06 February 2017

reading reading reading.

Earlier in January I stumbled upon a book when I was looking for something entertaining and fast to read.  Then I fell in love with the series and its author, and this last week found myself devouring a separate series by the same author.  I also read a third series, which was entertaining enough.  Here are the series I've read, in order of when I read them:

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses (book #1) and A Court of Mist and Fury (book #2), by Sarah J. Maas
For the life of me I cannot remember how I came across this series or what made me decide to try it, but whatever it nudged me in its direction.  I do remember that I read the first book fully expecting not to be interested enough to read the second book, and it almost ended up that way.  I finished the ACOTAR and was perfectly satisfied.  I didn't feel like my time was particularly wasted, but I also would have been content to just leave it there and not continue with the second.  But thank the high heavens I did, because ACOMAF was amazing.  #2 was better than #1, but #2 also made #1 a better story, if that makes any sense at all.

I started the series expecting to be entertained without having to commit a lot of time, and ended up becoming fully obsessed.  I forced Jon to read the books in my desperation to talk to someone about the story.  I've already pre-ordered a copy of the third installment which comes in May and I cannot wait.

From a critical standpoint: The character development is excellent.  The pacing is even and natural, though at a point in ACOTAR it feels quite slow.  But I prefer slow and thorough development to quickly progressing through to action.  There is some repetition as far as word choice or minor descriptions that seem super obvious once you notice them.  But the story, characters, and immersion is great.

The main character's evolution is exciting to follow, but more importantly: believable.  Believability is something I though was important to this story in ways I can't say without giving anything away, but Maas takes on a task in the transformation of her main character that I don't believe many authors would volunteer to do so quickly.

Our public library catalogued it in the teen section, which, generally speaking, is appropriate, but ACOMAF would more accurately be filed in the "New Adult" category.

2. Red Queen and Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard
The day after I finished ACOMAF I cracked Red Queen open.  A few paragraphs in, I stopped.  Then a couple of weeks later I willed myself to try it again.  The next day I read its sequel.  The third book (I cannot think of its title at the moment) is due out sometime this week, and I will probably read it, but I am fine being a ways down on the library waiting list for the first available copy.

From a critical standpoint: I stopped that first attempt because I could tell immediately after those first paragraphs that it wasn't as well written as the Maas series I'd read just before.  But after I'd let some time pass in between reading the two series, I decided to give it another try.  I still believe the Red Queen series is not as good as either of Maas's collections.  The story and world Aveyard has created is interesting enough, but I found the pacing to be too fast.  I think I would have liked the books better if the progression was slower and there was more time for character growth and evolution - again, my preference is a slow pace and not feeling rushed through development to the action.  (I later learned that the author's background is in Screenwriting, which I suspect may very well have to do with this issue I have.)

And while the bare bones setup of the story is unique, the second book quickly made things feel a little too X-Men like (and therefore cheapening the originality of the universe that I found appealing in the beginning).  As far as characters go, I found them to have moderately memorable abilities but pretty forgettable personalities.

3. the Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas
A little backstory: there's a company called Litographs that prints the entire texts of books on t-shirts, tote bags, and posters in very very tiny fonts.  I discovered Litographs some years ago, and I've since purchased one of their posters (and intend to purchase more!), backed one of their Kickstarter campaigns for literary tattoos (so cool!), and followed them on Twitter.  They often retweet photos of customers who share pictures of themselves wearing their literary t-shirts or of their walls with their literary posters.  In the last year or so, I've noticed that a large number of these retweets have featured customers sharing their Throne of Glass purchases.  The book remained an unknown title for me, and I also found myself confused because originally, the books printed by Litographs were nearly all literary classics.  How popular was this new book that it'd be included amongst of selection of titles that included Pride and Prejudice, Les Miserables, and The Odyssey?  Then I read ACOTAR and discovered its author to be the same as this Throne of Glass series.  Since I liked the writing of the ACO series, I decided to give Throne of Glass a shot and see what all the excited retweets are about.

It is with good reason that this series is so popular.  The world Maas creates in Throne of Glass is expansive, the characters are, again, well developed, and the story is both immense, immersive, and full of the right kinds of twists.  Including the prequel novellas, there are six books in the series so far, and I read one a day this week.  I finished the latest book the other day, and I have never (NEVER!) found myself so devastated at the end of book as I have with Empire of Storms.  I have a full-on broken heart on behalf of characters because of what transpired in the last 100 pages, and there is a heaviness in my chest that hasn't been there since Jon broke up with me probably.  And I am FURIOUS that I have to wait until next May (freaking 2018!) to find out how everything ends.

From a critical standpoint:  Honestly, it's overwhelming to think of all of the stories that have been told in six books and to think of where the story began and where it is now.  So much has happened, but the good news is it doesn't feel like the author changed her mind and wanted to keep her characters but put them in a separate story.  Everything flows well from book to book, and the journey of the main character is a thrill to read.

I did find Heir of Fire to be slightly difficult to read with the perspective changes.  These changes happened in the books before, but with the some of the characters physically separated from each other in Heir of Fire, the jumps felt a bit jarring.  But not off-putting enough to throw the series away.

This world is vast, and there are lots of characters, backgrounds, histories, and universe-related elements to get a grasp on.  It's overwhelming, and I found myself a little confused at times, especially when it came to the genealogies for certain characters (I needed a family tree really badly!).  Because of this I prefer Maas's ACO series, which I thought had a world that was just as rich and detailed, but its presentation was much tighter so I didn't find myself confused nearly as much as the Throne of Glass.

So those are the three series I delved into this last month.  Consider me a Maas fangirl now, and go out and read them immediately so we can chat about them!  In the meantime I'll be hunting down the next series to read.  And cleaning up the house that I neglected this week in favor of reading.  Oops!

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