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Confessions by Kanae Minato

 

 

Confessions

Music:

You can run – Adam Jones

Pumped up Kicks – Foster the People

Milk and Cookies – Melanie Martinez

Doing the Right Thing – Daughter

Lacrimosa – Kalafina

Bully – Shinedown

 

“I suppose everybody wants to be recognized for what they’ve done; everybody wants to be praised. But doing something good or remarkable isn’t easy. It’s much easier to condemn people who do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing yourself. But even then, it takes a certain amount of courage to be the first one to come out and blame someone else. What if no one else joins you? No one else stands up to condemn the wrongdoer? On the other hand, it’s easy to join in condemning someone once someone else has gotten the ball rolling. You don’t even have to put yourself out there; all you have to do is say, “Me, too!”

Yuko Moriguchi, a middle school teacher retires from her job after a devastating accident in the school led to the death of her beloved 4 year old daughter. And while almost all assume the grief to be her reason of resignation, it is something much darker. Having realized that her child’s death was no accident but an event orchestrated by two boys in the very class she teaches, this mother takes it upon herself to punish two boys who the justice system would pardon all too easily. And so she constructs a revenge so elaborate that long after she has left, the two boys and everyone close to them feel the tremors of this vengeance. And not all of them survive.

A grisly tale of vengeance and horror, Kanae Minato has penned a disturbingly accurate portrayal of what the death of a loved one really does. What’s interesting to note is that the story in itself is really simple – so are the events leading up to it. But the devil’s in the details, and as each character narrates their view of the story and what they have witnessed – right from Yuko Moriguchi to the students she accuses of having orchestrated the death of her child – the story only torpedoes into one of unbridled human misery.

As someone who absolutely adores Japanese literature, this book added to the category of their writing – simple writing with intricate plot lines and unapologetic character. Though at first I found the narration and tone of the book rather unusual. There’s a singular first person narration that omits actual discourse and only spells out external and internal dialogue. It takes a little getting used to, since this kind of tone often renders an impassioned tone to the story. But as the story and narration develops, the story becomes anything but.  What’s commendable in this book is that it lays out the darkest parts of a human being. More often than not, revenge plots lead to forgiveness for those who have committed a wrong. But not Yuko Moriguchi. She chooses not to report her suspicions to the police but instead deal with them in her own remorselessly frightening methods. Something remarkable in her character is the fact is that seems to have entered what most fantasy and assassination literature referred to as the ‘killing calm’ – a state where the person in question enters an absolute state of calm that defies all sense. Logically, the situation they are put in would elicit reactions of rage and grief, but those possessed by the calm take drastic and heinous measures to deal with their victims remorselessly. Which is something Yuko does exceedingly well.

This unfortunate mother decides to ensure the best punishment she can give to two people who will easily escape the justice system due to their young age. Her methods start from physical alterations into the more possible and effective strategies of psychological manipulation. And here you even have a commentary on the Japanese Justice system and how it treats juveniles. Hint: Too lightly. She not only unleashes an actual revenge plot that may leave the two boys scarred for life, but also creates a caustic environment that ensures hostility and downright torture for the boys. In the midst of morality and mob justice the righteous characters stand no chance. Instead, it breaks stereotypes and gives us a portrayal of what the real world is and what revenge should really be like- no opportunity for redemption finds purchase in this book. The two boys, Shuya and Naoki are subjected to hair raising methods of exacting revenge. Not in terms of the pain or torture that are meted out, but the pure symbolism of the acts ; that initiate intensive social isolation that would force both to live out their lives as pariahs.

This is possibly the only book I have come across that reveals just how dangerous, sinister and depraved children can be. How they’re not always as innocent as society portrays them to be. In this story, you see exactly what happens when those who the system aims to protect take undue advantage of such care and affection and punish those who wished them well. Even at points in time where you as a reader begin to find sympathy for one of the boys, they do something so absolutely dreadful that you long to have them burned at the stake. It is a jury trial the likes of which the killers of Junko Faruta deserved. The book surprisingly resembles more a novella than an actual book, but at the same time is intensely gripping. The story takes a life of itself, unraveling around the people who have participated in it , filling gaps and holes in the story in a way that only reveals itself in the second to last chapter – followed by a bombastic reveal.

The characters are not likable – they’re all so terribly human that they are inherently flawed. There is no mercy, no reprieve to their development as individuals. Just themselves and how they choose to handle what life has doled out to them. And for those who decide that they are entitled to the world because they deserve to be protected, there’s a nasty surprise waiting for them. With careful attacks aimed at them from every source possible, the thick web ensnares everyone close to these two boys – their family, friends, acquaintances, everyone. And while Yuko has known great loss, she ensures that the perpetrators of her daughter’s murder don’t just feel pain and misery profound – her plan makes them feel absolute and devastating loss.

My Rating: 4/5

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Music:

Carousel – Melanie Martinez

Cosmic Love – Florence=themachine

Only if For a Night – Florence+themachine

Gingerbread Man – Melanie Martinez

Strangeness and Charm – Florence+themachine

Over the Love – Florence+themachine

Bird Set Free – Sia

Single – The Neighbourhood

Carnival of Rust – Poets of the Fall

 

“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings.

The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.

From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.” 

 

Le Cirque des Rêves, is a Circus of magic and mystery beyond comprehension, an amalgamation of the senses that lends into one joyous collection of black and white. Conceived in the midnight dinners of a Theater, an unlikely set of acquaintances come together to build something wonderfully magical. But beyond its existence as a fascinating adventure, its serves as a battleground for two rival magicians. Two who have pit their students against each other in battles of epic proportions and have now come together to create their most exquisite competition yet? But the agreement refuses to stay within its boundaries, dragging into its ambit unsuspecting players and eventually leading to an unimaginable endgame.

The Story of the Night Circus is one of dreams and joys, of burnt wood and caramel and the beautiful contrast that black and white bring to our otherwise blatantly colorful world, but most importantly, of what the most innocent of games can be conniving to achieve. Erin Morgenstern has penned a story so beautiful, whimsical and magical, that it is something that inspires fascination beyond expectation. And for someone like me who adores the Gothic and everything circus, harle quin and monochrome, this was a goddamn delight. So much so that I forgive it for being a romance. I forgive it for the hearts it has broken, for the themes that could have been expanded into a goddamn series. And I forgive all of this because of how intricately the story is drawn. The two main characters, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair are so inherently human that it is hard not to imagine them being one of us, an ordinary individual cast into an extraordinary situation (except for Celia, she was born to magic. Not much to do there). Not only does it draw in characters that would normally be spectators, created for nothing but a side-bar of comic relief, it gives them life. You feel Isobel’s heartbreak. You empathize with Bailey’s excitement and attachment to the Circus. And most of all, you relate to Herr Friedrick Thiessen’s love for the Circus and all that it inspires. I almost went and bought a red scarf for crying out loud.

But if you do sit down to analyze the story in itself, it’s a really simple plotline – the circus serves as the battleground for two magicians, who compete in game that has already been played out one too many times. But it’s the different elements coming together which make it truly marvelous. The story in itself is narrated along with a side by side third person account of someone entering this magical circus for the first time. It lends a more realistic feeling to the story – as if this circus does indeed exist in some forgotten part of Europe, between those who relish magic and those who tried to stamp out it existence.

As is with all great books, it also boasts of darker undertones. The Circus in itself is bound by such terrible force that none can escape it – several of its founders find themselves teetering between the lines of sanity and madness, not quite understanding the changes ( or lack of thereof) that have started to flood through their lives. And in the midst of this, there is death. Death of characters so innocent and pure that you’re left enraged, livid even. For these are people who sought to do nothing but seek the truth, and yet the madness of the circus snuffed their curiosity.

But the world in itself is so beautiful. So wonderfully imagine and picturized, you can practically smell the winter air, the burning wood, taste the caramel apples and feel the softness of every curtain that you pull aside to enter a tent of unprecedented magnificence. There’s also the utilization of the symbolic European lore and magic. The Norwegian Tree of Life, the ancient art of Tarot, the usual artistry of a circus, the mythical powers of redheads and twins, the dramatics of the theatre and so much more.

But it is also the story of a powerful love. As Tsukiko herself states, the circus in itself is filled with tents created by the two competitors, love letters that they have written to each other across decades. The cleverness lies in the development of this love. Maybe one more romantic of heart may have seen this coming, but I most certainly did not. There is no specific point where their curiosity of each other as competitors turns into something more. But it does. The book even has these innocent, tender, unprecedented relationships between characters. Herr Friedrick Thiessen and Celia’s letters to each other. Tara, Lainie Burgess and Mr. Barris. Tante Padva and Chandresh. Poppet, Widget and Bailey.

With unexpected heroes and even more unsuspecting solution, the battle royale ends with a sacrifice which would normally be seen as too large to bear – but for this Circus and its people, it is but appropriate. There isn’t much one can talk about with regards to the plot without revealing too much. But the book in itself is a fantastical conception. The entire circus is an illusion created upon the borders of reality that arrives without warning. No announcements precede this Circus of Dreams. And while it may seem like a collection of bizarre tents in a circle, it is anything but a mere Circus.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Music:

O Death – Jen Titus

Control – Halsey

No Place like Home – Todrick Hall

Landfill – Daughter

Broken Crown – Mumford & Sons

Human – Daughter

Young God – Halsey

Breath of a Life – Florence + themachine

Bang Bang – Nancy Sinatra

Castle – Halsey

I Put a Spell on You – Annie Lennox

Believer – Imagine Dragons

Friction – Imagine Dragons

Ordinary Idols – Cold War Kids

 

“Queens do not remember these things,”
“Saying so does not make it true.”
“You will need it to be true, for it is too cruel otherwise, to force a Queen to kill what she loves. Her own sisters. And for her to see that which she loves come at her door like wolves, seeking her head.” 

 

In the artfully matriarchal world of Kendare Blake, lies the island of Fennbirn, a land of the Goddess, bountiful fields and gifted Queens. But not all is innocent on this land. By her gift and by her hand, with every generation, the Queen Bear triplets – born in a Black Cottage in the glen and gifted from birth. Claimed by their noble families that share their gift, their talents are honed till the ceremony of the Beltane – the day after which they are expected to kill each other, with the last standing to be crowned Queen of all.

Their gifts are marvels to behold – An Elementalist so powerful she dances amongst the roaring flames, a Naturalist so harnessed she can make the brightest rose bloom in the very dead of the winter. And a poisoner, from the reigning family of the Arrons, who has tasted every poison on the land and lived to tell the tale. But in an age where as many crowns are forged through politics as won through the raw power of their gift, the Queens find themselves being tested again and again, neither wanting the crown and yet being unable to escape their predestined fate.

A Queen with a heart too soft to kill, and two others so weak that they are rumored to be gift less. Between the plans of the Arrons and the scheming of the Temple, the race to survive entails sacrifices, risks and loss – loss that may be too great for any of their royal shoulders.

This is one of the few books that, recently, have overwhelmed me. There’s the creation of an entire universe where The Goddess rules over the island of Fennbirn, pitting sister against sister in an ultimate battle for the crown. Where there is no choice and no recourse – and escape is an impossibility. More than anything, this is the first book where the love interests are justified, developing and significant. The fragmented relationship between Jules and Joseph Sandrin, the blooming friendship-maybe-turning-into-something-more between Queen Arsinoe and William Chatworth Junior and even the possibly obsessive one between Queen Katherine and Pietyr. They all contribute towards the plot so subtly yet significantly that it leads the reader to reconsider their importance. Not only do they sow the final seeds of hatred between each of the Queens, it strengthens them to do what is to be done.

Each queen in itself has been created as a significant woman dealing with her fair share of the Fates – Mirabella and her soft heart, Arsinoe and her resignation to the fate of a weak Queen and Katherine and her devotion to the House of Arrons. While Mirabella is the natural (forgive my blasphemy) favorite of the island, with her swirling flames and germ cracking thunder, between the Temple’s teaching and the worry of her Matron , Sara Westwood, she finds herself conflicted at the decision of having to kill that which she loves the most.

At the same time, Arsinoe has surrendered to her fate of death, to the extent of answering open challenges of her death “You will all have your chance!” And yet she is so human. So terribly human that she fights against the natural constraints of her abilities and tries to find her survival through other, albeit, low means. She is not one who will let the Priestesses have her head the Beltane.

Then there is Katherine. Small, sweet Katherine who is timid and obedient, who laughs only after someone already has, who scurries across walls when scared, who cries and begs for forgiveness when the poison makes her body explode with pain. She may have no gift at all, but she poisons so very well. And it is that skill she seeks to hone. While the others focus on honing their gifts – or lack thereof- she follows the Arrons and seeks to obtain the crown through entrapment and guile. The only question is if her prettily packed packages are to reach her beloved sisters.

The book also has these political undertones of brewing propaganda. You see religion trying to wrestle back their power from the reigning family by favoring a Queen – something that is unprecedented throughout the history of the Island. Hell, they have Priestesses that carry wicked as sin blades beneath their Temple robes. They rally the entire Island towards them and their agenda, even going to the extent of twisting myths and legends to fit their purpose (Sound familiar?). Meanwhile, there are secret alliances being forged from all the way across the mainland – all to compete in this mad race for the crown.

Even though it is primarily a third person account rendered in each of the cities of the Queens turn by turn, it is less the narration of events and more a story. The tale itself amalgamates into the recollection of circumstances that are leading towards the most interesting Ascension Year this island has seen till the date. It could be like every other Ascension where there have been powerful Queens – the times of Shannon and her storms, Camille and her poisons and B and her wolf – I would not know. However, every character, every line of the story goes towards the creation of an atmosphere where each of the Queens must come to face what is expected of them, and what is consequent on failure.

This is exactly the kind of book that creates a generation of fandoms, fan art and even more. And the fact that there are three covers available, each representing the gift of one of the Queens, suggests that the author knew the same. The entire idea of taking characters that are so inherently human, so emotionally ordinary and turning them into vengeful, dutiful beasts of the sort is an extremely intriguing construct that Kendare Blake executes beautifully. It’s a goddamn game of thrones where you either live or die. This was the kind of book that had me up at 4:30 am, looking desperately for a sequel. To three Queens born in the glen, the crown doesn’t just mean a throne, it means betrayal, carnage, sacrifice and penultimate death.

Note: One Dark Crown, the sequel, comes out on the 19th of September.

My Rating: 4.8/5

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

 

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Music:

Message Man – Twenty One Pilots

Thistle & Weeds – Mumford & Sons

Honest – The Neighborhood

Alleyways – The Neighborhood

Bad at Love – Halsey

Strangers – Halsey

Winter – Daughter

Run – Daughter

Human – Daughter

Blinding – Florence + themachine

 

“But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.” 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“I don’t think you realize who you’re dealing with.”                         
The man clicked his tongue, “If you were that good, you would be more than just Captain of the Guard.”
Chaol let out a low, breathy laugh. “I wasn’t talking about me.”
“She’s just one girl.”
Though his guts were twisting at the thought of her in this place, with these people, though he was considering every possible way to get himself and Celaena out of here alive, he gave the man a grin.
“Then you’re really in for a big surprise.” 

 

The story of Adarlan’s Assassin continues as she dons the dark cloak of the King’s Champion, burying his opponents where no one can find them. However, an ethical dilemma rages within her. To do the bidding of the man who is singlehandedly responsible for all her misfortunes upsets not only her, but the delicate balance she has with those she holds dear. But as always, Celaena has her secrets about the conduct of her duty – but it pales in comparison to the evil that is steadily approaching.

Beneath the very foundation of the Kingdom’s throne, ancient spells and powers that have lain dormant for years are being used by people who are starving for more power and could care less of what it yields- or more specifically, what it lets out. It is up to Celaena to figure out how to stop them and this danger to Erilea before the realms of the world collide and fall apart before her very eyes. And if this wasn’t enough, the Crown Prince feels an ancient power awakened in him; a power if discovered would earn him a trip to the butchering block. In the midst of this, there are rebel movements rumored to be bubbling in the very city if Rifthold, with people who wish to end the rule of the King with their own form of tyranny.

Dragged into a world of old friends, old betrayals and even older powers, Celaena has not only to fight those that threaten to ruin the stability of the Kingdom – but also those she considers closest to her. Under layers of secrets, lies, deceptions and more lies, the Captain of the Guard finds himself making choices that would be payable with death. And when the death of someone so dear to her occurs, it isn’t just another person she couldn’t save. It is the key that unlocks the rage of Adarlan’s Assassin – and all the carnage that she brings.

This book, if you may excuse me, assassinated any lacunae left behind by its predecessor. It begins with Celaena herself entering the house of a Lord to conduct the duty of Champions – a silent murderer, silencing those who have offended the King in the dead of the night. But she does this too, with her own brand of rebellion. The first part of the book deals heavily deals with this budding romance between Celaena and the Captain of the Guard, Chaol, while Dorian struggles to come to terms with the fact that the woman he loves is enamored with his oldest friend. Not the most original plot line, but we’ll cut Sarah J. Maas some slack and call it fan service. It is after they break apart that things get truly interesting.

Till this point, it was Celaena investigating a famous courtesan and his involvement in the underground revolution. But that one night – you’ll know when you read it – changes everything. It proceeds to stab the very heart of the façade Celaena has created till now – the book reading, dessert devouring, boy enamoring, and occasional assassin. But with one death, she morphs into a truly formidable force. Her journey takes her into the very depths of the Kingdom, where she uncovers the King’s true source of power and a creature that instills the fear of god in her (whichever one she prays to. And knowing how she’s been lately, I’d say none). With her teeth out for blood, you see the protégé of the Assassin’s Keep as she prowls the streets for answers – and blood.

Even after having caught the man responsible, even after baring her vey teeth at the King of Adarlan’s, there seems to be no rest for our Assassin. With more lies in deceptions in the catacombs below the castle, where darkness lurks and the King’s unnatural monsters prowl, Celaena finds herself, betrayed and fighting against things that are beyond this realm. And it is in that darkness that she loses a bit of herself.

One of the most interesting thing to see are the stereotypes of the characters crashing around them. The assassin with the childhood trauma and a rather crooked moral compass runs at the first sight of a quest that is supposed to save the world. Runs from it, rather, till it smacks her across the face and drags her down to the catacombs beneath the caste. The Crown Prince, known for being perpetually vain and gloriously bored, finds courage across the yellow brick road and along with it, immeasurable power that he only wishes to control and conceal. The Captain on the other hand, is just heartbroken. Sad, betrayed and heartbroken. One of the few characters that stands by his morals and ideals, to the extent of isolating himself from everyone he loves in order to protect them –and in some perverse way, make himself pay for his mistakes.

There’s also little quips to their personalities that make them so relatable you want to like them – Chaol lives a Spartan life, yet keeps a tapestry of his home, Dorian doesn’t let the servants clean his messy room because after it he can’t find his things and Celaena just likes pretty things. An Assassin who kills for gold, finds happiness in pretty dresses and lavish things. Celaena Sardothein is secretly all of us – if we’d been trained in killing since we were eight years old. Maybe some of you have, who am I to judge?

This plot has backstories, betrayals, double betrayals, lies, deceptions, magic, other realms, fortune teller witches that are really witches, a legitimate history lesson on the wars fought in Erilea and shady, conniving parents – let’s face it, what would a fantasy novel be without them?

Even the creation of supporting roles in this book has been done with a careful eye for detail. The madness of Kaltain and the secret of her bloodline, the Prince’s Cousin, Lord Roland and his sketchy past, the gloriously charming Archer Finn, courtesan extraordinaire. And of course, Nehemia. The Princess of Eyllwe plays perhaps one of the most important roles in this narration – a fate she accepts with open arms. And Mort. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you who Mort is, but his purpose of comic relief is much fulfilled.

To say that this book surprised me was an understatement. Throne of Glass had left me with such low expectations that I had none while reading this, only a curiosity to learn where the story goes. And I may just be glad that I did. The writing style itself seems to have changed, it weaves an all-encompassing, well thought of story out of bits and pieces. It takes all the plot holes, the nonsensical riddles and the idle story devices and turns those into meaningful details that all build up to an ultimate reveal – that still leaves a decent amount of questions unanswered. Not to the extent that one may be disenfranchised from following the story, but to a point where knowing would become a necessity.

My Rating: 4/5

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

2017-05-28 04.57.13 1.jpgMusic:

Gasoline – Halsey

Arsonist’s Lullaby – Hozier

Human – Rag ’n’ Bone Man

Monster – Imagine Dragons

Thunder – Imagine Dragons

Heathens – twenty one pilots

 “Do you know how far the wall is from the mines?”
He gave her blank look. She closed her eyes and sighed dramatically.
“From my shaft, it was three hundred sixty-three feet. I had someone measure.”
“So?” Dorian repeated.
“Captain Westfall, how far do slaves make it from the mines when they try to escape?”
“Three feet,” he muttered. “Endovier sentries usually shoot a man down before he’s moved three feet.”
The Crown Prince’s silence was not her desired effect. “You knew it was suicide,” he said at last, the amusement gone.
Perhaps it had been a bad idea to bring up the wall.
“Yes. I never intended to escape.”

This is the story of the Adarlan’s Assassin, whose very name is taken in whispers along dark alleyways and always with reverence. There may be disgust at all the things she’s done, the lives she’s taken, the Kingdoms she’s destroyed – but there’s always respect for Celaena Sardothien. Reverence even, for all that she has accomplished and all that she has survived. Betrayed and captured, she was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in the Salt Mines of Endovier, a refugee camp of sorts where even the bravest are broken till nothing remains of them but husks of empty bodies slaving away till death takes him away. Yet she survives, refusing to let the mines break her spirit or her sanity, working every day in the mines where most don’t last more than three weeks. One day, the Crown Prince of Adarlan’s, Dorian Havilliard approaches her with a proposition; to serve as his contestant in a mad contest to be the King’s champion and on winning, if she survived the position for four years, earn her freedom.

Enticed by the opportunity at earning her freedom, the Assassin agrees. Between the Captain of the Guard and a Princess widely known as a rebel sympathizer, Celina finds friends who care for her – the thought of having which she had abandoned long ago. But within the glass walls of that glorious castle, nothing seems to be fine. With Champions being killed in the dead of the night, strange markings below ancient clock towers, and even stranger spirits that beg her assistance, the Assassin finds herself dragged right into the middle of this conspiracy. The fact that she will emerge the victor of this contest is all but certain in the eyes of those who know of the Assassin’s real identity. But the overriding question is – Will she be able to serve the man who is responsible for a continent’s worth of carnage and the destruction of her own life?

At the very onset, I thought this was going to be my favorite book. It has strong female characters, a sensible plotline and tyrannical ruler conquering nations across the world – what’s not to love ,right? But either due to the amount of Wattpad I read, or the basic turn of events, the plot seemed entirely too cliché – if not predictable.

The entire plotline of an opportunity leading to the position of a Champion and then freedom seems overused at best. It’s a perfectly acceptable objective to have, there’s no denying that, but there’s no greater sub-plot to the idea. At least Hunger Games served for the victors to be a sort of glory moment for poorer districts , those that normally starved to death on a daily basis. None of that was found here though, Even the friendships that Celaena forms throughout the book are superficial, undeveloped and leads you to wonder about the purpose they serve in the greater arc of things. In fact, most of the characters have some sort of disconnect between the facets of their personalities. The only person we can find to be consistent is the King , and that’s because he’s the war mongering, conquering tyrant and there aren’t really many ways you can spin that.

For instance, the Assassin herself is an angry, raging lunatic of a person when she’s rescued form the Mines of Endovier. And no one can really blame her. That place is meant to break your spirit, mind and soul. However, there is no transition from rabid woman to recovering assassin. It’s like she enters the glass castle and BAM!  The Adarlan’s Assassin has awoken. I don’t particularly understand how an assassin who has probably been trained to have an unrealistic control over her emotions begins to melt at the first handsome man who’s nice to her.

The very presence of the King terrifies her to stone cold but again, there should be no reason for it. She’s the most feared woman across several countries. If anything, there should be raging anger when you come across the man who sentenced you to a very painful and elongated death. But enough of that. We’ll make a concession here and pretend that it’s all for the sake of the writer maintaining their mystery. If anything, the character of the Captain of the Guard salvages the book for me. Not only is he extremely skilled, moralistic and dutiful, he’s also rather witty and his banter with the Assassin, along with his surprising naivety which is something I found myself chuckling at. As one of the only characters that doesn’t necessarily conform to YA stereotypes, I salute this man and the fact that he’s going to get his heart broken – or worse, stabbed.

But what frustrates me to no end, is the romanticisation of this plot. There could have been some regard for the concept, but the entire love triangle between the girl, the more eligible suitor and the not-so-eligible-but-very-much-in-love-with-the-girl suitor grates on my nerves and makes it’s a very typically YA Novel. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and sometimes I myself look for such clichéd YA. But not with this sort of a concept. The entire idea of female assassins is something very dear to me and the inclusion of that into an entirely new and fantastical universe was downright enchanting. And it stays so – but in idea alone. I may be judging this book too harshly due to the great expectations I had from it, but I can’t stomach how the execution has turned out. It reminds me of the anime Bungou Stray Dogs, that also have a fabulous concept in place, but leaves much to be desired with its execution.

So far, with regards to the characterization, plot line and romanticism, it ranks fairly average for me. Did I devour the book in the span of a day? Yes. Was I up at 3 am in the night ordering its sequel online? No. However, the novella at the end of the book seems extremely enticing, and is something I’d probably read. The main book? It’s not something that I’d search for in the middle of the night because I had a craving for that kind of literature. But it is something that would probably be worth a read if you’ve never read anything assassin related. Probably.

Recommendation: if you do enjoy reading tales of emotionless female assassins, betrayal and vengeance, I’d recommend Darkness Girl by Trickster God. Don’t get thrown off by the names, give it a read.

My Rating: 3/ 5

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Before the heads rolled and the roses were painted red, the Queen was just a girl with a dream…

Music:

Only – RY X

Quit – Cashmere Cat ft. Ariana Grande

Cake – Melanie Martinez

How – Regina Spektor

Kings and Queens – Aerosmith

 “Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”

“An empty threat from an empty girl.”

She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”

“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”

Marissa Meyer artfully pans out the story of the infamous Queen of Hearts and her journey through the tumultuous episodes that made her so, if you may forgive me, Heartless. It chronicles the story of a woman fighting desperately against the fate that has been set out for her.

Lady Catherine’s one greatest joy is baking and her dream – to open a bakery where the entire Kingdom would come to taste her desserts. However, her social standing is so that even the idea is severely frowned upon. Despite heavy opposition, Lady Catherine Pinkerton accompanied by her faithful maid and confidante Mary Ann dream of their bakery one day being the sweetest in all of Hearts. However, with the arrival of an unanticipated marriage proposal, an accidental encounter with the new Court Jester and the sudden appearance of the fabled Jaberwocky that is terrorizing the town, Catherine’s life spirals towards ultimate decisions – whether to chase her heart’s deepest desires or do what is expected of her. The impossibility of her situation becomes such that even the Jester with his specialty in impossibilities, is unable to resolve it.

As a fan of all things whimsical and gothic and sweet, this book turned out to be quite the cake. It encompasses all the essentials of the classic Wonderland, while giving it a more personal touch. Unlike the original book, the characters here do not exist merely for the advancement of the central plot, but have been established as solid characters with backstories and secret agendas. While the character development with regards to most of the other characters seems to be basic at best, Catherine herself goes from a timid, sugar and cream filled girl, to one who decides to take her fate into her own hands, to the woman who calls for vengeance and simultaneously, people’s heads.

Something interesting that I’ve come to notice, and which may be observed in this story as well, is that the days of Court Fools being mere nuisances are long gone. They don’t crack boorish jokes or perform parlour tricks anymore, but engage in enigmatic discourse and are very well as important to the functioning of a sovereign as may be a knight or an executioner. They may not seem central to the plotline at the very onset (as observed in Brandon Sanderson’s universe), but they prove instrumental for the functioning of most devices. And if not, at the worst they provide intelligent comic relief.

One of the most notable aspects of this book is that not only does it give us the backstory of the illustrious Queen, it also lets us take a glimpse at the Hatta pre-madness. A distinguished gentleman whose craft is rapidly gathering fame, deep down he is a man racing against time and perhaps his own madness. Meanwhile, one of the more intriguing characters proves to be Raven, Jest’s (I’m not making this up, that’s the Jester’s name) constant companion. The black bird draws a striking comparison to the one that once knocked upon the chambers of Edgar Allen Poe. With a flourished use of the phrase “Nevermore”; this is yet another character that leaves you wanting more – a wish that is never fulfilled, much like most wishes in this book.

There are several characters of this sort that if, were delved into a little deeper, would have provided for a deeper and more profound book – the rude Sir Peter Peter and his timid wife, the practical maid Mary Allen, the cringe worthy King of Hearts or even the beloved Jest. The lack of which however, is the only disappointment of this book – along with the budding romance as is common with most fan fiction type of writing. I’m not particularly interested in knowing that Jest’s arms have more muscle than they look like they would, but I would be interested in knowing his tragic plot line (you know he has one. everyone has one).

Despite centering on a budding romance, this story possesses dark undertones that make you pause. The story of a girl who wanted to do so much with her life, who wanted to do more than just fit into the cookie cutter set out for her, was forced to submit to her fate, accept that certain things were just out of her control and turn into a woman stone-like fortitude. This woman not only loses her battle against fate, but she goes on to become the much ridiculed Queen of Hearts. This book is a tragic eulogy of the girl that once was, before vengeance and heartbreak drove her mad. You can’t even start this book thinking that it might be otherwise – from the very onset, there is this foreboding feeling where you know she’s going to lose this battle. This is not a story about a girl who is able to fight against the odds and emerge victorious. It is the chronicle of someone whose innocence was stolen by the tragedies that splintered her heart in half.

Though I personally do not prefer caramel-sweet romances of any sort, this book encases it in such a delightful crust of whimsy and fancy that I could not possibly put it down. A light reading for those with too much work (Legal Interns with tremendous research), and delightful one for those who simply adore the madness of the original book (I fit under both), it is definitely a recommendation to all. It may not be a book that you revisit when at a lack of reading material, but it is definitely one to comfort you when you feel slightly, how should I put it, mad.

My Rating: 3.8/52017-05-20 10.56.12 1.jpg

 

The Beginning

The Beginning is always a little difficult, if not tedious. But it is an attempt, similar to this site, at introducing something new to the world. Or maybe its been done before and i haven’t come across it. Either way, here is a platform to allow you to browse through a plethora of reviews and recommendations, so you can make an educated choice as to the fantasy universe you make your own.