Friday, May 18, 2012

Mockingjay (The depressive finale, aka, how everyone else dies)

The Hunger Games series as a whole is nothing short of genius. And don't get me wrong, I loved Mockingjay. I enjoyed all the twists and the crazy events leading to an explosive (literally) finale. BUT. Out of the three books, I found this one to be the weakest. Let's be honest, Katniss has had the world take one giant dump on her since book one. And I think everyone was hoping for a little bit of a let up for the bleakness factor in the third book. A little more triumph, fanfare, etc. Which is why the final book is so divisive for people. But, I gotta hand Suzanne Collins some props. She fervently clings to her bleakness and stark realism. And she makes a damn good story. Despite the overall despondency, the final couple pages of the book include some of the most beautiful writing I've seen in my life. So even though the majority of Mockingjay is a bleakfest, it's worth skipping to the final pages just to read those bits over and over again.


All my friends are dead moment #1: Cinna's death is finalized in this book. It was brutal watching him dragged away in book two and we knew the moment was coming. But nothing said grim like hearing that Cinna, the calm support throughout the other two novels finally bit the bullet. Cinna was just the beginning though and the other two deaths were the hard hitters that had people questioning the ending so much. And then Boggs dies, right as you're really getting to like him. Way to drive the knife deeper.

All my friends are dead moment #2: Finnick. He just haaaaad to marry Annie only chapters before and we just haaaaad to get way too attached to him. His character was one of the best fleshed out through the story. In book two, we aren't sure what to think of him until the ending. But his scenes in book three are so memorable and brave that you can't help but love him. Between his selflessness with Annie and the way he helps Katniss through her difficulty knowing Peeta's being tortured make him the stand out character he is. But what divides the fandom is the way he died. His character deserved more than lizard mutt chow. And he kind of gets glossed over as a toss in. Oh hey, yeah. Finnick's dead. Realistic, yes. Unfair, hell yes.

All my friends are dead moment #3: Everyone knows this one. Because the ENTIRE series was built around saving her. Oh, Prim. We knew you were screwed the moment Suzanne Collins started building your character up a lot in book three. Her death was heartbreaking, not only because she was Katniss's entire reason for living, but because it also splintered Katniss' friendships and remaining family. The mother ditches her (way to go, deadbeat mom) and Gale, being the one who might've been responsible for the killing bombs, goes off to another district never to be heard from again. But. I see what you did there Collins. Symbolically, Prim was Katniss' whole reason for living and part of surviving trauma is finding a new reason to live. So Prim ultimately had to die in Katniss' transformation as a character as part of shedding the past and creating her own life.

Rating: 4

Monday, May 7, 2012

Codex Alera: The Furies of Calderon (No Furies? No Problem)

As an avid reader of the Dresden Files, I was antsy to read Jim Butcher's hand at anything, frankly. He doesn't disappoint in the Codex of Alera either. The story and world are well crafted, and his trademark action sequences are always enjoyable. This being a very different beast, it had little of Dresden Files snark and humor, but still remained a really fun read. The different races such as the Marat added dimension to the world, as did his unique system of magic called furycrafting.


Tavi runs for his life part 1: The story follows many different characters, but there's one theme that consistently crops up of Tavi running for his life. The first part where he's escaping from imminent danger involves the Marat. These people are a different race than most of the main characters, Alerans. When Tavi and his Uncle Bernard stumble upon them, it becomes very clear that the Marat aren't supposed to be around. This quickly ties into the other storyline involving a Cursor named Amara who is trying to protect the throne. An usurper rallies the Marat to invade Calderon and weaken the First Lord Gaius. Unfortunately, Tavi gets caught in the crosshairs and stuck out in the elements with Amara. 

Tavi runs for his life part 2: Tavi's great luck continues as he ends up captive at the hands of the Marat. Which doesn't involve a lot of happy fun time as these blokes want to serve him up like sashimi, nice and raw. He catches the interest of one Marat chieftan though, who uses Tavi as a potential way to overthrow the other corrupt leader. The agreement? Tavi and the Marat chieftan's own whelp will participate in a Trial of Wits. Whomever wins is in the right. Which means Tavi will not get devoured alive. However, during said trial, while Tavi's smarts may get him through with his life, he wakes up a big, bad, unknown beastie. Continuing his winning streak of...running for his life.

Tavi runs for his life part 3: So, meanwhile in the rest of the book, everyone else has been busy getting themselves into dire situations. Which makes it perfect for when Tavi interrupts their failing stand at Calderon to bring in an opposing army of Marat to save the day. But the brief cheer that's brought on his arrival quickly falls to chaos. And when he steals the Marat leader's knife, containing the name of the usurper behind the attacks, suddenly everyone focuses their attention on him again. And he's again, running for his life. This kid lands in the worst freaking scenarios. Regardless, with the aid of his companions, including an ex-swordsman turned dullard, they manage to save Calderon, so Tavi can finally take a break and catch his breath.

Rating: 3