time. And then Albus does the stupid thing and messes with BOTH. 

7. It reads like fanfiction. 

I’ve written quite a few posts about books sounding like fanfiction as a way of describing the unpolished writing and poor storytelling. 

This is sort of a combination of all the points of this list–the missing characters, the poor characterization, the pandering and shipping, the messy pointless conflict. But the sum of this is definitely greater than it’s parts, because one or two of these is easy to forgive–all of it is absolutely irritating. 

8. Starkid did it better. 

The number of parallels between Curse Child and A Very Potter Musical/Sequel/Senior Year is absolutely astonishing:

  • The villain goes back in time to bring back Voldemort
  • Harry Potter is a jerk has-been celebrity
  • Evil trolley cart lady
  • The running joke of Ron stuffing his face
  • Voldy/Trixie love affair
  • Questioning Malfoy parentage
  • Potter/Malfoy duel
  • Draco saves the day with his father’s time-turner

And the funny thing is, it makes total sense in Starkid, but is eyeroll inducing in Cursed Child. And it’s not even a double standard–we accept it in Starkid because its meant to be a parody, a joke. Cursed Child asks us to take these jokes as serious concerns, and it just doesn’t work. 

    9. That’s not how time-turners work!

    What made the timer-turner amazing in Prisoner of Azkaban was that the Harry and Hermione that had gone back in time weren’t future Harry and Hermione going back in time to fix stuff… They were Harry and Hermione doing stuff that had already happened. Harry and Sirius wouldn’t have survived the dementors if Harry hadn’t performed the Patronus. Notably, Harry doesn’t do this until he travels back in time, meaning that the timeline is set–he was always there, even if he hadn’t time travelled yet. This establishes pretty well that the Harry Potter universe follows a predetermined timeline. If a person uses a time-turner tomorrow to mess shit up three days ago, you better believe it already happened to you. 

    This is how Harry in the infinitely better fanfiction, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, is able to perform pranks with his time turner. The future him going back in time is already present, their actions already taking effect. Starkid also respects this rule, with past time travelling Harry convincing a drunk Snape to save past Harry. 

    This means Scorpius and Albus going back in time should have changed…nothing. Because if Cursed Child was supposed to be canon, then it should agree with the established canon. So if they go back to the Triwizard tournament, nothing would change. 

    Technically, there is a very large loop hole (as there always is with time travel) that since Albus and Scorpius fix the timeline, the canon remains intact and they just had a crazy and horrible adventure in a bubble of time. Which leads to my final point… 

      10. This contributes nothing to canon. 

      Yes, we have a four act play that tells the story about the next generation. Yes, we have, what I assume based on the reviews and stage directions, a massive feat in effects in theatre production. 

      But by the end of it, what do we get that Rowling hasn’t already shared? We know what happens to the gang thanks to interciews and Pottermore. While I’m thrilled about the friendship between Albus and Scorpius, the state of the general wizarding world is barely touched on. 

      Which begs the question, what was the point? An unnecessary bad parent redemption character arc for Harry Potter? A fun AU story? The very unnecessary and scarring image of Bellatrix Lestrange giving birth? 

      Why is this canon? 

      I can only come to the conclusion that the rave reviews of Cursed Child are because of its affect as a theatre production and not because of it’s qualities as a compelling continuation of the Harry Potter story. 

      But you tell me. Do you consider Cursed Child as canon? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments! 

      A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

      Pirates, magic, and multiple worlds, oh my!

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      Summary

      Kell is one of the last Antari, people who can use blood magic and travel between the different Londons. There are four Londons, and while they may share the same name, they are vastly different. There’s Grey London, where everyone speaks English and very few know of magic. There’s Red London, where Kell is owned/adopted by the royal family, and magic is a coveted art. There’s White London, ruled by the Dane Twins, who are as vicious as the land itself. And then there’s Black London…which no longer exists.

      Once, the doors between the Londons were kept unlocked, but the overwhelming attack of Black London prompted the closing of the doors–and the flow of magic between worlds. As an Antari, Kell is one of the few left who can cross between them. He works as a messenger for the crown in title, but smuggles items between Londons on his trips. One day, he smuggles a terrible object, which is shortly pickpocketed fron him in Grey London. He must track down the stolen object and return it to its home, Black London, before the magic consumes him.

      Review

      Where to start? The interesting plot? The amazing cast of characters? The excellent magic system and world building?

      Well, I can start with the one drawback: the novel was a little slow starting off. It took me a while to get settled into Schwab’s universe, but once I was, it was smooth sailing from there.

      This might also be due to the plot being sort of mediocre. It was easy to guess who was the antagonist (I mean, Lila literally calls White London “Creepy London”.) And while the Dane twins are fairly creepy and sadistic, they aren’t necessarily inspired antagonists. As such, the plot makes for some interesting fight scenes and political plays.

      But if you’re really going to get hooked to this book, it will be because of the characters.

      Kell and Lila are probably two of the most interesting characters I’ve read about in a while. Admittedly, longing for freedom isn’t new to the motivations of main characters, but something about Lila and Kell’s search for freedom feels different. Possibly because they aren’t sure what freedom is.

      Kell is one of the last of his kind, a novelty that has powerful to do whatever he wants, but is hindered because he is so rare. Lila, on the other hand, struggles with never belonging anywhere, and yet is terrified of belonging to, well, anywhere.

      The side characters, Rhy, Maxim, Emira, Holland, Barron, and Calla were great too, with good development and great interaction. All the relationships in the novel seemed genuine.

      The magic system Schwab creates is amazing. Granted, we don’t really get to see the extent of what can be done, but what is shown is a pretty good glimpse of it. The magic comes in two flavours: elemental and blood. The elemental magic reminds me a lot of Nickelodeon’s Avatar, which makes for some great fight scenes. Blood magic, on the other hand, is what makes Kell so special, and is more “you can do anything you want with it”.

      What I also really like about this novel is that while it’s the first of a series, it stands its ground as a stand alone fantasy. I really commend Schwab on doing this so well, considering how most first books nowadays tend to feel a little lacking due to setting up future plot.

      Recommendation: Buy. A Darker Shade of Magic is definitely worth the buy. Readers looking for unique characters and an inventive magical system should definitely pick this up.

      Review | Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

      I thought I wasn’t going to read another Cassandra Clare book after The Infernal Devices.

      Why lie?

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      (I apologize for the joke to those who are now hurting with a serious case of the feels. I know I am.)

      Summary

      Five years ago, Emma Carstairs found her parents murdered, soaking wet and covered in mysterious runes. Everyone said they were killed by Sebastian Morgenstern. She didn’t believe them.

      Five years ago, Julian Blackthorn killed his father in the war against Sebastian Morgenstern. With his older brother, Mark, taken by the faerie Hunt and his older sister, Helen, exiled, Julian was left to raise his four younger siblings alone.

      Now sworn parabatai living in the Los Angeles Institute, Emma continues to investigate her parents’ murder, and Julian raises his siblings with the hopes of Mark and Helen’s return. Then, Emma discovers a series of murders similar to that of her parents’ so many years ago. Investigating this is strictly forbidden, as the murders include faerie victims, but with the opportunity to bring Mark back, Emma and Julian find themselves keeping their findings a secret from the Clave.

      But the investigation is not the only secret the parabatai are keeping. There is something else forbidden between them, a secret that would tear them apart—though they don’t know why. It is the law, but the Clave never explains why parabatai cannot fall in love…

      Review

      Reading Lady Midnight really shows how far Clare has come in terms of storytelling since City of Bones. Like most of her novels, the adventure plot tends to take a backseat to the dramatic character interaction, but the emotional investment is too deep to really care.

      To get the negatives out of the way quickly, I will admit that the adventure/mystery plot gets completely overshadowed by the  romance and family drama. While the reveal of the antagonist at the end was surprising, the conflict itself was not really interesting. Rather, the world of shadowhunters and downworlders and faerie allows for complex character interactions—and that’s what had me on the edge of my seat.

      This is because Clare’s character design and development is just so damn good. Take our male lead, for example. Julian Blackthorn may be one of the most complex characters she has written—and that includes William Herondale. I am in love with character, not because he’s a tortured, smoking hot shadowhunter (a.k.a. all of Clare’s male leads) but because of how the mixture of gentleness and ruthlessness within him. Julian’s motivation is the love he has for his family. And while that’s great in moderation, it is absolutely devastating to anyone who gets in his way—including himself. He teaches himself to be a parent in order to raise his siblings. He teaches himself to be strong. But everything he does is sort of intense, like he’s overwhelmingly driven by his love that he can’t see anything else.

      This is mostly in reference to of leading lady, Emma Carstairs. Emma is a great female lead, wanting revenge, wanting to prove herself—but at the same time, not believing she is really worth anything she is credited with. It took me a while to figure out her character, but I think I get it. Emma is still very much lost. She will fight and die to protect those she loves, feels like it’s her responsibility to do so. But she seems to have this preset idea that she doesn’t truly belong anywhere, that she is expendable. This makes her incredibly vulnerable emotionally, almost making her seem empty, while maintaining an appearance of a strong warrior.

      Cristina, the visiting Shadowhunter from Mexico, is a great new female character. I like how she stands by her beliefs, and can keep her head in a crisis. She kicks butt without having to be the snarky female stereotype. And I’m completely invested in her romantic plot.

      The Blackthorn siblings are now on my list of favourite fictional families. I can’t help it. Clare give each sibling a distinct personality, memorable enough to be able to identify them, but compatible enough that they work as a cohesive unit. Mark and Ty are especially good examples of this, and Ty’s character is particularly intriguing, as he’s probably autistic and this brings out the collaborative power of the family.

      My one (and unfortunately huge) gripe is the structure. The plot is heavily unbalanced with heavy emphasis on the emotional trauma of forbidden love and family problems. Kit’s appearance in the first chapter isn’t reprised until quite a ways into the book, which is odd for the character that starts the book. While Emma’s search for revenge is interesting and the mystery of the murders was a good premise, there just wasn’t enough weight given to the plot line for it to hold enough significance for me. Often, characters make stupid decisions (coughEMMAcough) just so that some adventure can be thrown in.

      I can certainly see what Clare is trying to do here, contrasting the villain’s motivations with the romantic conflict. And while I appreciate the exploration of the dangers of loving too fiercely or acting without emotional discretion, I often had to put the book down and think, Why? Why does it have to be this way? 

      But what strikes me the most is that, for all the trust and love flowing between the characters, the lack of communication is astonishing. How many of Clare’s (melodramatic) conflicts could have been solved if people just talked to one another? Basically all of them. This book in particular has a pretty half-assed reason for censoring some pretty important information, especially considering that Julian totally entered the parabatai bond for the wrong reason and now he’s basically screwed. Thanks for ruining his life, Clave.

      While I probably will pick up the sequels, I know it will be with some cringing. I know Emma is doing what she thinks will protect the people she loves, but it will be painful to see how the ending of Lady Midnight plays out in Lord of Shadows.

      Final Recommendation: Read. All in all, Clare’s skill in character building, interaction, and development outshine her plot line. Fans of the Shadowhunters universe and character driven novels are sure to enjoy Lady Midnight. People looking for an epic adventure may be disappointed with the lacking conflict.

      Review | The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

      I feel like I have to review this book twice.

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      Summary

      Six months after angering Zeus by supposedly causing the awakening of Gaea and the march of the twelfth legion on Camp Half Blood, the god Apollo finds himself in a dumpster in New York City. But he is no longer a god—Zeus has made him a teenage mortal. With flab. And acne.

      This punishment isn’t new to Apollo, and he knows he must find a demigod master to serve in order to work out his sentence. Hoping for the famous Percy Jackson, he is found first by Meg McCaffery, a twelve year old demigod with a talent for turning fruit into projectiles.

      Without his godly powers and with an inexperienced demigod, Apollo knows his only hope is Camp Half Blood. But the camp is once again in danger. Any communication has been impossible, the Oracle of Delphi has not returned, and demigods have been disappearing in the forest.

      And for some reason, Apollo can hear the trees whispering to him.

      Review

      As mentioned above, I feel like I have to review this book twice: once as the beginning to a new series, and again as the continuation of the ever extending Percy Jackson universe.

      As the beginning of a series, The Hidden Oracle is spot on. The plot is well constructed, with Riordan pulling from traditional mythology and history and making it modern. I will say, that this may be the most creative he’s been in this universe, considering how the antagonist isn’t formal mythology per se.

      This is largely because of his choice of subject. I didn’t know Apollo had been turned into a mortal before as punishment, and therefore I have little mythological background to work on. Also, the change in perspective is rather refreshing. All of Riordan’s previous works have been about a protagonist’s rise to greatness. Apollo is all about fall and redemption. Rick balances this well, with Apollo bemoaning the loss of his powers while slowing growing as a mortal.

      Which reminds me: the character development is spot on. I love how Apollo struggles with the concept of being human. How he can’t remember things, how he keeps expecting natural greatness and coming up short. Every emotional scene he has feels genuine because Apollo close captions what we inherently know to be the human experience.

      Speaking of characters, the cast is spot on. Apollo’s children have unique personalities, and we meet more new campers. And then there’s Meg McCaffery.

      Meg is an especially well developed character. Like most demigods, she has a rather tragic backstory, and Riordan balances the repercussions of her childhood with her defiant, blatant attitude. I’m excited to see more of her in the future.

      As for the writing style, Riordan has sort of redeemed himself. There’s a sort of tone to the writing that reminds me of PJO: the story telling is going to be serious, but there will be jokes along the way. I could do with less references to things like Spotify and Groot, since that dates the novel, but it wasn’t bad.

      As a start to a new series, The Hidden Oracle is promising. It sets up a well rounded protagonist, as well as a tone of serious story telling that I hope Riordan keeps up.

      And now we get to the difficult part: reviewing this book as a continuation to the Olympian saga.

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      Due to the spoilerific nature of this analysis, if you haven’t read The Heroes of Olympus series or The Hidden Oracle BACK AWAY NOW.

      There are a lot of things in this book that work if it was the first of a brand new series.

      Solangelo is spot on and a welcome addition to the canon ships. Healthy, mutual, and supportive, Will and Nico’s relationship has been long awaited in western juvenile adventure fiction. The best part is that it reads so easily—I definitely believe these two are in a romantic relationship, and that kind of representation is so rare. Do I care that I didn’t get to see the formation of this? Not really. I do care that Nico’s character development has been a rollercoaster, but he’s finally happy.

      I’m also quite happy with Percy’s attitude towards the demigod world. He will fight when needed, but wants to move on, and that’s fair. Riordan used him sparingly, and for that I am grateful.

      And Leo Valdez. Can I get a ticket in line please? I mean, I’m glad everything turned out alright, but did I really have to wait until this book? Sure, there are explanations, but I shouldn’t have had to wait this long.

      On the flip side, the antagonists and their evil scheme were sort of the back burner for me. I cared much more about the characters in this novel than I did about the plot, which I hope will pick up in the next instalment. The plot kind of fails here, because without the first two series to back them up, the antagonists don’t really have much of an evil presence.

      My point is that The Hidden Oracle in no way makes up for the mistakes in Blood of Olympus, because this is a new story. As a series, I feel like Heroes of Olympus should be able to stand on its own, which it sort of can’t now. Because a continuation exists.

      That being said, I prefer a late explanation to no explanation at all.

      Recommendation: Buy. Fans of Riordan won’t be disappointed with his third series in the PJO universe. With a new perspective and a promising premise, I’m looking forward to the next installment of The Trials of Apollo.