Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trilogies

Fun Friday #8 fizzled. I had three sick people and I wasn't feeling too hot myself. So I went to Radio Shack and bought a wireless router and let the kids watch Netflix on the TV all day. Not having to crowd around the computer is a blessing/curse. Now I have to figure out a TV policy on top of the Wii and computer policies.
I have been doing a ton of reading lately. If you are my friend on Goodreads or FB then you see my reviews pop up. I have read several YA/juvenile trilogies and I thought I'd give my two cents here, since the baby is asleep and the kids aren't fighting me for the computer. And I am ignoring the laundry, dishes and the facts that my sister-in-law will be here in Sat. night and I am not even close to ready. See what I sacrifice to bring you information?

This is a very intense science fiction series from Scott Westerfeld. It has a bit less of a dsytopian feel, at least initially. That was refreshing because most future oriented books tend to be rather bleak. I was surprised at how much the series pulled me in. The first person narrative felt real and brought back memories of my own teen-age years; trying to be yourself and fit it at the same time is a weird path to walk in the best of times. I would recommend this to any teenager and parent of one. There were a lot of interesting ideas that would be great to discuss with someone else that is reading it. Especially what place physical appearance has in our culture in and establishing self-worth.
The ending I thought was a bit silly. The fate of the protagonist had a bit of "Now what do I do with her?" feel but it was still a good read.

I haven't quite finished this series by Michael Scott yet. The fourth book just came out and our library hasn't received their copy yet. This is a younger book, aimed at young teens and older kids. Though I enjoy reading books in this age range when they are well written. The plot is what caught me in these books. It is fast paced, surprising and compelling (look at me, using big words like a real reviewer). What this means in practical terms is that I read them all in a day each. They didn't draw in my husband as much, so I suppose it is a matter of taste.
There was one issue that bothered me enough I almost didn't finish the first book. One of the main characters is tempted by the opposition. He is confused by the competing claims of the good guys and the bad guys. I imagine that some would say this confusion is an accurate portrayal of a teenagers' emotions. I kept thinking,"By their fruits you shall know them." and wondered how anyone could think the person who summons thousands of zombies to terrorize a town could maybe be the good side.
I kept reading and enjoyed the later books, but if being frustrated with a character bothers you, you might want to skip this set.

Though this trilogy was in the children's section, I think it is more of a YA book. It was pretty dark and dsytopian, set in a magical London that made Soviet Russia look like a holiday spot. There was a lot of political and social subtext that most young readers wouldn't understand or notice.
It was also funny, complex and had a narrative device I've never seen before; one of the main characters is the demon. There are a lot of books with demon summoning, even one I can think of where a magician is mistakenly summoned as a demon (Eric by Terry Pratchett) but having the demon give commentary on the magician, and the burden of being a slave to a young magician was novel and intriguing.
Though it never completely removed hope, the book wasn't Pollyanna-ish in how the world was going to be changed. Some, especially those written for young readers, have the hero make a great victory and the assume that the whole rest of society will roll over and usher in a Grand New Day immediately. This one doesn't. Insofar as a fantasy book could be called realistic, this one was. The people acted as real people do, as depressing as it is sometimes. Another series to read together, to talk about the ideas of politics, both national and personal, as they are presented.

I read two series by Tamora Pierce. One I liked, the other I kept reading but had serious issues with.
I found this series, The Circle Opens very fun. They were obviously written to a young audience. Though the books are based on a previous quartet, I had no trouble in catching up and following the story. There are four books, following four young mages who each reach a point where they begin to teach others. Each book was pretty light-weight on its own, but put together they give an interesting picture of what it means to grow up and assume responsibility. Enjoyable as a quick read, when you don't want something huge and substantial.




This series I started after I read the previous one and I was still looking for easy, quick reads. Though this book was easy enough to read, the message it was trying to deliver got more and more annoying as I read. Tamora Pierce is not shy about why she writes the books she does. She is writing to encourage young women. This is something I approve of in general. But heavy-handed double standards get to me after a while. Running off to become a knight is all well and good, but only reserving the discipline of a knight for the military things and then insisting on complete freedom in personal affairs was not only irritating but two-faced and internally inconsistent.
If the main character wanted respect, then sleeping with all three main young male characters wasn't the way to do it. And since the society was supposed to be faintly medieval, the lack of repercussions was ridiculous. I've seen this type of thing in many other books and could overlook it but when she breaks up with the prince because he seems selfish because he resists taking up a heavy responsibility, then says she is not ready to be queen because she doesn't want to feel tied down, the hypocrisy bothered me to the point of ranting at my husband about it. Sorry about that last sentence, there didn't seem to be a good way to write that all.
If you want to write about strong women, go for it, just hold them to the same standards as the men, and let them deal with the consequences of their actions. And let them grow up, not be perennial children, just wanting the next adventure or good time.

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