Yeah, this was trash. Really ableist trash, which is always the fun kind! /s I came in with low expectations, but clearly NOT low enough.
**This review contains mild spoilers**
I knew this was going to be a bad book when the heroine SHOT AN ARROW at the girl bullying her because ‘she knew had really good aim so she would just miss her’, and then the book treated that as a totally normal prank that a normal person would do. Like what the fuck was that. That’s not normal, that’s unhinged. I really love unhinged women, and I think it would have been cool if Evike were not normal! But no, we can’t have nice things. Anyway, it somehow devolved from there?
Let me get the good things out of the way first. The prose was occasionally over the top and didn’t always make much sense (…what on earth does ‘drowned up to the waist’ mean), but in general, I actually really liked it. I will admit to kind of preferring prose that verges on purple, though, so ymmv, but I thought it painted a really nice picture of the setting! Also, I adored the heroine’s father? Just when I had given up on enjoying any part of this book, the heroine’s father came along and proved me wrong. He’s amazing. I love men who are wise and kind and dignified.
Uhhh what else. I guess I kind of liked Gaspar? (Sorry my keyboard can’t put the cool little accent marks on top of the a’s. American keyboards should be able to do that, this is unfair. Anyway.) I hated him at first, but then the book kept going and Evike got on my nerves more and more, until Gaspar honestly wasn’t that bad by comparison. He was kind of cute! I will admit to having a weakness for woobified softboi heroes, as terrible and embarrassing as it is.
The magic systems were…sort of interesting, I guess. Please keep in mind that I know nothing about Hungarian paganism, but in general, magic in folklore is just cooler than shown here?? Scottish witches could cause shipwrecks and turn into hares! Icelandic witches could nurse a thing made from wool and the rib of a dead man and set it loose to steal milk for them!* The witches in this book…can set things on fire and/or magically forge weapons and/or see the future sometimes. That’s it. 0/10 there should have been more taking apart dead bodies. And I think you could potentially do a lot of things with magic based on medieval Catholicism! One thing I’ve heard historians say is that the difference between a saint and a witch is where the power comes from, and tales of miracles and tales of witchcraft are sometimes fairly similar. So I think you could build a really interesting magic system based on tales of wonder-working saints! Instead it’s just ‘they set things on fire lol.’ I thought the magic system that the Yehuli characters practice was pretty cool, but it barely came into play except at the ending. (It also probably helps that the Yehuli characters were the only likeable ones, but you know. I’m more inclined to be charitable if I really like the characters.)
*These examples are from the 19th and the 17th century, I think, but my point still stands as far as magic in folklore and mythology being really cool. It’s about the neat little rituals for me, especially when the rituals are weird
Don’t even get me started on the plot. I’m not even joking when I say that the first 200 pages could have been cut. Everyone’s going on a trek across the countryside trying to find the turul, and then they don’t even find it and they go on home??? The whole quest was only in there for some cheap, half-hearted relationship development that wasn’t even compelling? Are you KIDDING me. I was so bored.
But yeah, all of that aside, I wanted to strangle Evike throughout the story. She already raised my red flags when Gaspar was introduced and she seemed to kind of hint that his missing eye was scary, but then she JUST. KEPT. GOING. Hold on, I saved some of the quotes in my reading updates on Goodreads:
But I can’t see the left half of his face without wondering morbidly what lies beneath the black patch, and how he ever summoned the strength to pluck out his own eye like a crow picking over a corpse.
You can’t stop morbidly wondering what lies beneath his eyepatch? That sounds like a you problem, but okay.
“What would you know? A wolf-girl from a tiny village, who’s never set foot outside Ezer Szem—”
“More than a pampered, one-eyed prince,” I cut in.
I know I love whenever I get into an argument with a non-disabled person and then they say, “Well, you’re disabled, so what do YOU know?” Especially when the argument had literally nothing to do with the disability and they bring it up completely out of fucking nowhere! Everyone knows that that’s the surest way to a disabled person’s heart.
(That’s actually the surest way to get a disabled person to attack you with cudgels.)
And it actually manages to get worse from there! They get high on magic juice (long story), and Gaspar makes out with Evike before coming to himself and rejecting her. While they make out, Evike asks to take off Gaspar’s eyepatch, Gaspar gives her a very clear no, and then SHE TAKES IT OFF ANYWAY. BECAUSE HE DIDN’T PHYSICALLY FIGHT HER OFF OR SOMETHING, SO THAT COUNTS AS CONSENT I GUESS. This happens again when he tells her not to kiss him near his missing eye and then she just. ignores him??? AND THEN SHE HAS THE FUCKING AUDACITY TO GET MAD AT HIM WHEN HE COMES TO HIMSELF AND REJECTS HER. Girl, you’re lucky he’s still willing to talk to you! She NEVER apologizes for this, and it’s never even hinted that that was something she shouldn’t have done! Evike also outright states that the magic has pretty much the same effect as getting really drunk, which isn’t supposed to make you kiss someone when they say no, so it’s not even like she has the weird fantasy juice as an ‘excuse’. I guess when you’re disabled, you give up the right to bodily autonomy or something??? /s
Oh, and it gets worse, because when Gaspar rejects her, she immediately takes this opportunity to throw his history with his abusive father in his face. I should probably mention here that the abuse was racially motivated, because Gaspar is mixed-race (his mother is coded as Middle Eastern), and his father hated him because of that. Like, Gaspar literally described that his father would yell slurs at him and his mother, and that his father CUT OUT HIS EYE, and then Evike decided to call him his father’s dog and make fun of him for trying to please his father?? I’m sorry, but why. Why would you EVER do that to someone you say you love. At that point, you don’t love him, you’re just attracted to him and view him as more of a thing than a person.
Anyway, yeah, this was a trainwreck if the train hit a garbage truck and then both the train and the garbage truck caught fire! I did not have fun. All that and I’m still probably going to read the author’s next novel, because I’ve never managed to come across a Juniper Tree retelling before and I love that fairy tale. I just like putting myself through pain, I guess.
So yeah, this was not a fun experience. Feel free to rec me your favorite fantasy novels with disabled main characters in the comments!
So, I promised myself I wasn’t going to read the third book, because I knew it was going to be very, very bad after reading some spoilers, but then I realized my library had it. And Arthuriana is my special interest, so I couldn’t bring myself to stay away. Hey, at least I’m getting a review out of it!
My review for the second book may be found here. My review of the first book is here, but I will warn you it isn’t very good because I wrote it a very long time ago. I feel like I accidentally made it sound like Guinevere dating Mordred would be feminist praxis (which, for the record, I DON’T believe, I was just bad at writing back then), and it was all so very cringy. Nostalgic, because I believe it was one of my first reviews–I want to say it was the third review I wrote, but I could be wrong on that?–but still deeply cringy. (For the record, there ARE some things in that review that I still stand by, mainly about how female characters who are outcasts get portrayed, and also that Guinevere is a shallowly written character and Arthur really should have been called out more. Other stuff is just. What the FUCK was I on. So yeah, it’s a mixed bag!)
Also, this review is so on point and said it better than I could???
**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**
Okay, so let me get this rant out of the way. This book DARES to call itself feminist while portraying its witch trials allegory as maybe not such a bad thing?? Like you’re really going to do that??? “Oh, maybe Arthur is justified in driving out magic, because look at all the harm it causes!” says Guinevere at one point in the book. Yeah, well, you can also find a lot of tools to cause harm in a smithy, but you wouldn’t ban metalwork, Guinevere. Also fuck you. The women who these laws affect are just trying to live their lives, you fucking prick. They aren’t anywhere near on the same level as Merlin or Morgana or the Dark Queen. They’re just using the tools they have to make their lives easier, just like anyone would do with a hammer or a shovel or a knife. All those things can be used to kill, if you want to, but they’re also important tools that make people’s lives easier. For the record? Mordred was 100% right about everything, aside from resurrecting the evil queen in the first book. The system was broken, Mordred was the only one interested in fixing it, and I’m supposed to believe he’s SUCH a bad guy just because he tried to make a difference I guess. The witch trials were bad, this fictional portrayal of them was bad, and you should feel very bad, Guinevere.
This trilogy’s relationship with magic was honestly so weird? It’s one thing to build your magic system so that magic is an inherently evil thing, but it’s another to…not do that and then treat magic as something that needs to be expunged from the realm for reasons, I guess. And then it’s implied that magic no longer exists in the realm by the end of the trilogy, because Guinevere’s magic was one of the few interesting things about her, so we had to get rid of it. Plus, we’ve gotta drive that civilization vs. nature theme into the ground!
Also, you’re really going to come out completely on the side of civilization in 2022? I’d say with global warming, pollution, and habitat destruction, it’s so clear to me that we need BOTH civilization and nature. If we only have one, humans won’t even exist. I mean, it’d be clear to me at any point that we need both civilization and nature, but! Especially in 2022!
Okay, so with all that out of the way, allow me to rant about plot and characters. (I’ll save the ships for last, lmao.)
THEY WERE SO BAD. Okay, Mordred was still great. He took a couple of chapters to really pull me in again, but once he did, he was a DELIGHT. Just. He gets most of the funny lines in this book, and most of the lines with the most pathos, and characters who can give me both are almost always guaranteed to be my favorite. He deserved so, so much better. Also he was literally the one of the only characters who called things like they were? Aside from the fact that I hate Guinevere in this book and he doesn’t, our thoughts on the situations in the book are basically the same.
And Arthur is plotting against her, and my mother is plotting against Merlin, and doubtless Merlin saw all this and has his own plots that were put in motion seventy years ago and will somehow ruin whatever my mother is trying to do, while Arthur sweeps in with his damnable sword and cuts through the magic of my grandmother, who will retreat and plot anew, while Arthur goes and does Arthur things and my mother plots and Merlin interferes from afar. They are all a terrible river crashing down a hill. Nothing will stop them. Nothing will alter their course. If we remove ourselves from it, all we have done to affect the outcome is claim our own selves and our own happiness as more important than being drowned by their conflict.
Thank you, Mordred, please keep spitting facts like this forever.
Brangien and Dindrane were still great, too, and I loved Fina, the new character in this book, but the side characters barely got screen time in this. It was honestly so upsetting, because the cast of side characters was one of the trilogy’s main strengths (okay, only the female side characters + Mordred, I don’t even want to speak about what was going on with the male side characters, but I will because this whole review is me talking at length).
However, the main characters, aside from Mordred, were so bad. I think this is probably the result of the second book meandering so much? Like you literally could have cut the second book from this trilogy and things would have basically been the same aside from Isolde not being rescued (and Guinevere not getting kidnapped, but you get my point). And then the first book didn’t wrap up much with the plot and character stuff either. So then you get the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Problem of having to wrap up SO many things in the finale, and it just feels incoherent.
Like Guinevere’s whole identity crisis that takes up way too much time that we didn’t have, even though it does make sense that she’d feel very bad about the…plot twist and would try to do something about it. (I would rant about that plot twist SO much, but I’m saving the plot twists rant for later.) But as it is, it just feels so frustrating and pretty boring. It’s so clear to me that this reveal and the ensuing crisis should have been moved to the second book. I mean, if you were going to do that reveal at all, but I digress.
Honestly, same for Mordred and Guinevere’s relationship, and Lancelot’s relationship with Guinevere? I think that the relationships would have had more time to develop if this drama had started playing out in the second book, and if they had more time, I think the abrupt cutoff where Guinevere stops dating Mordred could potentially have made sense! Guinevere not being who she thought she was COULD be a big enough thing to drastically change her relationships with her loved ones. And maybe Lancelot could be the one to talk her through her feelings about the reveal, and that’s how they fall in love! Or SOMETHING. Because good Lord, nothing about those relationship developments made any sense.
After ignoring all of Arthur’s bad behavior from the previous two books, this book takes a hard left turn and starts hitting me over the head with how VERY BAD ARTHUR IS. I think I actually would have loved how Arthur from the first book was handled, actually, as long as his behavior was treated as bad? Or at least implied to be bad? But the bad behavior in the first book was subtle, for the most part, and the subtlety could have been so, so good if the book had felt self-aware. But in this book, I feel like I missed a book’s worth of character development? Like if the second book hadn’t been wasted, we could have seen him have to make progressively harder decisions, and his flaws gradually get worse and worse under the stress, until he becomes the kind of person who would threaten Lancelot in order to stop Guinevere from doing something drastic. Because as bad as Arthur in the first book was, I’m not completely convinced that he was THAT bad. And also, there’s this one really poignant scene in this where he and Guinevere are talking, and they both realize that they spent so long waiting in their relationship that they’ve grown past each other and aren’t what the other one needs anymore, and it’s SO GOOD, except that it feels like the climactic scene in a very long character arc that wasn’t there.
But yeah, Arthur basically spends the whole book being awful, and it is so, so stupid to me that Guinevere sees all his bad behavior, goes “what the fuck, was he always like this” and then! Then, at the very end, she decides that Arthur must not be so bad after all and literally does nothing to fix the situation she’s in aside from deciding to stand up to him occasionally, and I’m just…Okay?? Oh, also, as a side note, she tries to both-sides Arthur conquering people. It made me uncomfortable. An English king coming in and conquering the surrounding nations and justifying it because he’s bringing civilization and order is. It’s uh. It’s a lot?
Also, the author heard my complaints about how feminism was handled–or rather, not handled, Guinevere just licks the boots of the patriarchy–in the first book, and decided to overcompensate by shoving the feminist messages into my face every three seconds. I GET IT, okay? You don’t have to slap me upside the head with the messaging. And all the male side characters are either dumb, evil, or given no screentime whatsoever? You’re really telling me that all the men in this story world are horrible, no good, very bad people? All of them? Including PERCIVAL for some reason??? (And Blanchefleur, because this is a feminist book that doesn’t believe in demonizing strong women from mythology for no reason! /s) And the ending was so upsetting for me, where after Guinevere figures out that Camelot does not want her unless she is stifled and silent, she just…goes back to stay. And she’s so convinced that she’ll be able to make a change for other women there, even though everyone BARELY listens to her aside from her close circle of friends. I feel like she’ll just get shoved right back into her role of staying loyal and silent, and that’s just depressing to me. Anyway, you know what? You know what, maybe living in a cottage with Mordred IS feminist praxis. It’s certainly more feminist praxis than this. I just wanted her to put her own needs first for once, dammit, and then she never did.
(Oh also this is completely off-topic but Morgana literally had so much potential for a villain but then she just straight up dies halfway through the book. It was deeply annoying.)
*long, long sigh* Okay, I can’t avoid the topic anymore. GUINEVERE. She never was allowed to be the brightest bulb in the basket in this trilogy, but in this book I literally wanted to shake her multiple times while I was reading. She tries to solve all her problems by turning to evil wizards. ALL of them.
Guinevere: *runs into a crisis*
Guinevere, five seconds later: So do I trust Morgana, Nimue, Merlin, or the Dark Queen to solve this problem for me?
AND NO. THOSE ARE ALL REAL EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE SHE TRUSTS TO SOLVE HER PROBLEMS. She was so. so. STUPID.
She literally needs everything spelled out for her? Like she gets the grand revelation that Merlin may have enchanted her to be afraid of water because Morgana tells her soldiers to keep her away from water. And just. Girl? I have been waiting for you to try jumping into a lake to find out what will happen for the past two books. And she discovers that Arthur actually views her as more of a possession because Morgana and Guinevere both end up looking through his thoughts briefly. Again! I have been yelling this to her for the past two books, but nooo, we can’t make a decision unless Morgana makes it for us, apparently. Guinevere. Guinevere, you don’t even like Morgana. Maybe figure things out on your own for once.
AND THE REVEAL ABOUT HER BACKSTORY IS SO, SO PAINFULLY INCOHERENT. Get this, okay? Merlin fused the original Guinevere’s soul with the Lady of the Lake so that he could send the Lady of the Lake to protect Arthur, only it didn’t quite go well, and he ended up with an entirely brand-new girl. Because that makes a lot of sense! I have watched a Xianxia drama, Love and Redemption, that had almost this exact plot twist and the Xianxia drama handled it SO much better, not least because it actually fit into the worldbuilding in the drama! It was something that the audience might feasibly expect! But also because the drama seemed way more interested in delving into the trauma and the consequences that stem from being brainwashed?? (Also, Sifeng is a bisexual king and I literally feel more represented by Sifeng then I do by Guinevere in this book and the show isn’t even allowed to call him bisexual because of censorship, so that’s where we are right now.)
Oh, by the way, this reveal makes it so that Guinevere has half the soul of Lancelot’s adopted mom, btw, and then she falls in love with Lancelot. While having half the soul of Lancelot’s adopted mom. It’s not actual incest, and you might call me hypocritical for complaining about somewhat weird relationships while shipping Mordred/Guinevere, but Mordred/Guinevere is a thing in some of the legends, so I don’t mind stories exploring that! I like Mordred/Guinevere from the legends! LANCELOT/NIMUE IS CERTAINLY NOT A THING, SO I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THIS WAS IN THERE.
[Edit: Btw I’m still not over this. I think about ‘the author got Lancelot together with the girl who has Lancelot’s mom’s soul inside of her’ at least once per day since I finished this. It haunts me ❤ Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I go through this struggle]
Honestly, the five pages or so we got of the original Guinevere were more interesting than Guinevere had been this entire book (possibly the entire trilogy). I really liked her. Why couldn’t we have had a book about her, instead?
Guinevere is so wishy-washy in this book?? “Arthur is bad and I’m done with him! Oh, wait, maybe he’s actually good. I still love him! I love Mordred so MUCH. Oh wait, he’s not the right guy for me for reasons. I think I might love Lancelot? I’m going to flounder about this for pages while wailing about how much I just love all my love interests, but my author won’t let me commit to honest-to-God polyamory. My life is so hard.”
Yeah. Yeah, it was dumb.
Okay, so. The ships. Yeah it was all so very dumb and also gave me a lot of whiplash because Guinevere just couldn’t commit? She and Mordred were very sweet! Sometimes when a heroine talks about how much her love interest just gets her, you’re tempted to roll your eyes, but here, I honestly believed it. They have things in common that help them to understand each other, since they’re both magic users who’ve had to hide and suppress themselves in order to fit in. They got along so well together, and all the jokes they made about them living in a cottage together are very much tempting me to write the shippy cottagecore fanfic lmao. I loved that. (Also, I made a dumb joke about them living in a cottage together in my review of book two. I was genuinely spooked there for a second and about to start making theories about how I am clairvoyant actually, but–actually, no, you know what, I still am)
And then the author threw that relationship away for some reason halfway through the book with no justification? Oh! Suddenly we’re in love with Lancelot now! She’s suddenly talking about how much Lancelot gets her, and how much she loves Lancelot, and at one point she says that Lancelot is the one who knows her best, and I just…Really? Oh, that one? The one you’ve barely talked to? It’s not Brangien, your friend who spends almost all of her time with you?
The reason why she leaves Mordred in the first place is so dumb to me? Like after the big reveal that she’s inhabiting the original Guinevere’s body, she has this really brief conversation with Mordred about how she wants to erase herself so that the original Guinevere can live. Mordred agrees to help but she senses that he’s not quite telling the truth. Keep in mind that this was a really brief conversation, and also, I find Mordred’s reaction very understandable actually? This isn’t ‘taking away her choice,’ this is not wanting your girlfriend to die?? Anyway, next morning, instead of talking about it with him further and actually communicating, she decides to take her chances with MORGANA LE FEY AND THE DARK QUEEN. Of course everyone almost dies. Who could have possibly seen that coming?? And later in the book, when Arthur threatens Lancelot to try to get Guinevere to not kill herself so Original Guinevere can live, she compares Mordred to Arthur and thinks about how similar they are???? Because telling a lie when you’re panicking is just the same as threatening your wife’s best friend I guess??????
Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system, Lancelot was just really disappointing to me. I usually LOVE the trope of the bodyguard who falls in love with the person they protect (especially when it’s the minion and the villain falling for each other, okay? I love that so MUCH). And I love Lancelot from the legends, he’s amazing. Best boi. But Lancelot wasn’t developed at all in this trilogy , and I honestly can’t really think of any traits that she had aside from ‘good fighter’ and ‘loyal to Guinevere.’ And the whole romance REALLY felt like it came out of nowhere?? It wasn’t insta-love, because she and Lancelot had the entirety of book two to get to know each other, but it sure felt like insta-love, because Guinevere barely indicated platonic feelings for Lancelot in the second book, and now she’s talking about how what she and Lancelot have is TRUE LOVE, dammit. I said in a conversation on Goodreads that she and Lancelot felt like coworkers who get along with each other in the second book, and…yeah. I wasn’t getting ‘deep and eternal love’ from that, sorry. Also, she kisses Arthur and has a full on makeout session and maybe more with Mordred, but she doesn’t do anything physically affectionate with Lancelot beyond a hug and a handhold. Really questionable. And she and Lancelot aren’t even really together at the end?? They never have a conversation about what their relationship is and what they want from it. I’ve seen people say that it ends with a polyamorous relationship between Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot, but I wouldn’t even call it that? I mean, it COULD have been, but it felt more like this book was desperately trying to leave the love square openended so that readers wouldn’t get frustrated with it, only for it to leave me more frustrated than ever. I really don’t count that as polyamory, more as bad writing.
So yeah! Before I read the book, I thought the reviews on Goodreads that talked about feeling queerbaited were deeply silly, because I’d read spoilers and Guinevere DOES get with Lancelot at the end–only to find out that no, I get what they were saying, this is all deeply weird. But then the straight relationships are handled terribly, too, so equality I guess…? Anyway, I did not have fun!
Oh well, I’m just going to pretend very hard that this book ended with Mordred and Guinevere running away to enact their cottagecore fantasies together. This book was honestly just terrible, though? At least it did inspire me to write fanfic! That’s something! Anyway, #MordredDeservedBetter
I decided to cover the epic highs and lows of my 2021 reading year through writing mini reviews! Part one may be found here.
Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
agjsd;l I didn’t realize until just now that this is the third Arthurian story I read in a row. Anyway this one was Very Bad and I have yet to find an Arthurian retelling that encapsulates the sheer unhinged and fun quality that the legends have, although I do remember loving The Squire’s Tale as a kid. This was like…bad characters with no depth to them, pretty unfeminist feminism (I’m still kind of salty about the ‘magic starts with menstruation’ thing, like can trans women/women who can’t menstruate not do magic in this universe or am I taking this too literally?? Also, don’t forget Guinevere getting pressured into a marriage by our wonderful heroine), corsets that are the root of all evil…And also it was really hokey. Werewolf Guinevere is going to haunt me. I’m sure you get the picture.
Full review here. Also on Goodreads some weird lady got pissed and called me childish for this review?? And then she rated the book three stars and said it wasn’t that great??? People on Goodreads are bizarre.
A Dowry of Bloodby S.T. Gibson
This was somehow worse than Half Sick of Shadows. And it wasn’t even a real Dracula retelling. Amazing.
This was…interesting? But kind of forgettable at the same time? Idk, I enjoyed the mystery of what on earth is going on with those little kids, but I think the ending was overly abrupt and I didn’t really like it. I’ve got mixed feelings!
The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan
This was so cool and interesting?? It’s a defense of women written in the fifteenth century, so you know, I was all over this one. It’s deeply weird and definitely not written from a modern viewpoint at all, and it was just a really fascinating read.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Hmm, so I’ve finally had it happen where a childhood favorite just wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Oh well, more fodder for fanfic I’m probably never going to publish. I just HATE when I hyperfixate on a bad book though, which yes, I am currently hyperfixating on Harry Potter for some reason. At least I’m getting writing practice out of it, though.
Okay, since nobody asked, allow me to discuss a few Harry Potter headcanons of mine:
Headcanon I actually believe: Sirius Black is aroace (or possibly very gay for James! I’m open to either interpretation)
Headcanon that I must believe or else I succumb to the depths of despair: Snape and Lily were platonic *sobs in the misogyny that was the whole Snily vs. Jily thing* (No seriously the way Lily was handled in regards to both James and Snape was so misogynist. Why can’t we stop getting mad about James vs. Snape and start getting mad about how Lily only existed to be a conduit for two men’s character development and–there are multiple rants I could write about Lily, I’d better stop now)
Headcanon I think is really funny: God. Everything about the Black family. Sirius Black rebelling against his family by going to church and listening to Mozart and it WORKS because church and Mozart are muggle. Their dad asking Sirius loudly if he enjoys rubbing shoulders with the plebians every time they have to go somewhere (MY GRANDPA DID THIS, as a side note). That family is so weird and trashy and they live in my head rent-free.
Headcanon that is all of the above: Marcus Flint and Oliver Wood were actually dating, they just got SUPER competitive on the quidditch field. We never find out about this because it wasn’t relevant to Harry’s story ❤
Anyway yeah unfortunately this book is trash. Ultra unfortunately, it’s the kind of trash with expansive worldbuilding and a few really good ideas that gets the hyperfixation gears turning
Uh…I kind of ended up writing two reviews for this book lmao because I wrote one a while back, when I hadn’t read the book in years, and then I reread the book and realized I was irritated enough that I had to write an updated one with my thoughts lmao.
White Smoke by Tiffany Jackson
The twist was hokey and the ending was super abrupt?? What was up with that? Also I simply think that the mom should have divorced her husband, but whatever
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
This one was a TREAT. I loved the worldbuilding, and the main character is so down to earth, it’s great. They’re just such a normal person thrown into a very not-normal situation, and I love them. Also, it has DRAGON ROBOTS. The ending was a bit out of nowhere but honestly, I didn’t mind. Dragon robots, guys.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I have found one of my new favorite books. The prose is beautiful and gets under your skin. The heroine seems normal only for you to realize that she’s just as unsettling as the house she’s staying in. The HOUSE. I know it’s evil, but I too find myself strangely drawn to it. Just. God, I wish I could write like this.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
*sigh* Round two went much the same as the first, except this time the pacing was worse and Snape and Malfoy were much more poorly written. The only interesting part of this book was Tom Riddle, and then the author underutilized Tom Riddle. Why couldn’t these books have been about Tom Riddle?
(I mean, thank God they weren’t about Tom Riddle, because then we would have been thrown headfirst into Even More Ableist Bullshit than whatever that was in the sixth book, but I digress)
THIS WAS SO GOOD OH MY GOD IT HAS EVERYTHING. IT HAS GAY WEREWOLVES, IT HAS SHAPESHIFTING HAWK BOYFRIENDS, IT HAS HOT FEY GIRLFRIENDS WHO SWEEP IN TO SAVE THE DAY EACH TIME. IT’S AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT.
(Also, when I saw gay werewolves, I don’t mean it literally lmao, it’s just that I think it’s easy to headcanon him that way. I don’t want to raise any false hopes)
Medea did nothing wrong. She killed her kids, you say? Well what if the kids had bad vibes? I think you people just hate to see a girlboss winning.
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
This was so cute!! In which an autistic girl and the revenant that’s possessing her attempt to save their country from the monsters trying to destroy it. (It’s not stated on page because it’s a medieval fantasy, but it’s heavily implied that she’s autistic, which makes me very happy). Anyway, things go wrong because the girl and the revenant only share one braincell. It’s great.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
This was good, but unfortunately the prose could have used more polishing, and I definitely think it should have been middle grade. The worldbuilding was pretty creative, though! I loved the ghost mammoth.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
The portrayal of ADHD and abuse was pretty good, although there was some weird stuff in there about home remedying ADHD away, which. What. PLEASE inform me if any of you guys have ADHD and find home remedies useful for you, because I have never heard of this and my mom is into all sorts of herbal medicine stuff?? And I also didn’t like a few weird comments that were made about patients in mental hospitals. There was also some unfortunate misogyny, especially toward Camila, the black female character, and just…hmm. I really liked the portrayal of abuse, though, the main characters were well-developed, and aside from a few weird lines, the ADHD rep was pretty good? I just have mixed feelings toward this one, I guess.
Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu by Christina Laffin
This was so interesting! I love reading about historical women, and I love reading literary criticism, so this was right up my alley!
Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
Okay I did not expect the writing style to be this good! A few stories were slower than others, but the ones that were good were REALLY good.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
This was really something else. Spooky and weird and wonderful and…somewhat lesbian? How this got published in the 1800s I do not know, but the book is a fun read and a wild ride! Fair warning, if you attempt a drinking game in which you take a shot every time the word ‘languid’ or ‘melancholy’ is used, you will end up with liver poisoning by the end.
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
This had a slow start, but I ended up really enjoying it by the end! It’s probably not my favorite book ever, but it’s solidly enjoyable, and that’s a lot more than can be said for other books I’ve read this year (oops I did not start this out intending to be bitter). Full review here
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
THIS WAS NOT SOLIDLY ENJOYABLE. HOW DO YOU TAKE LOKI AND ANGRBODA AND MAKE THEM A) ANNOYING AND B) HAVE NORMAL BORING MARRIAGE PROBLEMS. WHAT WAS UP WITH THIS. OOH, HE JUST CAN’T COMMIT TO ME AND THE KIDS! SHUT UP, I DON’T CARE. IF I WANTED TO READ ABOUT SOME GUY WITH COMMITMENT ISSUES I WOULD READ SOME BOOK ABOUT THE TRIALS AND DESPAIRS OF LIVING IN THE SUBURBS.
Someday I will find a good Arthuriana retelling, but apparently not in 2021! I haven’t been reading as much so far this year, but I am slowly making my way through Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio and Winter’s Orbit. They’re both pretty good so far, even though I’m not too far into Winter’s Orbit yet. I’ve also been working pretty steadily on my fanfic? Hopefully I’ll finally defeat my ADHD-induced writer’s block once and for all, lol.
I read 72 books this year. Who am I. I mean, to be fair, a few of those are short stories and Goodreads just counted them as books for some reason, but still.
(Also I’m pretty sure the only reason why I’ve read so much this year is because I had a mental breakdown towards the end of my spring semester and then took the Fall semester off and thus am able to read like I’m in high school again lmao.)
But anyway! I thought I’d do some mini-reviews to bring in the new year! I ended up having to split this up into two parts because it got so long lmao, I’ll post part two tomorrow (hopefully).
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo(translated by J.R.R. Tolkien)
AHHH THIS WAS SO GOOD GAWAIN IS VERY BISEXUAL-CODED AND THE WRITING IS BEAUTIFUL. EVERYTHING IS AMAZING. THE OTHER TWO POEMS WERE REALLY GOOD TOO.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Yeah so this is basically everything I hate about YA. Halfbaked plots and characters, a really immature style to the whole thing, weird homophobic stereotypes out of nowhere?? At least the writing was pretty, though! Full review here.
The Five and Twenty Tales of the Genie by Sivadasa
This was pretty interesting? It didn’t stick with me too much (as an aside, I think this is the only book where the main scene I remember is the sex scene. Huh), but I’m glad I read it. There is some misogyny in here, of course, but it was written in the middle ages, so I’m not going to hold that against it. It provided an interesting glimpse into the time period!
A Treatise of the Nobilitie and Excellencie of Womankynde by Cornelius Agrippa
This was a really interesting read, but the main thing I remember are the virgin birth horses and the reason why we know that the virgin birth horses aren’t real is because of the Virgin Mary or something. The support of women was nice, though! I simply found myself a little distracted by that one thing!
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
I will admit I don’t remember this book very well, but I really liked it at the time. If I’m being honest, the main thing I remember about it is that the nonbinary rep was really good and that I thought the ending was kind of pat, but I liked the rest. That’s it!
AGHHHHHH THIS ANTHOLOGY WAS ABSOLUTELY GODAWFUL AND I HATE IT SO MUCH. Full review here.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Hmm, so I still would have hated this either way, don’t get me wrong, but the ableism towards this one schizophrenic minor character + the ableism in how the main character discusses Jane Eyre did NOT endear me to her. Full review here.
Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
Uh, this was kind of awful. Don’t get me wrong, the book had me invested, it was just also kind of awful. The racism was definitely a no from me, and a lot of plot points seemed to be added in for the drama as opposed to originating organically from the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love drama! I just want organic drama, though. Full review here.
Folk Tales of Brittany by Elsie Masson
I’ll admit I don’t really remember the books I read toward the beginning of the year and I left this unrated and unreviewed, so honestly, who knows? I remember liking some of the stories? I do not remember this book?
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
This was extremely silly but also very cute! I will admit that the insta-love was grating and the love interest was barely above manic pixie dream girl levels. Jordan was great, though, he made the book for me, and I thought the heroine was pretty cute. Full review here.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
I remember loving the writing and the magical realism. The way the author wove in the folklore from the heroine’s country with the narrative was amazing. **spoilers** In retrospect, I would have appreciated it if the hero had had an arc from ‘vaguely defending the heroine’s sister’s abusive boyfriend’ to ‘not doing that and in fact apologizing,’ but maybe the fact that the hero didn’t get an arc was kind of the point? Maybe the point is that he died and thus never got the chance to grow as a person? Idk. Despite my mixed feelings on the hero, I still really liked this book!
Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland by John Gregorson Campbell
This was so interesting and I loved learning more about Scottish fairies! So much super cool information in this.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
I LOVED THIS ONE SO MUCH. It deserves the hype imo. Full review here.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
This is definitely not the worst retelling of Arthurian legend that I’ve read. Now, I know that’s not necessarily high praise because I have read some AWFUL Arthurian retellings, but this book is definitely not that bad. I do think the plot could have held together better, and I don’t really like Arthurian retellings that are set in a modern time period (well. There may be a few fics on AO3 with this premise that I love, but they actually have fun with their premise and make it a comedy. Which yeah, I do think anything approaching the absolute chaos that Arthurian knights in the modern day would bring should probably be a comedy). And Nick, the hero, was bland as flour. But I really liked the heroine, and I think the portrayal of the discrimination really stuck with me? Yeah, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one! Definitely not a terrible book, but it also didn’t stick with me, and it could have been WAY better with a little more editing.
We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
I loved getting to see my babies again ❤ I miss them already. I should reread this as soon as I’m in a mood to reread things again.
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Unfortunately blah. Another great premise ruined by insta-love. Also, while I did find the political intrigue more interesting than the romance–although there are a lot of things I think I would find more interesting than the romance, to be honest–there were also situations where the heroine would just make stupid decisions. You’re letting yourself get blackmailed over that? Okay.
I actually really liked this! It felt a bit unpolished in some respects–there were some weird grammar mistakes, occasionally the representation was a little eh, and there was this one timeskip that was VERY confusing and bothered me an unreasonable amount. Not to mention that the chapters were much too long. But! All that being said! I can apparently be distracted from any flaws in a book by a well-written antiheroine. She was just exquisitely awful and wonderful to watch. Full review here.
Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie Mclemore
The writing was beautiful, but I found the rest of this kind of forgettable. However, I’ll forgive a lot of things for a Snow White and Rose Red retelling. The blurb is a lie, though, unfortunately. Rose is not that manipulative or mean. I’m sorry, she’s literally just a girl in a tough situation. From everything I remember, anyway??? I wish I could get mean antiheroine Rose Red, but alas. Full review here.
The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
*sobs because this book could have been so much better* There was like. No plot. And Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot were SO bland. Mordred was the only bright spot in this book and the poor thing only got like a few pages.
**spoilers for the next book** Let me just rant for a paragraph here. So, I’m reading in reviews that the final book ends up with Guinevere/Lancelot as the endgame ship. If the author was gunning for Guinevere/Lancelot, I literally do not know why she didn’t write it into this one. Mordred is the only person I’m convinced that Guinevere actually likes. (I mean, she seems to at least feel genuine affection towards Brangien, but if we interpret that as romantic, then I feel that we’re getting pretty far into AU land at that point. Although I do ship it!) She likes Arthur because she’s been told to like Arthur. She likes Lancelot because Lancelot is devoted for her, so what else is she supposed to feel for Lancelot? This book did not do its job of convincing me that Guinevere feels anything genuine for like. ANYONE besides Mordred or Brangien, and I’m talking about platonic relationships, too. And yet somehow she ends up with Lancelot in the next book I guess??? Somehow? That was just. NOT built up at all and I’m annoyed, because I’d love some more sapphic Arthuriana! I guess I’ll have to write some, lmao. **okay, I’ve got the spoilers out of the way, you can look now!**
Uhh, wow, this is complicated. So, at first I thought it was an okay book, even though it had incredibly simplistic takes on bigotry and was very feel-good. And then I found out that the author had been inspired for his story by residential schools and I feel like the analogy was just. Very weak and not well-used? I’ve seen different people have different takes on the discourse as far as that goes–some people didn’t like it at all, some people thought it was okay because ultimately the book wasn’t that inspired by residential schools–and I’m not sure how I feel about that one, but either way, I found this book very forgettable. Even without knowing what this book was inspired by, I still think this is pretty blah.
This was very cute! I have seen reviews pointing out that the arrangement between Scottie and Irene kind of pressures Irene into outing herself, and I do agree with that–and sometimes Scottie doesn’t really treat Irene all that well, I thought that pressuring her into going to her ex-friend’s party was kind of terrible–but despite all that, the story remained engaging for me, and Irene is AMAZING, so I forgive it for its sins. Again, it’s just really cute. Also, the mean girl cheerleader is the heroine?? I love this.
SO DISAPPOINTED. This anthology looked so cool. I mean, retellings of Asian fairy tales?? But I didn’t like very many of the stories that much. A lot of them were bad YA with bad prose or simplistic characterization, and I think I honestly might be starting to grow out of YA, which is a very sad realization for me.
THIS WAS SO GOOD AND THE ART WAS SO BEAUTIFUL I AM FANGIRLING.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Hi so I loved this with my whole heart?? The portrayal of toxic friendships was really good and the romance was very sweet! Also I’ve got autistic headcanons for Ishu so I know I connected to the main character lmao
This was a very cute short story about an aromantic dragon who is friends with a phoenix! I thought that the characterization could have been a little stronger, but it’s not that much of a problem in a 40-page story, so I didn’t mind it. This was very slow and sweet and I really enjoyed reading this!
Medieval Elite Women and the Exercise of Power, 1100–1400: Moving beyond the Exceptionalist Debate by Heather J. Tanner
I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. It’s so interesting to me to learn more about how medieval noblewomen lived their lives and how they maintained and exercised power! It’s a collection of essays about different medieval noblewomen, and I enjoyed basically every one (from what I recall. I can’t really recall any of the books I read this year very well, it’s all a blur tbh).
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
So, this started out slow for me, but I was really invested by the halfway mark. I love scheming empresses. Also, the writing was beautiful for the most part? There were a couple sentences that were clunky, but other than that, it flowed REALLY well.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
*insert long wail of pain here*
I HATED THIS MORE THAN I HATED 2021. IT’S SO WISHY-WASHY AND INTROSPECTIVE IN THE MOST PRETENTIOUS OF WAYS AND IT’S BAD. I DON’T CARE ABOUT SEA SALT, I DON’T CARE ABOUT ASTROLOGY, I DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT MONSTERS IF YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S TELLING ME ABOUT THEM. ALSO ALL OF THE HEROINE’S RELATIONSHIPS SEEM VERY UNHEALTHY AND I THINK MAYBE SHE SHOULD BECOME A BETTER PERSON AND GET BETTER FRIENDS, A BETTER WIFE, AND A BETTER FAMILY (ALTHOUGH HER MOM SEEMS ALRIGHT, TO BE FAIR, AND THE THING WITH HER FRIEND FROM THE TEA SHOP WAS HER FAULT. WHAT EVEN WAS THAT).
*deep breath* alright, caps lock rant is over now. I don’t have a review, but I do have a lot of ranty reading updates if you want to read them lmao
I’m going to skip over the fairy tale books I read for the sake of time but you should totally checkthemout because the illustrations are gorgeous and looking at them kind of makes me feel like I’ve stepped into a fairy tale world myself!
Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti
AHHH EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS WAS SO GOOD. THE WRITING, THE CHARACTERS, THE FAIRY TALE VIBES, THE SISTERS, EVERYTHING. YOU SHOULD GO READ IT, IT’S FAIRLY SHORT AND YOU CAN FIND IT ONLINE FOR FREE.
Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph Gies
This was really informative and I learned a lot!
Walewein ende Keye
I’ll admit I don’t remember this one very well but a) I’m always down for Arthurian legends and b) GRINGOLET
The Perilous Cemetery
THIS WAS WILD I mean anything with Gawain in it is bound to be wild but THIS FELT ALMOST WILDER THAN USUAL.
My review is here but I feel like it doesn’t encapsulate the whole experience. It’s just. Such a weird little story.
Anyway, thank you for reading such a long post lmao. A lot of the fantasy I’ve read this year has just been…disappointing? Maybe it’s just a case of the disappointments standing out more than the ones I liked, though. Still, when I think of the books I liked this year, the ones that come to mind are the classics and the academic stuff, not really the fantasy. It’s a shame, I hope I find better SFF soon!
I’m currently rereading this series because I was curious as to whether I’d still like it, and I have Thoughts on the first book. Oh boy do I have thoughts. Anyway, I decided to write a review about it! So, here you have it, a list of my problems and a few things that I liked! I’ll probably review the other books as I go, because I need an emotional outlet somewhere.
(This is a completely random rant, but I wish people would get JKR’s books secondhand. They’re cheaper that way, anyway! Her ‘activism’ is currently focused on making trans people’s lives harder, and I just feel kind of weird when people give money to Ms. Known Transphobe. I definitely don’t think it’s bad to still like the books, though, I’ve seen people talk like that and it’s so stupid.)
**This review has spoilers for the Harry Potter series**
Okay, I won’t lie, the beginning is pretty iconic. “Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” That’s great.
This chapter seems pretty set on making wizards out to be the cool nonconformists that your suburban parents HATE!!1! Mr. and Mrs. Dursley don’t like these people, because they’re different, and they don’t dress normally, and they’re not normal!!! And then wizards end up being the most privileged assholes ever, including characters that we know and love. This would be fine if the series admitted this as it started edging into young adult territory! But the series is never willing to actually face what’s there.
McGonagall literally goes (paraphrasing here) ‘are we really going to leave Harry Potter with that sort? I’m not sure you could find a family more different than us. Are you sure a non-magical family can actually raise Harry?’ And I’m supposed to be just fine with that, I guess. Yeah the Dursley’s are awful. No, they aren’t awful because they’re muggles, wtf.
Anyway if McGonagall met me in real life she would microagress me
The beginning of the book was very slow, and a lot needed to be cut. I don’t need to know all the details about Dudley’s boarding school, for example.
I especially don’t need all the spiteful jokes about a fat eleven-year-old. What is up with this book making fun of a literal child? Was this author not aware that fat children were going to read her book?? I’m honestly furious.
I’ll freely admit it, though, I still do find Vernon Dursley kind of funny. The sheer breakdowns he has at the mere mention of anything REMOTELY magical was a nice touch, I’ll admit. And of course that just ends up making everything look even more suspicious.
Although! I do think the Dursley’s abuse should have been on an emotional level. I think Harry should have more trauma with the absolute neglect that he goes through? He does have trauma that shows up later in the series, definitely, but it just seems like there should be…more.
This is beside the point, but Vernon slaps Dudley around at times and I didn’t notice that when I was a little kid.
I HATE the scene where Hagrid gives Dudley a pig’s tail so much. So, so much. And he says he was trying to turn Dudley into a pig?? DUDLEY IS ELEVEN AND HAGRID WAS MAD AT DUDLEY’S FATHER. I HATE THIS I HATE THIS I HATE THIS.
The worldbuilding is legitimately fun in places! I will admit this! It’s a very ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ type of worldbuilding, and there are so many details?
Having said that, there’s also a TON of weird stuff. “The goblins are an oppressed class who do all our banking, heehee. I sure hope this isn’t reminiscent of anything. And also the goblins are ruthless and EVIL. You know, kind of like Shylock? This isn’t reminding anyone of anything, right? Oh, and also the goblins’ skin color is ‘swarthy.’ I sure hope making the goblins brown won’t offend anyone. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be fine!”
Also, since people keep misusing death of the author, it doesn’t matter if JKR intended this or not, because it’s still a valid interpretation, imo. From my understanding, death of the author is basically this: The author’s interpretation does not matter. Only the readers’ interpretations matter, as long as the reader can back up their opinion with evidence from the text. Some people seem to think it means that it doesn’t matter if the author is a bad person, which…that’s not what it means. Sorry for the derailment, just a personal pet peeve of mine! [Disclaimer: I am not an English major]
Basically, ‘is it okay to like problematic works’ is a COMPLETELY different conversation than ‘death of the author.’
The wand stuff is actually cool, if not built on enough. If you’re going to imply that wands have a special bond with their wizards, then go all the way and give me the semi-sentient weapons! I feel like the wands should have had a bit more personality, so to speak.
This might be more of a personal thing, but I prefer soft magic systems to have so many vibes, and Harry Potter magic does not deliver enough for me lmao. Where are the vibes here?
The characters aren’t too deep, but I’ll excuse that because it’s a kid’s book and I didn’t notice this when I was a kid
I honestly like Draco? He comes across as a legitimately annoying little kid instead of the Worst Person Ever (which of course would have made me like him, because I’m contrary that way). I have trouble with some middle grade that tries to make their villains into the Worst Person Ever and then the villain is just……literally eleven. I know I’m not the target audience, but. There’s something about Draco that feels pretty convincing, though. Yeah, that’s a real little kid. (It’s the treating little things as Very Very Important. Harry does this too, and it’s actually a really good touch. Thinking that you’re going to get kicked out for breaking a rule and panicking when you lose a single point from your house is such a little kid thing to do.)
The treatment of Neville, Percy, and (to an extent) Hermione honestly pained me, though. Like. Do these characters come across as really really neurodivergent to anyone else?? Why does the story keep making fun of them for this?
I won’t lie, it was a bit of a punch in the gut when Neville got laughed at for forgetting to put the hat back after he got sorted and I guess I was supposed to find it funny? I didn’t find it funny! It was something I might have done as a kid! The book would go ‘it’s bad to bully Neville 😇’ and then turn around and make him the butt of yet another bad slapstick joke. If you’re going to put in an anti-bullying message, then maybe give the ADHD-coded character an actual personality instead of making him a collection of clumsy mistakes? Maybe don’t make him a person that even the good guys think is mildly annoying?
And Hermione is literally just infodumping about her hyperfixations I think. She’s not annoying.
I’m a little hesitant on this one, but I genuinely think Percy is autistic. He sees the world through rules because he has trouble understanding people, and when people break those rules, he doesn’t know how they’re going to react and it makes him upset. Idk I could be wrong, but I just think he kind of reminds me of people I’ve met before? It makes me upset when the book keeps making fun of him or villainizing him! He’d actually be a really interesting character if the book cared about any of the characters outside of the main cast! (I’m willing to change my opinion on this as I keep reading the series, but this is just what I noticed as of the first book, anyway?)
Anyway, that just made me mad. I don’t think Rowling likely meant it to come across this way, but I definitely read it that way now, especially in Neville’s case!
What is UP with the cat hate in a book about witches? Mrs. Norris is literally just a little kitty. Why do people keep expressing a desire to kick her or sic a dog on her? I don’t care that she’s suspected of reporting to Filch! She’s just an animal! Mean cats don’t deserve to be abused, and these comments were honestly disturbing.
I also hated how the story would bend to serve the plot? Like why on earth did Harry and Ron sneak off to go save Hermione from the cave troll when they could have just told Percy or something? If they were older, I’d fully believe that they’d learned through experience that every authority figure in their book is useless, but they’re still eleven! They haven’t learned that yet!
Okay, every adult in this book is useless, but this is just laughable: McGonagall ignores three little kids telling her about how the sorcerer’s stone is in danger? Like. It’s one thing to go, ‘oh, some kids are panicking over nothing again,’ but if literal children know about your secret macguffin, maybe you should be a little more concerned?
Scratch that, the adults are worse than useless. McGonagall docks fifty points each from Neville, Harry, Hermione, and Malfoy? And then, as detention, sends them into the Forbidden Forest to track something that’s killing unicorns, something that even werewolves aren’t powerful enough to do? All for the crime of sneaking out at night?? From an adult perspective, she was so obviously on a power trip. And then Hagrid decides to split the kids up like we’re in a horror movie???? Are you kidding me???????
Also Hagrid is literally buying illegal, dangerous exotic animals and then he and Charlie get literal children to cover for him. But we’re just going to gloss over that. Lol okay. I love when I buy a pet tiger off the black market and then no one calls me out on it and then I get to pin the blame on a bunch of children.
And then in the forest, Hagrid sends the two kids he doesn’t know very well with his dog (and expresses doubt that the dog can actually protect them? Like he calls the dog a coward?). Okay, I see how it is. Kids you don’t have a personal connection can just go off basically alone into dangerous unicorn-killing forest.
Snape is actually a really effective character in this book as the bitter and unpleasant teacher, but he would have been SO much more effective for the series as a whole if he were nice sometimes. I actually have a lot of thoughts about Snape but I’ll save them for another review because this is getting long lmao.
This is somewhat off-topic (lol like I’m ever on-topic in this article), but I hate how Harry just automatically knows how to ride a broom with no training whatsoever. And then in his first match, the Slytherin team captain has to cheat to keep Harry from getting the snitch?? Lol, Harry is tiny and the other seeker is seventeen. I am pretty sure Flint would not need to cheat in a fair world. Flint I am so sorry that you were born into a world tilted in someone else’s favor, you can commiserate with every other character who isn’t friends with Harry I guess
Other people have commented on this, but the fact that a full quarter of the students gets sorted into the evil house is just amazing. And no one thinks to question this ever. As an aside, ambition, determination, and cleverness are not like……bad qualities, actually. I also hate how hard work and loyalty are portrayed as ‘boring?’ Why is Hufflepuff the boring house? Hard work and loyalty are what builds nations. I also think it would have been more interesting if Harry had actually had Slytherin traits like the hat said…
Is it just me or is the prose kind of boring? Because I was bored. And every time I stare at this sentence the worse it gets: “The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight.” Ma’am what does that mean?
I will say that the mystery was pretty engaging, even though I already knew the end!
Dumbledore being a manipulative bastard is pretty great. Can you imagine putting bait for a dark lord into a high school just because you want to get a good feel for how he and your child soldier are going to interact? Because I’m pretty sure that’s strongly implied in this book, lmao. I actually love both Dumbledore and Snape because I’m trash for bizarre, morally grey characters, even though I think they were both probably done dirty by the story (Snape DEFINITELY so).
Anyway, as you can probably tell, this book was not for me. I actually expected it to hold up better than it did. This was a real childhood favorite of mine, and it’s always a disappointment when childhood favorites turn out to be bad.
This review was way too long, so as a reward for having gotten to the end, have one of the few quotes I semi like from my bad Regulus fanfic I’ve been working on! (Is it fanfic if you’re deeply conflicted about the books that it’s based on? Is it a reward if it’s a bad fanfic quote?)
Bellatrix loved the feel of blood on her hands. It was a drug, a divinity. Something about that did not sit quite right with Regulus, but he didn’t understand why. He finally understood why people called her terrifying, though.
He was making a mistake. He had made so many mistakes leading up to this point, and now it was too late to even begin to undo them all. He couldn’t breathe. He could never breathe right around his family.
God I love Bellatrix. Everyone give one up for yet one more female villain done dirty by her author!
I forced myself to finish this. I honestly don’t know why.
**This review contains spoilers**
God. God I hated this so much.
Okay, so here’s the setup: Elaine is an oracle (cool). Elaine is being emotionally abused by her evil depressed mother, who is the only mentally ill character in this book (somewhat less cool). Elaine then goes to Avalon, where everyone is liberated and wears skimpy clothing and is neo-pagan in sixth century fantasy Britain for some reason! (GO BACK GO BACK I WANT TO GO BACK) Yeah, suffice to say that this book impressed me with an interesting first scene and then took a swan dive off a cliff. At least my expectations weren’t that high? …Still though, I was foolish enough to at least have some expectations!
Clearly, I need to stop doing that with modern Arthuriana.
I’ll get into all the ugly stuff later, but let me start off by saying that I was super confused about the plot for most of the book? Elaine’s visions led me to believe that this was going to cover all of Arthur’s reign from his rise to his fall, because she kept having visions about the arthurpocalypse and How It All Fell Apart (ooh). And then I was at the middle of the book and Arthur hadn’t even married Guinevere yet? I honestly had to rack my brains to remember if this was really a standalone. Anyway, yeah, I could have done with a few less visions! Or at least put something in the blurb to make it clear that this is about Arthur’s rise to power? Maybe?
So yeah, the plot was really boring and I honestly don’t know why I was supposed to care. Oh no, Merlin is supporting Mordred, who is now Arthur’s half-brother for some reason and also in love with Morgause because this book decided to devote its existence to making me want to throw up! Why is Merlin doing this (especially when supporting Mordred goes against everything he stood for in the legends)? I don’t know! Elaine wants to stop this, because Mordred will run the kingdom into the ground! At least in an unspecified vision Elaine had, anyway. Why couldn’t we have seen that vision? It would have given such a better sense of the stakes if we could have seen what would have happened to Albion. Elaine is all-in for Arthur for…reasons I guess! I don’t know why! Why can’t she grab power for herself and be queen if she can literally see the future? She’d do a better job of it than either of those two schmucks.
I couldn’t help but compare this to Nirvana in Fire as I read this, not because it was anywhere NEAR as good as Nirvana in Fire, but because both stories had a protagonist who puts their life on hold to get some other guy on the throne. But Mei Changsu had a clear reason for wanting the current emperor off the throne, because the emperor was responsible for the death of his family. I get why that would drive you to do really extreme things! And I also understand why he would think Prince Jing was the best guy to be on the throne. Prince Jing is a guy who REALLY cares about justice, and the corrupt royal court doesn’t have a lot of guys like that. I just…wasn’t convinced about Arthur? It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just that I don’t understand why he’s good, let alone the best guy to be on the throne. I don’t know why Elaine cares so much about this guy, other than that Nimue told her he would bring some vague ‘golden age’ or whatever. Sure, I…guess he’s better than Mordred? Were there no other options? Why are my only two options ‘evil weasel’ and ‘stale chunk of white bread?’
Also, like…Nihuang was more of a girl power icon than any of the women in these books will ever be.
Speaking of girl power! The way feminism was handled in this book was so simplistic, heavy-handed, and sometimes…just plain dumb? Probably the most egregious scene was with Morgana and the tapestry. Okay, okay, get this. Morgana walks into the room, points to the unicorn on the tapestry and asks Elaine if she knows what the unicorn represents. Elaine answers that it represents virtue, and Morgana responds that it represents virginity, and the men don’t want to tell her that because they don’t want to seem too interested in what goes on between a girl’s legs (her words, not mine). I…
POLICING WOMEN’S SEXUALITY IS THE WHOLE POINT FOR THESE PEOPLE AND THAT ABSOLUTELY EXTENDS TO HOW THEY TREAT TEENAGERS. Oh boy, I wish this were how the world worked! I sure WISH that men would pretend not to care too much about a teenage girl’s sexuality! Someone take me to this fantasy world, please! *bangs head against a wall* I have literally read an article in which a girl’s parents pulled her out of the swim team at age TEN because the swimsuit she had to wear was too tight (fitted swimsuits are required for competitive swimming)! I have heard of young teenage girls getting lectured for being a ‘stumbling block’ to the older men in their church because the young girl wore a shirt that was too tight or something. Please explain to me again how these types of men will act so bashfully around young women that they don’t even want to mention virginity in front of them.
Anyway, this was all a lead-in to Morgana’s sex joke, because of course it was. Arthur is RIDING the unicorn? Get it??? *waggles eyebrows* If your sex joke has to be explained that much in order for it to make sense, it isn’t a very good joke. Kill me now.
And then Morgana proceeds to burn the tapestry #ForTheLols, which makes me want to kill her. Embroidery is so hard and those girls worked on the tapestry so much. Just because Elaine hates the tapestry doesn’t mean all the girls who worked on it do. It must have been some of those girls’ pride and joy. That was the moment I decided I hated Morgana.
The feminism would swing between being about historical issues no modern woman would have to face and modern issues no historical woman would likely face. And sometimes issues NO woman would face, ever (see the tapestry). The corset represents female oppression!!! Get it, because the boning in a corset is like a cage?? Sort of like how real women are in a metaphorical cage?? DO YOU GET THE SYMBOLISM??? And the pooooooor women, not being able to practice archery and having to wear corsets and all that. Because medieval women absolutely wore corsets and didn’t practice archery.
…Okay, look here. Medieval noblewomen practiced archery because oh, look at that! They went hunting! They absolutely didn’t wear corsets. My God. The author just lifted a bunch of stereotypes about the 19th century in order to write her book. At one point the heroine wears a dress that has cap sleeves, which. I’m pretty sure would not have been done in the medieval period? All the women in paintings that I’ve seen have their arms covered up to their wrists, which would have been a pretty nice thing to mention if you want to talk about modesty! Oh, and at one point, Elaine literally says ‘not all men,’ to which Guinevere replies, ‘not all men, Elaine……but enough of them,’ and I’m sorry, did I stumble onto a twitter conversation somehow? Because I would like to get off. Like. Are you writing about 19th century–oh, I’m sorry, medieval oppression of women, or are you making commentary on how they’re oppressed in the present day? Or are you going to look at the ways in which the treatment of women stays the same throughout history, discussing how while times change, some of the ways in which people treat women remain the same, and–oh, you just steamrolled past that option. Didn’t even notice it. Never mind, I’m not sure what else I expected.
You know what, I give up. I’m going to have Mordred say “yes all men” and shove a guy out a window. If Laura Sebastian can do it, so can I.
(A quick note: I don’t think Arthuriana has to be historically accurate at all! It’s basically impossible to write historically accurate Arthuriana, if you want to get down to it. But my personal preference is for the world to feel more medieval than this? And I really just don’t understand why we’re segueing into 19th century women’s issues.)
I also think the feminism in this book doesn’t address a lot of women out there? The liberation in this book is found in wildness. Avalon, with its sexy sexy bonfires and women who wear skimpy clothing, is liberated. THEIR women do stuff. They can do magic and be fighters. Lyonesse is liberated. Their women are werewolves and they wear short skirts and kill people! They’re wild and they run and fight! Camelot’s women…
…Um, they’re just not mentioned? Elaine’s mom is mentioned. She’s evil and abusive. Morgause is mentioned. She’s evil because she wants power for herself, unlike good and sweet Elaine who wants power for a man. And worse, Morgause is too feminine, unlike the heroine, who is just the right amount of feminine! Morgause cares about her appearance and stuff, which makes her an evul harpy who is evul! Seriously, Morgause is such a negative female stereotype. I do not understand why you would pretend to write a feminist novel and then treat your female villains this way?
To be fair, Elaine is from Camelot, but she spends most of her teenage years on Avalon, and she has Avalon’s values. I’m not counting her. Even though she is more ‘normal’ than her friends, she still seems like an exceptional woman to me, with her powers as a seeress that allows her to influence the rise and fall of kings. What of the normal women? The women who aren’t werewolves, or sorceresses, or kingmakers?
Anyway, we never hear about the women who do fit in and what they go through. We also never hear about the women who don’t fit in in different ways from Elaine and co. The feminism is just not very intersectional. There are a few women of color, but they’re either relegated to relatively minor roles, or, uh…We’ll get to that later. The closest thing we get to queer rep is Guinevere and Elaine jokingly flirting, but don’t worry, folks! They’re very straight, they’re just flirting because they’re not homophobic and women flirting is funny or…something? I guess? Seriously, they had more chemistry in that one scene than either of them EVER do with their trash boyfriends. We never hear about any disabled or mentally ill women. Oh wait, I almost forgot! We do hear about one mentally ill woman, who is mentally ill and abusive. Can’t forget Elaine’s mom.
Look, I don’t mind mentally ill abusive characters. In fact, I think there’s absolutely a place for them. Not all mentally ill people are good, that’s stupid. We’re people, not just an identity, and sometimes people are very bad. And I do think that since mental illness affects all parts of your life (or it can, anyway), it makes sense that someone’s toxic or abusive behavior would be influenced by their mental illness. But does she have to be the only mentally ill character in the story? Does Morgana have to say “She’s touched in the head” and imply that that is the reason why Elaine should leave her? I know the author said she had depression, and I respect that she probably had a reason for portraying depression in that way, but I also have depression, and personally? It didn’t sit right with me, and I’m just a little bitter. Why can’t Elaine have depression and struggle to get out of bed and leave her tower sometimes? Why can’t Lancelot draw her out–not cure her, but make things a little better–and convince her to brave the dangers of the real world, a place that’s confusing and sometimes harsh and not at all as simple as her tapestries? Why is that not the heroine the 21st century needs or whatever?
(Like…giving her depression would have given her a connection to the Tennyson poem that she absolutely did not have lmao.)
There are a few women of color, but I don’t think they were handled well? Nimue is Black, and I don’t have too many problems with her–sure, she’s not that interesting, but it’s not like she stands out for that in that cast. Morgana and Morgause, though?? They’re both described as having ‘bronze skin,’ and the way it’s written, is, uh…
She was beautiful in a cruel way, with luminous bronze skin, long, wavy hair the color of jet, a hawklike nose, and a wide mouth painted red as blood.
I just! I don’t like how she’s described as ‘beautiful in a cruel way’ and then it goes on to describe her bronze skin and aquiline nose! This rubs me the wrong way! I hate this so much!
Oh, and Mordred has a ‘hooked nose?’ And, if I remember correctly, Morgause does, too? I…*slowly slides into the dirt* If you’re wondering why this upsets me, hooked noses are something Jewish people are often stereotyped as having. (TW for discussions of antisemitism in the link.) I’m not trying to cancel the author and I’m not trying to argue that she’s a bad person, but I wish she or her editor had googled ‘antisemitic coding’ before publishing this.
Random little things that annoyed me:
-There were places where the writing just…did not make sense? “Relief falls over Arthur’s expression like a velvet curtain.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.
-Mordred has ‘sand-colored’ hair in one scene and black hair in another. I refuse to believe this book was edited.
-Everyone in this book swears using the words ‘Maiden, Mother, and Crone,’ which, while I’m pretty sure it comes from beliefs about Hecate, is still a very modern phrasing? Honestly, though, the fact that half the characters in this book practiced a modern religion is the least bad thing about this book. (Nothing against neo-pagans or anything like that! I just don’t understand why the characters happen to believe the exact same thing as neo-pagans in the 21st century when they supposedly aren’t time travelers lmao?)
-The magic in this book is SO hokey. At one point Morgana literally pulls down the moon from the sky and threatens to destroy it. Okay Admiral Zhao. Admiral Zhao did it better, tbh. What even was this book.
-Morgana has purple eyes?????
-The worst thing? LANCELOT KEPT CALLING ELAINE ‘SHALOTT.’ THAT IS LIKE IF SOMEONE KEPT CALLING ME BY THE NAME OF MY HOMETOWN. WHAT PARALLEL UNIVERSE HAVE I ENTERED INTO THAT THIS BOOK EXISTS. I WANT OUT.
The ONE thing about this book that I liked is that the heroine understands the need for propaganda, and in general, the political intrigue wasn’t awful. That was the one thing. Everything else? Throw it away. Preferably somewhere far away from me, please.
Anyway, this was an awful experience! I possibly enjoyed reading Yu Wu more, and I didn’t even finish that one because the hero was a burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste. A burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste is still better than watching paint dry, though, which was what reading this felt like.
I realized I wrote a (very long) review on The Guinevere Deception and then forgot to post a review of the sequel to the blog. Oops. I kept meaning to get around to cross-posting my review from Goodreads and then I kept forgetting, but whatever, it’s done now.
The Camelot Betrayal was both…a better and a worse reading experience than the first one in the series. It was better because my expectations were way lowered after that small disaster of a first book, but. I mean, less Mordred? Mordred’s the best character, why is he barely in this. Even though the first book was kinda sorta aggressively mediocre (sorry), I still think the author really could have turned it around in the second book! As it is, though, the trilogy didn’t get worse, but it also very much did not get better.
**This review contains spoilers! And also a little bit of cursing, just in case you’re uncomfortable with that**
I probably spelled some of the names differently from how they’re spelled in the book, because Arthurian names tend to have ten different variants each and I didn’t want to look up each character lmao
I feel like I should knock off a star for making Morgan Mordred’s mom and whatever the fuck this trilogy did to the Pendragon family tree, but you know what? I will put aside my pettiness for today.
(BERTILAK IS GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND. NOT MORDRED’S DAD. WHAT THE FUCK. LOT IS A CHARACTER THAT EXISTS, HE’S MORDRED’S DAD IN QUITE A FEW VERSIONS OF THE LEGENDS, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE. MAKING BERTILAK MORDRED’S DAD INSTEAD OF GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND IS HOMOPHOBIA. SEND HELP.)
After thinking about it for awhile, I realized my problem with this book is that it has no fucking plot. (Okay, I also have problems with Arthur and Gwen’s missing personalities, but that’s a rant for another time.) Yeah, sure, there’s some stuff about the Dark Queen–love of my life and I want to kiss her–but she’s a distant threat at best. Arthur occasionally rides off to the cursed lands to do…I don’t know what he does, actually. Guinevere occasionally ties knots. Everyone is concerned, but no one’s really doing anything about the villain? And the villain doesn’t really do anything to them? Villains who aren’t active in their own stories CAN work, but usually only when there’s another, more prominent villain to do their dirty work. Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, LOTR without the Ringwraiths and the orc generals. And before you ask, no, Mordred does not fulfill the role of the more active villain. In fact, let me make a list of the things Mordred does:
Convinces Guinevere he doesn’t, actually, want to kill her (this is not a trick to gain her trust and then betray her, in case you were wondering)
Makes out with Guinevere in a dream sequence/vision (was this really him though? Should I count this?)
Helps out Rhoslyn and her girls
Helps Guinevere out when she wanted to leave Camelot at the end [Edit: Okay wow you can really tell I read this in a depression-induced haze because I thought that Guinevere agreed to go with Mordred and Morgana at the end in order to find out the truth about her origins? Okay yeah I started the third book and apparently she left Camelot to find out about her origins and THEN got kidnapped by Mordred and Morgana lmao. It’s really too bad that the first time she tries to make an active decision to further the plot, she immediately gets kidnapped. But anyway! I have no reading comprehension, but my point about there not being an active villain in this book still holds. A character doing one bad thing at the end of a book isn’t enough to make them an active villain]
THAT’S IT. He’s not evil, okay? Yes, he may have committed a small act of eco-terrorism at the end of the last book, but if you’re not going to keep up those villainous acts in the second one, my memory of why I’m supposed to feel conflicted about this guy is going to fade real fast. Besides, as mentioned above, the Dark Queen is the love of my life and I want to kiss her. In my eyes, he did me a favor. Mordred just wants to resurrect grandma and then kick back in a cottage in the woods with his cute not-girlfriend Guinevere and you can’t convince me otherwise.
None of the subplots feel naturally woven into the main plots, because there is no main plot to really weave into. It’s just…Oh hey! I should save that dragon! Oh hey! I should save Iseult now! The story jumps around SO bad. Guinevere doesn’t do anything! Sure, she saves Iseult, but as far as for the main plot? What does she do?? Mordred doesn’t do anything! Arthur might do some things, but he sure as hell won’t tell Guinevere anything about that, because this is a Healthy Relationship in a Feminist Book! A feminist book that lowkey defends persecuting witches, I guess. (Yes, I’m still mad about this! ‘Oh, persecuting witches is bad, but also we aren’t going to call Arthur out for this, because that might make him feel bad.’ Cry me a river.)
Pardon me for assuming that a book with Gwenhwyfach in it might flesh out Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship with each other a little. I was expecting Gwenhwyfach to trick Arthur into betraying Guinevere and then Lancelot would save her and Guinevere would have to deal with the fact that Arthur doesn’t actually trust her, and she would realize that she’s currently falling for Lancelot and it would be very cute and gay and–I’m getting carried away. Just. Anything but Gwenhwyfach being the annoying little sister who likes party-planning. (I mean, points for not villainizing her, though, I was getting tired of the girl hate.) Guinevere and Lancelot hardly ever have any in-depth conversations, and they don’t really seem to be on the same wavelength. I never have any idea of what they mean to each other. This isn’t even a developed friendship, let alone a romantic relationship.
I realize I accidentally make it sound like Lancelot and Guinevere have a romantic relationship in this book. They don’t. I don’t really know what they feel for each other in this book, tbh? I do think their relationship should have been WAY more fleshed out, whatever it is.
And what is up with how the story portrays Blanchefleur? She does literally nothing wrong in the legend that she’s in, from what I remember. Why is this story so bent on portraying her as an evil harpy? I believe I said this in my reading updates on Goodreads, and I’ll say it again: it’s not very feminist to turn a perfectly fine woman into a misogynist stereotype. I’ll admit I never paid Blanchefleur much mind before, but I love her now. I’m contractually obligated to love every mythological woman who gets portrayed in a shitty way for no reason.
Also, while I do definitely appreciate Brangien and Iseult’s relationship, I can’t help but feel like the story didn’t explore as many opportunities for diversity as it could have. Which is to say, STOP WRITING PALOMIDES OUT OF THE TRISTRAM AND ISEULT STORIES, DAMN IT. If Iseult can have a relationship with Brangien, why can’t Tristram have a relationship with Palomides? That’d be cute. I ship it. Palomides is suspiciously missing from a lot of retellings of Tristram and Iseult, despite the fact that he plays a prominent role in their story in the legends. He’s a Middle Eastern character, and I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with him hardly ever showing up in retellings. Idk, it just doesn’t sit right with me. And Gawain’s potential bisexuality hardly ever seems to get explored in mainstream retellings, either. This man made out with a faery knight. I’ve heard that at one point in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, he literally told Lancelot that he wished he were a pretty girl so that Lancelot would fall in love with him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’s straight. I wanted MORE from this character, but alas! He was doomed to be a bit-part role in this book. (For the record, I don’t think Lancelot’s straight in the legends, either. He and the half-giant knight Galehaut definitely had something going on)
(This is COMPLETELY off-topic, but speaking of queer retellings, I want someone to write the Guinevere/Iseult epic one of these days. They were such bros in Le Morte D’Arthur ❤ I have SO many ideas for Arthurian retellings that I’m never going to write. It’s getting worrying.)
And also?? Enby Lancelot seemed to be hinted at at some point in the first book (it’s been a while, but I remember she expressed discomfort with women’s clothing, and I seem to recall that Mordred referred to her as being in a grey area gender-wise), but it’s NEVER mentioned again in this one.
I’ll keep this part brief, because this review is already getting long, but the prose was pretty inconsistent. There were some parts that were legitimately really good, and a lot that…wasn’t. There was a LOT of telling instead of showing, and not in a particularly effective way. I also wish the worldbuilding had been better? I was super confused on how much fantasy!England diverged from real England. The setting never ended up feeling that real.
I know I’m complaining a lot, but I will say that the story was very cute. It was an entertaining read if I turned my brain off! I do like reading about Guinevere and the girls going on adventures! Mordred was also very cute and kept me from DNF-ing ❤ He’s the light of my life and the only reason I rated this more than two stars.
Something that a lot of medieval literature gets and a lot of modern retellings don’t: It’s actually kind of hard to make Arthur the most interesting character and if you can’t do that, PLEASE don’t make everything in the story revolve around him. Like I recently read a retelling from the point of view of freaking Elaine of Astolat that had her revolve around Arthur. Why would you do that. Why. (And when I say ‘read’, I mean read part of and didn’t finish. I’m going to try to finish it so I can review it on the blog, though.)
The Camelot Betrayal might be the one that finally gets me to sit down and finish a fanfic. Mordred and Guinevere were done so dirty by these books.
Eheheh I already know how this is going to go (there’s no way I’m not answering fantasy to almost every question), but Kenzie’s post was so fun and I wanted to join in anyway? Why not? Talking about writing is easier than actually writing, anyway. I see no drawbacks here.
And yeah, I should probably address the elephant in the room. I took a long, unplanned hiatus. I’ve been having kind of a rough year, dealing with college burnout, depression, and two of my pets dying? The dog was expected even though it was really sad, because she was really old, but oh man I did not expect the horse. I loved that little man. He was a black Arabian who was an absolute drama queen. He was sometimes very mean (not to me though) and he loved going fast. I miss him.
Anyway, enough about sad stuff! I want to get back to blogging, because I do really like it, but I probably will do it intermittently without a consistent schedule? I want to gradually get back into it, though!
thank the blogger who tagged you, and leave a link back to their blog–Heh, I wasn’t tagged. I stole it off of Kenzie’s blog.
leave a link back to the creator of the tag >> (I mean, technically this bit is optional, but I’d really appreciate a link back, especially if you enjoyed the tag!)–Already done!
answer the questions honestly, and include at least one (1) gif of a pelican >> it’s in the rules, folks. you have to do it.
tag 3+ friends to do the tag on their own blogs! >> and make sure to give them cookies. because that’s always fun.–I will not be tagging anyone, as most of the people I follow are on hiatus right now?? And I’m barely posting either? 2021 has NOT been a good year for my blog feed, understandably.
What is your favorite genre of fiction to write?
Historical fantasy fairy tale retellings. I’m not actually much of a worldbuilding person, but I really like researching and writing historical time periods? I don’t hold myself to being super historically accurate, but it’s nice to have a historical framework to work with! (Although one of my personal pet peeves is when authors try to write about a social issue while having literally no idea about the era. I’ve read a lot of bad ‘feminist’ hist-fic and I hate it here.) And I love fairy tale retellings because I’ve always loved fairy tales in general and they’re so fun to reinterpret? And also plot is not my strong point lmao, so it’s nice to have something already in place to jump off of!
(If you’re wondering, I’ve always considered my strong point to be characterization, but it varies from story to story)
Okay, more specifically, fantasy that’s not super heavy on plot but rather is probably more character-driven, and then throw in some vaguely unsettling vibes. Creepy magic stuff going on. The house is probably sentient. Etc.
What genre would you NEVER get caught writing? . . .EVER.
I, an asexual who has literally never cared about sex outside of ‘oh look, it’s that thing that other people like doing!’, would never write erotica. And also I would never write hard sci-fi, like imagine being into science unironically?
(I’m kidding, I don’t understand science, but I respect the people who do.)
What fictional genre feels most like home to you?
Definitely fantasy. It’s what I grew up reading, and it’s what I grew up writing. It’s hard to explain the specific vibe, but I think it’s whatever Howl’s Moving Castle, Beauty by Robin Mckinley, and the Squire’s tale have in common? Those books were all pretty much my childhood.
In general, I’m not picky about fantasy subgenres, but I’d say my favorite is historical fantasy/historically-inspired fantasy (when it’s done well. I hate bad hist-fic so much.)
If you could transform your real life into any genre of your choosing, which would it be?
This is not a sane answer, but I’ll admit it’s really fun to imagine myself in some political intrigue fantasy or whatever. My personal daydream is being competent and having good social skills. Also Ladies of Grace Adieu got me into writing as a kid and I wouldn’t mind living in the world of those short stories? They were so whimsical and vaguely creepy.
(The prerequisite to me living in a story world, obviously, is that I am competent in ways that allow me to survive in my respective circumstances. I want to be the final girl, if you will.)
What genre does your real life most resemble at the moment?
Honestly, probably a fantasy about the fey. But like, a chill one, not whatever YA fairy books have going on lmao. I will not elaborate ❤
What’s a genre you’re interested in writing, even though you’ve never written it before?
I’ve only ever picked up a couple of superhero comics and I’ve read like…two novels about superheroes, but I’d like to write about them all the same? I have no plot bunnies currently though, lmao.
What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?
Arthuriana! I started reading an Arthurian retelling and got very mad lmao. It was called Half Sick of Shadows and it just. So many bad takes??? It didn’t really feel like an Arthurian retelling either, which…I kind of sympathize, because Arthuriana is very hard to write. Arthurian legends are absolutely sprawling and I feel like it’s hard to capture the absolutely chaotic feel within a normal-sized book? So then a lot of authors end up oversimplifying things until the book just feels like something else entirely.
But anyway! Enough ranting! The point is, I read a book I didn’t like and decided to get back into writing in the same genre! It’s from Morgan’s POV and has absolutely no plot ❤ It’s stressful to write even though it’s also a just-for-fun project because I’m fun like that! (And I wonder why I have so much trouble finishing stories…)
How many genres have you written thus far in your writing journey?
Uh. Probably quite a lot if you count subgenres?
Fairy tale retellings
Urban fantasy (yes I write urban fantasy. yes I still carry scars from the bad urban fantasy I read as a teen. We exist ❤ )
Vampires! Only ever short stories, but they are legitimately fun to write about if you wipe the bad memories of the Twilight copycats from your head
Dystopia but we don’t talk about that one because it was really bad
Writing about Celtic fairies literally got me into writing
Historical fiction. I don’t write a lot of it, but I have written one or two short stories!
I’ve also written a short story about superheroes?
I’ve written mysteries if you count the halfhearted attempts when I was seven that I didn’t finish lmao
I’ve written contemporary sometimes! It’s not the genre I most commonly write in but I do really like attempting to make ordinary life feel magical? It’s very fun and nice?
I remember I wrote one flash fiction piece about aliens when I was fifteen
I can’t think of anything else but I’m quite possibly forgetting something.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my exhausted rambling! Please tell me about your favorite things to write and/or favorite plot bunnies in the comments, I want to know. Also, even though I didn’t tag anyone, feel free to steal it if you want!
Weez wrote a book! A children’s fantasy book about giants and healing rifts between two worlds! And it’s good! You should go read it!
I just…I loved it?!
There’s so much here. The way mental health and depression are portrayed, the WORLDBUILDING, the characters…Actually, hold on a second, let me organize this review into parts. (For some reason that made me think of dissecting something. Which, since I tend to think visually, is not a very pleasant image. But anyway.)
The mental health rep
While it’s never said on page, the heroine Peri really seems like she has depression? And it was so well done and I’d just been lamenting about how I have so much trouble finding mentally ill characters in fantasy? (Characters in fantasy all go through traumatizing things and by miracle of God come out completely psychologically healthy–BUT that’s a rant for another time.) Anyway! It was so good and I felt so seen 😳 What’s that phrase? The mortifying ordeal of being known or something like that? Anyway! I think it’s so important to write about mental health issues, especially in kids’ books. It’s something a lot of kids go through, and erasing that side of childhood is potentially erasing a deeper understanding of what they’re going through.
Anyway, I LOVED Peri and the way the story handles depression. It was realistic and heartbreaking.
Peri–an actual queen. I related so much to her? She’s confused, somewhat angry, and trying her best to be brave. She’s such a strong character, and she feels like a real person. She’s my favorite.
Ull–I LOVED HIM TOO. HE’S MY OTHER FAVORITE. He’s a troll child with silver skin who sometimes speaks in rhymes. I love the way he loves everything, and he’s just such a beautiful smol child and *hugs him* Ahem. Sorry.
Wink–I had a little trouble relating to her, but that’s probably more of a me problem. I do like her. She’s brave and a bit thoughtless. I do think her conflict could have been fleshed out a little more–because we don’t meet her family, it’s a bit hard for me to understand what her parents mean to her and why she’s worried her mother doesn’t like her. But I still do like her a lot! She’s sweet and I love her painted pinkie nail 😊
The writing is so so good! I love the way Weez writes prose! Her writing style feels very cold when you first start (not that that’s a bad thing at all–I think my writing style can feel very cold at times), but as you keep reading, it’s so warm under the surface. If I had to pick a color range to describe the writing, it would definitely be pastels. I think lilacs and pale blues.
The setting was amazing too! It feels very hobbit-y and very much like a surreal animated kids’ movie. (I think this book would do very well as a surreal animated kids’ movie.) The giants are such sad creatures, and I really love how they’re written. My only problem is there was sometimes stuff I wanted to know more about. For example, I wanted to know more about what exactly it was the giants did to kick everything off in the first place, and I wanted to know what Wink went through during the trials. But I love the setting so much!
Things I didn’t like so much
I feel like the novel could have felt…I don’t know, maybe fuller? I don’t know if that makes sense. I definitely could have used more description, and more fleshed-out backstories for the characters. Also, while the story is very Roald Dahl-ish in feel and isn’t necessarily supposed to be realistic, I will say that what Peri’s parents are doing would definitely be considered neglect in the real world and, no spoilers, but I thought the ending was a bit pat? (Not the ending as far as the climax with Ull–that was beautiful–but as far as the denouement.) I think it would have been better if it could have ended with Peri finally going to Wink’s house and realizing that Wink’s family could become like a family to her. Or something like that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Quotes I like
My eyes go wide. “How deep is it?” I’m not a strong swimmer. I only learned to swim two summers ago when my parents were home. I can go to the bottom of the swimming pool in town–but I’m not sure I can go farther.
Ull shrugs. “It’s magical,” he says, as though that should comfort me.
Wink shrugs. “No problem,” she says. “I’ve been swimming since I was four. I’m going to be a lifeguard when I’m older. I can handle this.”
Ull shrugs again. “It’s magical,” he says, as though that should frighten her.
Ull thinks back. “In regards to the symphony of the forest,” he says, “they did seem to have a new arrangement in which the tree frog section carried the melody more strongly.”
We decided to pretend there was nothing odd about that sentence.
Part of me, a small part, scoffs. A bad feeling–just the one? That’s nothing, of course. I have leagues of them, assailing on all sides, most of the time. Part of me wants to feel superior, somehow, for this–but of course, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
Anyway, I loved it so much. It feels wild knowing a real author 😳 I’m so proud. This gave me inspiration for what I want to write, as well! I’m glad I read this.
So, I have a few books that one could call my arch-nemeses. There are books I strongly dislike, and then there are books that came into my house, punched me in the face, and stole my dog. (Actually, I’m just a drama queen.) I’m here to talk about the latter! In a strange way, I kind of love them. I mean, I hate them, but I love them, so why not talk about them? I just want to talk about the good things these books had going for them and why, ultimately, those good things weren’t enough to get me to like them. Poor books.
Sarah came up with this idea, and it was too good for me to pass up. So I stole it.
Six of Crows
That’s right! Because I like to start things off with a bit of spicy controversy, I’m here to bash the book community’s fave.
I mean, say good things. That’s what we’re here for.
I like that Inej was Romani-coded? It’s sad, but I’ve hardly ever seen Romani main characters. They’re usually relegated either to the MyStIcAl side characters or else to the eeeevil vagrant role. Sometimes both, for good measure! So yeah, I liked that this book actually gave Inej a real, major role.
I also liked…
Hold on. Let me think.
Okay, okay, I’ll be fair. I actually liked or at least didn’t mind most of the side characters. Inej, the deuteragonist, was underdeveloped with poorly written trauma, but her basic concept was good. I couldn’t connect with Jesper, but again, I think the basic concept was good, and he wouldn’t need nearly as much fleshing out in order to get me to like him as Inej. I actually genuinely liked Wylan and Matthias! I’ll always (sometimes) have a hankering for the cute, soft characters, so Wylan was nice, and Matthias was the one character I would say was genuinely fleshed-out and complex. I legit loved Matthias! He was cool! And yeah, he did a lot of stupid things and had kind of violent tendencies, but I think it definitely made sense in context with his backstory. I like characters who go through some kind of conflict. Especially characters who realize they’re on the wrong side and slowly realize they have to leave behind everything they were taught. Just…God, I will always love that kind of arc.
(As a side note, it’s been a while since I read this, but I cannot remember one personality trait Nina had? Did she have any??)
Anyway, I don’t think I’d hate this book at all if it weren’t for the fact that I wanted to punt the smirking edgelord of a hero across the Pacific the whole time I was reading. (Did Kaz smirk? He seems like the sort of guy who would smirk.) Now, I don’t think I would have liked it even without Kaz–I personally didn’t find a lot of depth to the story–but Kaz did a LOT to tip my feelings over the edge.
Also, I just love gratuitous glorified torture scenes!! 😍 We stan complex handlings of violence. (And the anti-Asian racism–I’m SORRY I know I’m supposed to be saying good things.)
In conclusion, I stan Matthias and kind-of Wylan and would ditch everyone else.
The Cruel Prince
Madoc. Madoc was the only good part of this book and I stand by what I said. The book kept trying to tell me he was sooo violent and unmanageable but he was actually the most reasonable and intelligent character in the book? I still agree with what I said in my review about how he should have been the protagonist of the story. Also, he’s the only character who actually, you know…does stuff?
I also like the premise of this story! Human girl takes over fairy kingdom is not a bad plot at all. I just wish there were more actually-taking-over-the-kingdom parts and less vaguely rapey parts.
Red Riding Hood
Actually, you know what, there were no good parts of this book. Throw the whole thing away.
I hated this one for the girl-hate and the dissing of sewists. And also Meira was a brat and the soldiers fighting for the villain were demonized even though they were literally magically brainwashed?? Apparently? I guess? And the plot was the most cliche high-fantasy plot you can come across 😷
I read this when I was young, so it has been a while, but I thought the concept of dividing kingdoms into seasons was very cool. Like sure, it’s not actually possible if you apply logic to it, but fantasy doesn’t always work off of logical assumptions! Also, I liked how the people from Winter had white hair and were immune to the cold, especially because I would also like to be immune to the weather.
Also, THERON OR THEON OR WHATEVER HIGH-FANTASY NAME HE HAD. HE WAS THE BEST. I stan my poet prince! He literally was so unproblematic and just wanted to help people, and was so good at connecting with people on an individual level 💙 But of course Meira went for the cardboard one instead.
The fat queer character got killed off in a really graphic and unnecessary way, but I mostly just disliked it because every character (aside from the fat queer character who died) was flat. And the worldbuilding wasn’t that developed, either?
But! I don’t really have strong feelings about this book one way or the other. I mean, I didn’t like it, but there wasn’t a lot I hated, either. I do think that, while the world was underdeveloped, the story definitely created a strong atmosphere? I liked that. Also, it was nice to have a black mc in a fantasy novel! (Do I capitalize the words black and white when referring to ethnicity? Google keeps giving me conflicting answers and I’m so confused.) Having a black main character in a fantasy shouldn’t be something that’s unusual, but unfortunately I feel like black mcs in fantasy can be a little hard to come across. (They’re definitely there, though!) Either that or else I’m looking in the wrong places.
I don’t even hate this book, I just dislike it. So it shouldn’t even be on this list, but I needed a way to pad out that word count somehow ❤
Strange the Dreamer & Muse of Nightmares
I said on Goodreads that this duology felt like a fever dream, and I stand by what I said! It was long-winded and just sooo problematic >.< The handling of slavery and sexual assault was low-key abysmal? I mean, Eril-Fane was okay, but Ruby being implied to assault slaves was not as quirky as the story thought it was! And Lazlo was such a Mary Sue, my God. Anyway, this and The Cruel Prince are my favorite books to hate! (I have favorite books to hate because I’m an incredibly hateful person.)
I think some of the concepts set up in this book were very, very cool. I still love the idea of the ghost bird, and I love the idea of someone who can manipulate dreams! I’d kind of like to write a character with dream powers myself someday. Also, I loved the library and I kind of wish the whole book could have taken place there!
Eril-Fane is the king of character development and you cannot tell me otherwise. He deserved a better book. He deserved to be the protagonist. I love him! (And frankly, I’m kind of salty over the fact that the narrative kept dragging him over the coals for killing those kids. Which sounds like an absolutely RIDICULOUS thing to say out of context, but seriously, he had no reason to believe that the kids wouldn’t be super-powered montrous spawns of Satan. His decision definitely made sense in context with both what Eril-Fane knew at the time and with everything he had been through, and he was just trying to prevent his country’s people from going through systematic mass rape and murder again. In fact, you know what? The kids we saw were spawns of Satan. I say Eril-Fane should have killed more kids and we should all respect his right to kill kids–is that a mob with pitchforks and torches I see outside my window?)
And the way science/alchemy (kind of the same thing in this world) was portrayed in this was beautiful and amazing and it should have!! been the focus of the book!! The science was waay more interesting than any magic systems the book had. But really, I think the author honestly got the magical, wonderful nature of science that a lot of people miss. (Including me. I FAILED at science.)
I loved Thyon, but I have no idea if I would have latched onto him if there were other good characters who had screen-time. (My king Eril-Fane deserved SO much more screen-time *cries*) There were…a lot of things that went wrong, to say the least, but his arc was so compelling! But yeah, I liked him because he was mentally ill and queer thank GOD I have Wei Wuxian to fill that need now he was a fairly unique take on a character type I love! Give me all the cold-hearted characters who realize they have feelings, okay? Some of his scenes were really emotional, especially in the second book? I wish the whole book could have been like the best Thyon scenes.
Anyway, there’s a lot I like about this book, which is why I hate it so much. There’s nothing I hate more than something I wish I could like. What was it Cardan said? ‘I hate you so much all I can think of is you?’ ‘I hate you so much I can barely breathe?’ Something like that? But I have a simple plan to fix this book, and all disaster can be averted! Except not, because it’s already published. But oh well!
anyway, I think the story should have been a trashy, problematic gay romance between Lazlo and Thyon. That, cutting most of the purple prose, and adding in some adventure would have made this one of my favorites. As well as cutting the weird parts with the sexual assault, the unhandled xenophobia and internalized homophobia (seriously, a word of advice to people out there, if you aren’t going to handle important topics and devote time to them please do not put them in your story), and the weirdly ableist bits. Then we would have the perfect story.
Or, you know, it could have just been a tasteful novel about Eril-Fane and Azareen and that would have been great.
Anyway, while you guys are absolutely not allowed to read my Strange the Dreamer review because it was my first review and it was TERRIBLE, here’s my Muse of Nightmares review
The Guinevere Deception
This isn’t a book I hate, more one that I have strongly mixed feelings about, but I put this here so I can say one thing:
That is all.
Many thanks to Sarah for letting me borrow her idea! I literally had so much fun with this. I feel like this was more of a roast than actually saying good things about the stories, but oh well.