The only negative I felt about this novel were the couple instances where I felt the scene seemed too surreal or a little unbelievable, or the repetitiveness of a few scenes. However, this was very slight, and the rest of the narrative was so heart wrenching and powerful that you move past these instances quite quickly and are sucked back in to the story.
Wes is a world famous actor, with that comes press and misrepresentation. He is a man fighting his past in order to have a better future. While at first he seems arrogant and closed off, you begin to connect with him, to understand his softer side and why he has built a wall around himself. He is loyal, funny and dependable. He looks after those he loves and hides his true feelings in order to protect himself (even if this leads to creating isolation).
Ari is fearless, determined and powerful. However, this fearlessness and determination cause her to block out those that love her. Her independence may lead to trouble, possibly affecting the stunt career she has worked so hard to start. In many instances I could see myself in Ari, fearing to let others in or ask for help. I could feel empathy in her avoidance and shame in her guilt.
There were so many wonderful side characters that helped to build up the main characters. They made them more relatable, more lovable, more human. I loved Ollie, Wes' best friend, who later becomes integral to the story and the growth of the narrative. The setting is also beautiful and refreshing. I could imagine the warmth of the sun, the waves of the Ionian sea crashing to shore and around the Rubble, the breeze, the beauty of white washed buildings, of the history there, and of the small community. The island itself became a character, offering hospitality and love. A true home of comfort.
I loved this take on a classic, about two people from different walks in life meeting and ultimately changing each other. Such a realistic love story, filled with hardships that must be overcome in order for the characters to be themselves and to learn to trust and love (both themselves and others). I cannot recommend it enough, but be ready for tears, smiles and laughter (have Kleenex on hand).
Favourite quote: "I had no idea that we become a different version of ourselves when we're with someone; that we're different when we're alone...Not different as in not myself. Different as in better. A better me. A more open me, a safer me." (pg. 330)
It was hard to select a favourite; although, I had read The Witch of Duva previously and loved the ominous gloom surrounding the story. To be honest, I loved the fresh take each tale took on old stories dried up from telling. The lessons to be learned, the harsh realities we as readers must now bear. From abuse to torture and finally murder. These are tragic, no holds barred, filled with darkness, pain, loss and sometimes a change in character that means no going back, no redemption (yet the reader understands and is empathetic to the outcome).
I love the nods to The Nutcracker, The Velveteen Rabbit, Nibble, Nibble Mousekin (which we own), The Little Mermaid and a few others. We are also reacquainted with a well-loved villain from the Shadow and Bone Trilogy (but only briefly, and not by name).
These tales will stick with the reader, scrape away the flesh and dig down into the bone ("current caught on some dark thing in [our] hearts"). I enjoyed that in many of the stories the supposed "villain" turns out to be your favourite character, and often times the true hero. Bardugo is very fond of turning monsters into martyrs and tropes into trivialities.
I highly recommend this book, there are six folktales in all (placed throughout the Grishaverse/map; although, if she does another set, I hope it will include a tale from Shu Han). You do not have to have read her novels about the Grishaverse to appreciate this work. Some are short/easy reads and some are longer. Just be prepared for shifting your perspective around those well loved fables, and know that they are dark, sometimes twisted, but always entertaining. Breathtaking, they leave an impression long after you turn the last page.
The colour scheme was vibrant when there was happiness, but dark and muted when Canada is captured. The main hero is a young woman wearing all white, very symbolic in terms of a saviour to her people. She meets up with a ragtag group, led by a strong woman (who later betrays them).
There are several strong woman in this graphic novel, in fact most of the significant characters are women. From the leader of the rebels, to the head of the U.S. armed forces, to Canada's saviour in white. Women play a significant role in the progress and power throughout. In fact, it is the saviour's mother who was one of the original targets in the first wave of America's assault on Canada.
There were faults throughout, which led to my lower rating. For one, I found the story to be lacking in meat. The graphics were wonderful, but there needed to be more story attached to the panels. I felt bereft at times, that I needed more, that I wanted to spend more time with the characters and their histories and less with the fighting and violence. I know it was meant to be shocking and extremist, but at the same time I could not empathize as well, since I was only receiving once back story and lacking on all of the rest. The end was also quite abrupt, for all of the drama and accumulation of suspense previous. So, there was quite a bit of action, which is good, but it was lacking in development.
Overall, it was an interesting story line, both provocative and powerful. The graphics were compelling and the colouring whisked you into a county, once beautiful and light, which has been darkened by devastation. I liked the character dynamics and interaction, and I enjoyed there being so many powerful women, but I would have enjoyed it more with a little more plot, character development and purpose. How can I empathize when I am only witnessing gore, violence and conflict?
Several of my favourite pages did turn out to be the beautiful two page spreads, which highlighted the powerful machines that the United States had at their disposal (so visually stunning, and horrific all in one). No words necessary to convey the dread.
What follows is a trip down the rabbit hole. Filled with pop culture references, quick wit, laughter, and lots of fear. This was edge of your seat reading. The beasts reminded me of something out of a Lovecraft novel, with ties to the ever elusive Necronomicon of pulp horror infamy.
I loved the imagery splashed throughout. It was beautiful, frightening, alarming at times, but it painted a vivid landscape/portrait of the world the Blyton Summer Detective Club lived in. With side characters that begin as one-dimensional plot devices, who shift dramatically into developed characters that help to move plot forward and create more sympathy and empathy for our main characters. Favourite imagery goes to Kerri's hair, the amount of descriptors about her being a redhead were impressive, expressive and overpowering. The hair became an entity in and of itself by the end of the novel.
The story made fun of itself, while portraying the realities of becoming an adult. The changes we all must face; returning to our past only to find it has shrunk, or that our minds have made it scarier, grander, or more protective than it really ever was. There were moments when the descriptiveness became too convoluted or too forced, which made me cringe, but was quickly offset by another funny or important moment meant to further the plot or break the tension.
This novel was spot on, shifting the characters into something other than what you would normally find. No more tired, nerdy, unattractive girl (now we have an attractive and fashionable nerd), no more attractive and fashionable girl who plays arm candy to the rest of the team (now we have a self-professed tomboy, who can take care of business on her own, not afraid to throw down or 'woman up'), and finally we lose the lanky, drug addled teen (in favour of a geek, who can show strength and courage in the face of fear). And the jock everyone loves, easily replaced. The group dynamics have also shifted, bringing our tomboy to the forefront, and adding in her eternal love for the nerdy redhead, Kerri.
A startling read, with a twisty plot that throws you for a loop a few times; and, when the final "mask" is pulled off, you cannot help but love these dysfunctional "meddling" kids.
Book 50/50...doing a happy dance. Now on to book 51...