Emma Newman – Any Other Name

I was enchanted by the first instalment in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series and had the second book waiting on my TBR since then. This is the year of finishing trilogies (Sanderson, Rachel Aaron, I’m looking at you) so I dove right in. After some initial troubles, I found my footing again and got some enjoyment out of reading. Just not as much as I’d hoped…

any other nameANY OTHER NAME
by Emma Newman

Published by: Angry Robot, 2013
Ebook: 400 pages
Series: The Split Worlds #2
My rating: 6/10

First sentence: Sam knew it was a terrible idea, but once he realised he had to go back to Exilium his course was set.

Cat has been forced into an arranged marriage with William – a situation that comes with far more strings than even she could have anticipated, especially when she learns of his family’s intentions for them both.
Meanwhile, Max and the gargoyle investigate The Agency – a mysterious organisation that appears to play by its own rules – and none of them favourable to Society.
Over in Mundanus, Sam has discovered something very peculiar about his wife’s employer – something that could herald a change for everyone in both sides of the Split Worlds.

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Fairies aren’t cute, that has been well established. The worst thing they can do is grant you three wishes. While Between two Thorns subverted fairy tale tropes in a fun, entertaining way, this second book in the trilogy feels… well, very much like a second book in a trilogy. You know what I mean. It doesn’t really advance the plot, but instead spends its time setting up what I assume will be the big show-down in the next book.

The writing style is easy to get into, so this was still a quick read. But instead of using the time between first and last book to establish her characters a little more, to have them grow and change, Emma Newman jumps back and forth rather frantically between view points. I connected with none of the characters, least of all Cathy who was so much fun in the first book.

Most of Cathy’s chapters are spent with heavy-handed lectures on feminism. She is now stuck in a marriage with stone age values, where she is supposed to take care of the house, organize her new servants, and attend social events without bursting into lectures on why things are bad for Fae-touched women. Look, I can get behind the message (hell, I wouldn’t want Cathy’s life!) but it was done so obviously, with so little dexterity, that it felt like a hammer coming down on my head over and over again. Stop with the ham-fisted preaching, I’m already on your side!! I would have preferred to be shown Cathy’s dire situation, read about her feelings, and then come to my own conclusions.

Max, the Arbiter, the most intriguing character of the first book, didn’t get nearly enough time or development for my taste. What bothered me the most was his lack of agency. Yes, he is soulless, but he does have his gargoyle sidekick (containing his soul) – the pair of them could have made for great comedy. Now they’re just more unused potential…

Sam is going through a troubling time with his wife. The events that occur and the new villain/source of danger came very much out of nowhere, as does Sam’s stupidity right at the beginning of the novel. Really, Sam? Going to Exilium by yourself? No matter how good your intentions – you, sir, are an idiot! These actions do have repercussions but I suspect that the ripples Sam has set in motion will only show their true effect in the next book.

I liked Will well enough in the first book and at least his mistakes in Any Other Name can’t be attributed to stupidity. He is fooled, he is manipulated, but from his point of view, everything makes sense and he is acting valiantly. Still, he creates a mess of epic proprtions that – again – will have to be cleaned up in another book.

So a lot of plot strings are set up, involving the Fae, London politics, the mysterious Agency, and Lord Iron. But nothing is resolved or even advanced in any meaningful way. I suppose I’ll eventually read the conclusion to the trilogy, if only because now I’ve ploughed through all the set up, but I’m in no hurry to return to the Split Worlds. This book left me with a very distinct feeling of meh.

MY RATING: 6/10 – Okay

divider1The Split Worlds Trilogy:

  1. Between Two Thorns
  2. Any Other Name
  3. All is Fair

Emma Newman – Between Two Thorns

Emma Newman is a wonderfully charming person on her podcast Tea and Jeopardy. Listening to her always makes me happy. So it was only a matter of time before I picked up one of her books. Look at the pretty covers. Look at them! They almost kept me from reading these books. Why? Because Angry Robot had the same artist design the covers for very different books (by different authors), giving an incredibly wrong impression of what readers will find inside.

Between Two ThornsBETWEEN TWO THORNS
by Emma Newman

Published by: Angry Robot, 2013
Ebook: 400 pages
Series: The Split Worlds #1
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: The night in Bath was the third time Sam’s beer bladder had got him into trouble.

Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.
The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.
There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.
But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?

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These books sound so much up my alley that I should have picked them up on publication day. Evil fairies, court intrigue, magic, the real world, a girl who fights for her rights… The reason I didn’t is fairly simple (and also a little sad). The cover artist also did a cover for another book which I hated (the book, not the cover). And so, despite loving the artwork and design, I immediately associated all the bad things about That Other Book* with Emma Newman’s trilogy. Then, after listening to a few episodes of her charming podcast last week, I needed to read the Split Worlds series, never mind the covers.

How delighted I was to discover – again, prejudice on my part – that this wasn’t a YA book and it didn’t feature teenage protagonists. I have nothing against children’s fiction (as my attentive readers will well know) but I just wasn’t in the mood for more pubescent hormonal romance drama that happens to have fairies in it. Between two Thorns is none of that. It features adult protagonists in their twenties or early thirties, which made it all the more interesting to see them deal with this other world that happens to exist next to their own.

The main protagonist is probably Cathy, the rebel daughter of a Fae-touched family, who ran away from home to live in our world, Mundanus, and enjoy everything modern life has to offer. Science Fiction books, movies, videogames, and – oh yes! – human rights. Her home world, the Nether, is a reflection of cities in our world, but the Nether got stuck in the Victorian age. Sure, this gives it some wonderful flair and gorgeously polite dialogue, but it also makes life as a young woman pure hell. Being married off to a stranger is not Cathy’s idea of happiness, so she made a new life for herself in our world. Except, her family are now on to her and will drag her back no matter what she does.

A parallel storyline tells of Max, an Arbiter investigating a mystery in a very noir-ish fashion. He is a sort of peace-keeper between the Fae, the Fae-touched, and us mundanes. While the Fae stay mostly tucked away in the third parallel world, Exilium, they can visit our world, just as Cathy does. And everyone who has ever read some mythology knows that fairies are usually up to no good. In fact, the worst thing that can happen to you is for a fairy to grant you three wishes. You are bound to get something wrong and the fairy will delight in making your life miserable. Charming creatures, really…

As happens frequently, I was drawn to the side characters, and I must commend Emma Newman for her job. Will, the young man that Cathy is supposed to marry for political reasons, seemed like an arrogant and ambitious prick, but showed empathy and humanity when he found out more about Cathy. He is also involved in the not-a-love-triangle. While Cathy had to break up with her mundane boyfriend to cover up for returning to the Nether, Will accepts their engagement as a fact of his high status in society. He tries to make the best of it and get to know Cathy. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t fall for someone else. So you have two likable people who do not want to marry each other, but each have another love interest. I don’t know what you call that exactly, but it is wonderfully done. I couldn’t help but feel with every character involved and want to shake them and scream at them: Just tell her/him!

Apart from fantastic characters, Emma Newman manages beautifully to juxtapose our world with the Nether and made me appreciate my life all the more. Cathy speaks like a regular person (to us readers) but sounds like an alien to her family. When she finally meets a mundane who understands her pop culture references, I felt all her relief and wanted to high-five repeatedly just her for being cool.

The outline of a door burnt into the grass around them and Cathy pulled him [Sam] up and outside of the rectangular shape. Before he could complain, the grassy door swung inwards, revealing the room below. The doorway appeared to have opened in the wall of the room.
“Oh, man, that breaks my brain.”
“It’s like Portal,” Cathy said.

For all that praise, the beginning was hard to get into. The view points changed a bit fast and I didn’t know who everyone was yet. Introducing the story with a minor character, Sam, probably wasn’t the smartest idea, although that scene is what kicks everything else off. In addition (and this is a good thing), Emma Newman did her very best to stay away from infodumps. So it is up to the reader to figure things out for a while. Eventually, we get little snippets that explain how the Split Worlds are set up, how politics in the Nether work, what an Arbiter’s job is. But at the beginning, full attention is required to keep up with the characters, story and worldbuilding. Did I mention there were gargoyles? With souls? Yeah. Add that to your list of awesome.

I am so happy I got over my cover art prejudice (that’s marketing for you) and read this book. The story grew on me and got better and better over time. In the end, one mystery is solved, but another, much bigger one, is still wide open. Emma Newman also managed to leave Cathy’s story hanging on quite the cliffhanger, so you know what I’ll be reading over the holidays.

MY RATING: 7,5/10  –  Very, very good!

The Split Worlds Series:

  1. Between Two Thorns
  2. Any Other Name
  3. All Is Fair

* Fine I’ll tell you. It was Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse. (I don’t lake hating books but if you want to read my rant, here it is)

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Related articles and other reviews:

Terry Pratchett – Lords and Ladies

By now, I can’t even imagine a world without Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax. There is also a new Terry Pratchett non-fiction collection coming out in October which I’m thinking of pre-ordering. It’s funny how this year started with me being all in love with Catherynne M. Valente and now I can’t get away from Discworld. This is the joy of being a non-professional blogger. Because it means I can read as many Discworld books in a row as I want. And if I do ever get bored, nobody can force me to continue. And these books aren’t going anywhere.

lords and ladies1LORDS AND LADIES
by Terry Pratchett

Published by: Corgi, 2013 (1992)
ISBN: 0552167525
Paperback: 400 pages
Series: Discworld #14
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: Now read on…
When does it start?

The fairies are back – but this time they don’t just want your teeth.
It’s Midsummer Night – no time for dreaming. Because sometimes, when there’s more than one reality at play, too much dreaming can make the walls between them come tumbling down. Unfortunately there’s usually a damned good reason for there being walls between them in the first place – to keep things out. Things who want to make mischief and play havoc with the natural order.
Granny Weatherwax and her tiny coven are up against real elves. And even in a world of dwarfs, wizards, trolls, Morris dancers and the odd orang-utan, this is going to cause real trouble. With lots of hey-nonny-nonny and blood all over the place.

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Magrat is getting married. Readers may have suspected it since Wyrd Sisters but personally, I didn’t believe that either she or Verence II would work up the courage to ask one another. Which is why matters are conveniently already arranged when Magrat returns home with Granny and Nanny. Now she has to learn proper queening, which is enough work as it is, but in addition, there are strange things going on at the standing stones in the woods. And around midsummer night, the walls between worlds are especially thin. Things might break through…

This was a particularly fun Discworld novel. I never liked Magrat as much as I did in Lords and Ladies and even though I know that she will be replaced by Agnes Nitt (she of the angelic voice, large body, and personality disorder), I believe that I will end up missing Magrat Garlick. That quiet, too-nice-for-her-own-good girl kicked some serious fairy butt!

I was also pleased to discover a different side to Granny Weatherwax. She always seems so aloof, so unconcerned about her private life and especially all things romantic (and I like her that way) but the peculiar kind of havoc wrought by the fairies shows us that, at the very least, Granny could have led a very different life. But whatever may or may not have been, we still get to enjoy Granny’s wonderful wit and incredible practicality.

‘Some­one got killed up here.’ [said Granny]
‘Oh, no,’ moaned Nanny Ogg.
‘A tall man. He had one leg longer’n the other. And a beard. He was prob­a­bly a hunter.’
‘How’d you know all that?’
‘I just trod on ’im.’

You may not guess immediately from the title – I didn’t – but the Lords and Ladies it refers to are fairies. Now I’ve always had a soft spot for fairies, but for some reason, the Disney version never did it for me. I like the mysterious, dark ones that aren’t all bad but most certainly aren’t all good either (the real Tinkerbell is still one of my favorites). Terry Pratchett ditched the wish-fulfilling, glittering good fairies and instead opted for a seductive, dangerous, alluring, and most importantly, stylish kind of fairie folk. The way they are set up makes them more creepy than funny but as soon as people decide to fight back, there are a few absolutely hilarious scenes involving fairies, Magrat, and Greebo. I don’t think I need to say any more.

lords and ladies cover image

Comparing the Witches books to each other (as I inadvertently do), I believe this was also one of the better crafted ones. The plot lines start out seemingly unconnected but run together towards a fantastic ending. Ridcully and Ponder Stibbons make an appearance, and the Librarian of Unseen University saves the day more than once. I’m still not too fond of the wizards, but I’ll take the certainly-not-a-monkey and his exclamations of “Ook.” any time to spice up the plot. The fact that the storylines do converge helps flesh out Discworld as a whole and makes the place feel more real. Without actually going to Ankh-Morpork, with the wizards visiting Lancre, we are reminded that even in the Witches’ storyline, Discworld is a large place where lots of things happen at the same time. Just not necessarily all in the same place.

Given that I still have no idea how big exaclty Discworld is supposed to be, it also came as a bit of a surprise to find out that some characters knew each other from “way back when”. In one clever stroke, Terry Pratchett breathes life into his world, its mythology, and its characters. All of this is achieved without long expositions or boring info-dumps. After all, the characters know who they are and how their world works. We have to figure it out from the context – something I immensely enjoy and that far too few authors trust their readers to manage.  Thanks again, Sir Terry, for believing that your readers have the ability to think for themselves.

As you see, I have very little to complain about. The only thing that makes me sad at this point is that I only have one more Witches novel to look forward to (I hear there will be vampires). Carpe Jugulum will have to wait a litte, though, because a few days ago I started listening to the audiobook of Making Money. I had almost forgotten how much I like ex-swinder and now Postmaster General Moist von Lipwig.

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The Witches novels (Discworld):

  1. Equal Rites
  2. Wyrd Sisters
  3. Witches Abroad
  4. Lords and Ladies
  5. Maskerade
  6. Carpe Jugulum
  7. Tiffany Aching (sub-series)
    1. The Wee Free Men
    2. A Hat Full of Sky
    3. Wintersmith
    4. I Shall Wear Midnight

Sarah Zettel – Dust Girl

I must congratulate myself on my choice of summer reading material. It has been so hot and dry this last week that I find myself desperately wishing for rain to cool down the city. Dust Girl takes place in Kansas which, I admit, may be just a bit dustier and drier than Vienna, but the atmosphere of the book went well with the stifling heat I’m experiencing in real life.

dust girl 2DUST GIRL
by Sarah Zettel

Published by: Random House, 2012
ISBN:9780375983184
ebook: 304 pages
Series: The American Fairy Trilogy #1

My rating: 6/10

First sentence: Once upon a time, I was a girl called Callie.

Callie LeRoux is choking on dust. It settles on the food in the kitchen. It seeps through the cracks in the hotel that Callie and her mother run in Kansas. It’s slowly filling her lungs. Callie’s begged her mother to leave their town, like their neighbors have already done, but her mother refuses. She’s waiting for Callie’s long-gone father to return.
Just as the biggest dust storm in history sweeps through the Midwest, Callie discovers her mother’s long-kept secret. Callie’s not just mixed race—she’s half fairy, too. Now, Callie’s fairy kin have found where she’s been hidden, and they’re coming for her.
While red dust engulf the prairie, magic unfolds around Callie. Buildings flicker from lush to shabby, and people aren’t what they seem. She catches glimpses of a tail, a wing, dark eyes full of stars. The only person Callie can trust may be Jack, the charming ex-bootlegger she helped break out of jail.
From the despair of the Dust Bowl to the hot jazz of Kansas City, from dance marathons to train yards, to the dangerous beauties of the fairy realm, Sarah Zettel creates a world rooted equally in American history and in magic, where two fairy clans war over a girl marked by prophecy.

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Callie LeRoux hast two secrets. The one she knows is that her father is dark-skinned, which is why she isn’t allowed out in the sun too much. Her mother does her best to keep Callie’s skin as pale as possible. The second secret is that Callie is a half-fairy. The story starts out very well with Callie witnessing the biggest sandstorm ever, loses her mother in that storm, and returns to the hotel to find the Hoppers waiting to check into some rooms. That family rivals any thriller writer in creepiness. I guarantee chills down your spines when you read about the Hoppers, especially the children (why is it that children in horror movies are always the scariest things?).

When Callie meets Jack and decides to go and find her mother, he joins her on a journey through Kansas and the dust. They find out about Callie’s heritage as a half-fairy, about fairy politics (and real-world ones) and are on the run from one person or another throughout the rest of the book.

What I loved wdust girlas how several strands of story are set up throughout the beginning, how side characters were introduced that pushed all of my mythology buttons, and how Callie and Jack are portrayed. I did have a huge problem placing them age-wise. Callie behaved like a 12-year-old but was treated more like a girl of 15 or even 16. Jack being described as “no older than Callie” didn’t help either. Goodreads tells me Callie is supposed to be 13 and that’s what I settled for. But it was not apparent through the writing and my brain wasn’t sure whether to picture a little girl or a young woman.

While I enjoyed the ideas and themes in Dust Girl, I was sad that they were left mostly unexplored. As for world-building, the author kind of wrote herself into corners. The magic is never really explained but it seems to follow no rules at all – a matter of taste, surely, but I like boundaries to my magic. Otherwise, the heroine is all-powerful and where’s the fun in reading about someone like that? Callie being mixed race should have had a much deeper impact on her life. After a few days on the run, being exposed to the hot desert sun, Callie’s skin grows visibly darker and she receives sidelong glances. It is mentioned but not really explored. So yes, racism exists, and it existed in the 1930s. But I was hoping for much more than a few throwaway remarks.

Sarah Zettel writes action really well. Callie and Jack stumble from one problem into the next, a repetition I didn’t mind because every time they were being hunted, I was on the edge of my seat, worrying for them and hoping they would get out of it. I expect that young adults will enjoy this book a lot because it is fast-moving and engaging and keeps things simple.

That simplicity is one of my qualms. I realize that, as an adult, this book was not written for me or my age-group. But all the best children’s fiction can be read by adults and enjoyed on a different level. Take Harry Potter or Terry Pratchett’s YA novels – children will mostly read for pure story, adults may choose to look deeper and find what additional levels the author has hidden in what only seems like a simple story. I was missing that element completely in Dust Girl.

Towards the end, I felt like the plot strings and world-building were a big fat mess. Not only does Callie not know whom to trust and what to do with her powers, the readers are left hanging as well. It is clear that this is the set-up for a trilogy or series because 90% of the story arcs introduced are left unresolved. The ending is rounded enough so you don’t want to throw the book against a wall and scream because you want to know what will happen next. But of all the strange things that happened to Callie, of all the things she has found out about herself, the Seelie and Unseelie people, where her mother and absentee father are, we don’t really get any answers.

This sounds a lot more negative than I actually felt about the story while reading it. It is competently written, was very engaging and fantastically creepy at times. For me, the style was a bit too child-like, the story a bit too messy in terms of structure, and while I did enjoy it and read it quickly, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. I will pick up the second book and see where Callie’s story leads me but I’m in no hurry to do so.

THE GOOD: Great ideas, wonderfully creepy, a page-turner. Nicely atmospheric.
THE BAD: Plot strings get tangled, no clear rules for the magic-system, messy world-building. Unresolved ending.
THE VERDICT: Recommended for younger readers (11+) or as a quick read between meatier books. It’s not a highlight, but it was fun enough to keep reading.

RATING:  6/10   Good.

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The American Fairy Trilogy:

  1. Dust Girl
  2. Golden Girl

Other reviews:

Andrea Jones – Hook & Jill

Peter Pan has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in school. I had known (and disliked) the overly sweetened Disney version before I ever picked up the book and maybe it is because of this that the book touched me the way it did. I can’t get enough of this children’s adventure story, nestled within which lies  a dark tragedy of a boy. Retellings, sequels, prequels, and spin-offs have been on my radar ever since. And because I’m currently reading The Annotated Peter Pan by Maria Tatar, I felt like looking at Neverland from a different perspective.

hook and jillHOOK & JILL
by Andrea Jones

Published by: Reginetta Press, 2009
ISBN: 0982371497
ebook: 293 pages
Series: Hook & Jill #1

My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: When she woke, she was the woman in the bed on the ship in the sea, and she used to be Wendy Darling, who dreamt in the bed in the nursery of Number 14.

In this startling new vision of a cultural classic, Wendy intends to live happily ever after with Peter Pan. But Time, like this tale, behaves in a most unsettling way. As Wendy mothers the Lost Boys in Neverland, they thrive on adventure. She struggles to keep her boys safe from the Island’s many hazards, but she finds a more subtle threat encroaching from an unexpected quarter… The children are growing up, and only Peter knows the punishment.
Yet in the inky edges of the Island, the tales Wendy tells to the Lost Boys come true. Captain Hook is real, and even the Wonderful Boy can’t defend his Wendy against this menace. Hook is a master manipulator, devising vengeance for his maiming. Insidious and seductive, Hook has his reasons for tempting Wendy to grow up. Revenge is only the first.

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I love Peter Pan. James Barrie’s original children’s story is perfection to me but I am not at all averse to reinterpretations, retellings or darker versions of Neverland. Régis Loisel’s comic book series Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories ever, and this Andrea Jones series promised to deliver something similar. Wendy grows up – which of course is against Peter’s rules – and becomes partial to Captain Hook. The title and the blurb both led me to expect a sort of dark romance between the well-mannered yet ruthless pirate captain and the innocent girl. That’s pretty much what I got, but I still can’t decide whether I loved or hated the book.

The first thing I noticed was the language. I will not make presumptions about what the author intended, I can only state how I perceived her writing. The style came over as if she was trying very hard to sound poetic. It ended up clunky, at times even pretentious, and out of character. Because there is not much plot so speak of, the focus lies on the characters and their development. Wendy secretly wants to have a romance, her very own love story, with Peter Pan – a thing, of course, that he can and will never give her, because that is on the threshold to grown-up territory. Wendy’s inner turmoil was intriguing to read, even though the style got in the way of itself a bit. As the story progresses, we get to see other characters’ viewpoints, most intriguing among them Hook. It was for him that I kept reading. Andrea Jones’ Hook is menacing, sinister, and sexy all at the same time. I found myself wanting Wendy to go to him.

hook and jillWhich leads me to the characters. Their development begins slowly and is well-done. We start out with well-known characters who I personally found believable. Peter is selfish and arrogant and adventurous, Wendy caring and prudent, Tinker Bell moody. Hook’s plotting will eventually draw Wendy over to his side and explore her sexuality as well as her will to make her own decisions.

The reason I am so torn about this is because despite my misgivings about the writing style, I was (for lack of a better word) hooked. I didn’t want to put the book away, I wanted to find out where all this build-up would lead. In the end, the pay-off fell a little short of my expectations. Some of the dialogue, especially towards the end, put me off, some storylines were just dropped (maybe to be picked up again in the next book?), and the last third of the book was full of logical mistakes and strange time and point-of-view jumps that made it both confusing and annoying. For example, Wendy – at one point – points a pistol at somebody’s head and fires. This person (I won’t spoil) falls down and I assumed they were dead. A bullet to the head from about a meter away will do that to you, right? The scene stops there, we follow another character for a couple of pages, and when we return, the person who just got shot gets up like nothing happened. The Neverland is a universe of magic, so I’m fine with people miraculously surviving lethal wounds, but it wasn’t even adressed! Nobody wondered how Wendy’s shot didn’t seem to have any effect, nobody even mentioned it. I went back and re-read that bit, sure I must have missed a paragraph, but no. It’s just never explained or even alluded to.

hook and jillAs this is an alternate Neverland sort of sequel, I didn’t expect things to be the same as in Barrie’s original play. But there were some details that rankled. Peter Pan can only remain an eternal child because he forgets things extremely fast. Even if his body were to never age, if he remembered all his adventures, his Lost Boys and his fairies, he would still mature on the inside. It is precisely his lack of memory that allows him to stay a boy forever. In this book, Peter remembered a surprising amount of details that made for interesting stand-offs in the end but didn’t feel like Peter Pan to me. In fact, and I assume that was the author’s intent, I found myself rooting for Hook instead of Peter.

This is certainly a book full of atmosphere, of character development and of discovering that you want to grow up. When I say growing up, I mean that to include sex. There is a fair bit of sexy time but never graphic, usually alluded to or described metaphorically. If I’m completely honest, I think Andrea Jones would make quite a good vaginal fantasy writer. She kept it classy, however, and while I wouldn’t necessarily give this book to children, I believe the sexy bits could be glossed over easily.

quotes greyThen he woke her, and moving in Time to the rhythm of the sea, they began their dance.

What did I think? I was quickly sucked into this dark, yet recognisable version of Neverland and couldn’t wait to watch Wendy succumb to Hook’s charms. There are many good ideas and fantastic characters in this book, some of whose transformations were pleasantly surprising. That said, I found it to be overlong and unnecessarily drawn out. The ending, while satisfying in a way, lost a lot of atmosphere. I’d recommend this to fans of Peter Pan who want a dark and sexy twist on the beloved story and who don’t mind a slow-moving plot.

The Good: Character depth and development, surprisingly sexy yet subtle scenes, a villain to root for.
The Bad: Sometimes clunky, overly wanna-be poetic writing, logical mistakes, occasionally strange dialogue.
The Verdict: As a hardcore Pan fan, I wouldn’t want to have missed this. Even though I’m not a romance reader, I find myself wanting more Hook & Jill time and less repetition of people’s thoughts and feelings. Still, this is a good novel of an alternate Neverland, peopled by characters who dare to grow up.

Rating: 6,5/10 – Quite good

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The Hook & Jill Saga:other oceans

  1. Hook & Jill
  2. Other Oceans

Jo Walton – Among Others

Nach dem unglaublichen Mechanique, habe ich meine ganze Hoffnung in die anderen Bücher gesetzt, die dieses Jahr für den Nebula Award nominiert sind. Doch dieses hoch gelobte Buch wäre auch ohne so große Konkurrenz eine Enttäuschung geworden. Vermutlich ist es Geschmackssache, aber mir entzieht sich, warum Kritiker und Autoren so von diesem Roman schwärmen. Für mich las er sich wie eine zweitklassige Coming-of-Age-Geschichte mit ganz viel Name Dropping.

Deutscher Titel: noch nicht bekannt
Erschienen: 2011
Seiten: 302
Erschienen bei: Tor

Meine Bewertung: 3,5/10

Erster Satz: The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around.

In Tagebuchform von der 15-jährigen Morganna Phelps geschrieben, erzählt dieses Buch ihre Geschichte nach einem tragischen Unfall, in dem ihre Zwillingsschwester Morwenna ums Leben kam und sie selbst die Fähigkeit, ohne Stock zu gehen, verloren hat. Das junge Mädchen wird aus ihrer Heimat in Wales auf ein Internat in England gesteckt, für das ihr bisher unbekannter Vater (da geschieden) bezahlt. Sie fühlt sich abgeschoben und ungewollt, findet nur schwer Freunde und flüchtet sich in die Welt der Bücher. Science Fiction Romane verschlingt sie am liebsten. Und immer wieder spricht sie von den Feen, die in unserer Welt versteckt leben…

Morganna – kurz Mor oder Mori – kam mir von Anfang an sehr reif für ihr Alter vor. Die Gedanken, die sie sich über das Leben, Sex und die Schule macht, sind sehr erwachsen, aber überzeugend. Ein Mädchen, das viel liest, lernt schließlich auch, seinen eigenen Kopf zu benutzen. Als Charakter war sie mir persönlich zu unsympathisch. Ihre unsoziale Art, wie sie auf ihre Mitschülerinnen hinabsieht – auch wenn diese teilweise etwas dümmliche Mädchen sind – und wie sie sich von allen fernhält, konnte ich nicht nachvollziehen. Ihre Tagebucheinträge sind dafür angenehm kurz.

Das Problem mit diesem Roman ist, dass er sehr langatmig ist – und dass auf gerade mal 300 Seiten! – und dass man, abgesehen vom Erwachsenwerden der Protagonistin, keinen Plot entdecken kann. Mor berichtet von ihrem Alltag in der Schule, den Büchern, die sie liest und immer wieder schwingt mit, dass ihre Mutter, vor der sie geflohen ist, eine schreckliche Person und vielleicht sogar eine Hexe ist. Allerdings erhalten wir dazu so wenige Information wie zu den Feen und somit hat sich bei mir keinerlei Interesse für die Hintergründe eingestellt.

Die Magie, die schon das Cover vermuten lässt, kommt fast gar nicht zur Geltung. Es kommt keinerlei Stimmung auf, die Autorin trickst in den wenigen Szenen, in denen Mor zaubert und lässt sie in ihr Tagebuch schreiben, dass sie lieber keine Details erwähnt. Feen werden zwar immer wieder erwähnt, als seltsame Wesen, die an Bäumen lehnen und keine klare Form haben, aber auch die Dialoge, die gehalten werden, bekommen wir Leser nicht zu sehen. Ob das Faulheit, Ideenlosigkeit oder Absicht ist, ist schwer zu sagen. Mich hat es jedenfalls furchtbar gestört und die Geschichte hätte wesentlich besser werden können, wenn man das ganze magische Element einafch weggelassen hätte.

Sprachlich ist das Buch zwar in Ordnung, aber weder besonders originell noch besonders berührend. Nur Mangel an Fehlern zeichnet noch kein gutes Buch aus. Ebenso wie “Dinge passieren” noch lange keinen Plot ergeben. Und hier passieren nicht einmal besonders viele Dinge. Mors Alltag ist trübe, sie verliert sich in ihrem Tagebuch in Landschaftsbeschreibungen und berichtet von Briefen, die sie an ihren Opa schreibt, in dem sie Treffen ankündigt, über die wir dann später lesen müssen.

Am besten haben mir noch die Erwähnungen der vielen Bücher gefallen, die Mor liest und über die sie grübelt. Einige davon habe ich selbst gelesen, auf andere habe ich richtig Lust bekommen. Ihre Liebe zu Büchern war auch das einzige, worin ich mich selbst wieder erkannt habe. Was das Lesen und die Liebe zu Büchern betrifft, fühlte ich mich von Mor einfach verstanden. Aber auch dieses Element zerbröselt irgendwann in sinnloses Namedropping ohne Hintergrund. Die großer Ironie ist ja, dass Mor und ihre Freunde teilweise literarische Werke kritisieren aufgrund von Mängeln, die Jo Waltons Buch hier selbst – und zwar viel extremer – aufweist.

Das Ende ist stumpf und uninteressant, fühlt sich wenig abgerundet an. Hätte Jo Walton die “Magie” einfach weggelassen und sich mehr auf die Familienverhältnisse konzentriert, hätte das ein schönes Buch werden können. So wurde es leider vor alle mit fortschreitender Seitenzahl eher eine Qual.

Wie dieses Buch eine Nebula-Nominierung bekommen hat, ist mir ein Rätsel, aber neben Mechanique von Genevieve Valentine (lesen!) hat Jo Walton nicht die geringste Chance.

Ich hoffe, mit Jo Waltons Roman Tooth and Claw (Der Clan der Klauen) habe ich etwas mehr Glück.

PRO: Jede Menge Buchtipps für Sci-Fi Fans und solche, die es noch werden wollen. Als begeisterter Leser erkennt man sich teilweise in Mor wieder.
CON: Unsympathische Protagonistin, langweiliger Plot und schlecht konstruierte magische Welt.
FAZIT: Muss man wirklich nicht lesen. Das Jahr 2011 hat weitaus bessere Roman hervorgebracht.

BEWERTUNG: 3,5/10