May 13, 2016 · 4:29 pm
I described Pierce Brown’s Red Rising to C. as a cross between Hunger Games, Divergent and Game of Thrones and then as she was reading the back, she pointed out the same description was on the cover. Probably because it’s an apt way of capturing the plot and theme points. And because I’m a book reviewer genius and the Kirkus Review has nothing on me.
Right… so like the Hunger Games in that we’re set in a dystopian society of stratified classes. Instead of Districts we have Colours (like the Divergent factions) each associated with a different professional role in the Society (capital S on purpose). Like HG the young must do battle with one another in an arena (or sorts) though instead of killing one another the quest is to establish dominance over the land (think Game of Thrones battles, strategy and endless betrayals). It’s a battle within a battle (sort of like Enders Game come to think of it) with our hero – Darrow – working to infiltrate the upper echelon of the Society so he can take it down from the inside and free his people.
There’s some pretty silly bits. In the early chapters Darrow’s realization of his captivity and subsequent awareness of the wider world reads as an obnoxiously similar description of Plato’s cave: like there’s an actual cave and actual fire. There’s a lot of searing pain (think Harry Potter and the interminable descriptions of How Much His Scar Hurts) and teenage hormone.
But these silly parts are endurable for the well-paced plot and the genuine interest and care cultivated for Darrow and his quest (cultivated in no small part in that Darrow is a very well developed character with complex and unpredictable reactions – except when it comes to women, more on that in a minute). I liked reading this one so much I couldn’t wait to order it from the other library and (actually) waited outside the bookstore for it to open this morning so I could get the second installment (it is, of course, a trilogy).
*light spoilers to follow*
I liked reading it even while I was troubled and annoyed with the representation of women. Darrow’s wife, Eo, is a singular martyr and Darrow’s romanticization of her throughout the rest of the book put me off as it made Eo’s entire purpose the inspiration and motivation of her husband-man: “They didn’t create me. She did” (115). His later love interest, Mustang, is more developed as a character, but similarly defined in relation to Darrow: she is a traitor, she is loyal, she is helpful, she is destructive all in terms of what she does to or for him.
A related sticking point is the representation of bodies. The women are – without exception – only loveable or worthy of character development if they also happen to be slight and wispy whiffs of a person: “Though she’s swaddled with wolfcloaks as thick as my own, she hardly comes up to my shoulder. And when we walk through deep snow, it’s almost a laugh to see her try to keep apace with me. But if I slow, I earn a scowl. Her braid bounces as she keeps up [for real. her braid bounces]. When we reach easier ground, she glances over at me. Her pert nose is red as a cheery in the cold, but her eyes look like hot honey” (309-310). Okay, this passage probably won’t make you want to run out and get the book (it really is a fun read and worth checking out). I highlight it because it’s an example of the fragility-made-tough that women are meant to have in the book. And the way our ponytails should bounce. Contrast with the male characters who are worthy of veneration for all kinds of body types and shapes.
All that said it really was a romp of a fun read with Allegory and Importance thrown in for some fun. You could easily enjoy on the beach, a plane or wait until – inevitably – the blockbuster movie comes out (unless you’re in book club, in which case you have to read it because we’re reading it).
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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction
Tagged as best book blog, Bestseller, book club, Divergent, Enders Game, fantasy, fiction, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, Pierce Brown, Red Rising, trilogy, women
April 1, 2012 · 9:38 pm
I really want to like the Song of Ice and Fire series. It has a lot of great things going for it: engaging characters with complicated motivations and principles, developed plot lines and some (just some) engagement with literary devices. All the same, in this third book I’ve read in the series I’ve had enough. I’m done with the plot lines that, while rich in detail, plod along with such protracted pauses that I am left indifferent when climaxes do occur. So while I might enjoy the complicated characters Martin has crafted, I can seem to care about them when bad things happen to them (as they invariably do) because it’s taken so much plot work just to get there. When you add in the mediocre language and heavy handed symbolism and descriptions I find myself struggling to read the remaining 400 pages.
That’s right, after 600 pages of slogging I’m giving up. True to my New Year’s resolution, and with the encouragement of S. I’m just stopping. I feel some guilt thinking that if I could just give it some dedicated time I’d make it through, but really? When it comes to pleasure reading I don’t want it to feel like work and so I’m stopping. Bold, brave, and a little reckless, sure, but there it is.
Also because I have such an amazing list of books recommended! Did I mention that my amazing friends gave me a book of book recommendations? Maybe, but if I didn’t, I’m so excited to get going on the list. And so that’s what I’m going to do – so if you’re a recommender… get excited 🙂
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December 30, 2011 · 6:39 pm
So in the end I might have spent more time reading over the Christmas holiday then I did with my family, but happily my family loves to read, too, and so didn’t mind (or at least claimed not to mind) when I retreated to my room for several hours to get caught up in the world of George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. “Caught up” might be something of an understatement, as I found myself reading until 2, 3, 4am with eyes propped open rather than quitting the seductive, mysterious and utterly ruthless world of the Seven Kingdoms (and beyond).
I admit that the first six or seven chapters were something of a struggle as I tried to keep track of the scores of characters that get introduced at something of a whirlwind rate. I’d suggest for new readers to bookmark the appendix that lists the relationship of all characters, or failing that, to make their own list. I’m sure this is my own failing and not that of the text, but I do think there’s something to be said for slowing the introductory pace just a little so as to allow readers the chance to become somewhat more familiar with characters before they are jerked into another sequence.
That said, one cheery consequence of a rapid introduction is that the reader isn’t offered the chance to fall completely smitten with one character or another, and so loyalties are early divided in a text that does not follow the usual trajectory of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ but rather suggests that loyalties (and characters!) will shift depending on characters’ actions and evolving relationships.
The usual cadre of knights, princesses, dragons, swords and sworn allegiances make for an intoxicating plot and atmosphere. But it isn’t the well paced plot that makes Game of Thrones totally irresistible (to me) it is the characters who make catastrophic errors, who act without honour, who deceive themselves and others – in other words characters who are human rather than fantastical archetypes.
I’m promising to alternate a book from Fire and Ice with another book recommended so that I don’t find myself lost in the Seven Kingdoms until March, but it won’t be easy.
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