Cress

I’m not going to lie – I’ve been putting off this review.  Not because I didn’t like Cress!  I just loved it too much.  It’s extremely hard to write a sensible review when all I want to do is yell, ‘Read this book!  Read it now!’  After weeks of putting it off, though, I think I might as well just write that.

The cover for Cress is much better than Cinder and Scarlet, in my opinion.  The background is more blue than black, and leans away from copying the Twilight covers.  Technically, Cress’s hair should be even longer than depicted in the image, but that’s real nitpicking.  Besides, we can always assume there are miles of it piled up off the left-hand side of the page.

Gone are all the pacing problems from Scarlet: Cress hits the ground at a sprint and barely pauses for breath all the way through.  Cress as a character also connects a lot better to the story than Scarlet did at first.  She had appeared in Cinder, although we didn’t know who she was at the time, and another character hinted at her identity when he said his daughter, Crescent Moon, was taken away and (he thought) killed.  So we know how she links to the other characters, and actually she meets up with them very early in the story.

Cress was a great character as well – I have an admittedly soft spot for female hacker characters after spending an entire summer watching Criminal Minds – she’s unusual enough to be interesting without straying into manically fantastical (dare I use the phrase Mary-Sue?) but still enough of a grounded character that you can sympathise with her.

Penelope Garcia, the nerdy hacker in Criminal Minds.

She wasn’t the only point-of-view character, either!  Cinder and her Prince Kai stepped into the forefront for a good amount of the book, and even Scarlet became interesting when she was captured by the evil Lunars.

My only gripe with the book was Wolf.  Ugh, Wolf, why must I find you so unlikeable?  After Scarlet’s capture, he spents the entire book sulking and moping and being generally extremely unhelpful.  In a character like, say, Sansa Stark at the beginning of Game of Thrones, this behaviour is more understandable.  It’s still annoying, but hey, she’s a spoiled thirteen-year-old.  What do you expect?  But when a grown man (supposedly a trained soldier, who’s probably never been spoiled in his life) starts whining inconsolably, it’s nothing short of infuriating.  I wished Cinder would give him a good slap with her metal hand and tell him to gut up.

sansa vs wolfOne of these things is not like the other …

(Sansa from Game of Thrones and Derek from Teen Wolf – pretty much how I imagined Wolf in Cress.)

Despite that irritation, Cress was an excellent book.  It was fast-paced, the characters except Wolf were great, and it contained a decent number of twists I genuinely didn’t see coming while still following the Rapunzel fairy tale from which Meyer clearly took her inspiration.  I think this is my favourite in the series so far, and I look forward to the final book, Winter, coming out later this year.

Noli Temere Messorem

Sir Terry Pratchett is dead.

I was first introduced to Terry Pratchett the Christmas that Hogfather was adapted for television.  I remember finding a battered old copy of the book in my school library, the front cover almost torn off and the spine taped together.  The librarians let me buy it for 20p.

Since then I’ve read twenty-five of his forty-odd Discworld novels (and Good Omens besides): some ragged second hand copies, some in shiny new jackets, some begged off of friends, family and (mostly) my boyfriend.  When I was at college, I bought a black satchel from the Paul Kidby website with the Assassin’s Guild shield and motto on it: Nil Mortifi Sine Lucre.  It breaks my heart to know there’ll never be another new Pratchett book on the shelves.

Before Terry Pratchett (or Pterry, as he was jokingly referred to online), I thought that serious stories and comedy were mutually exclusive.  He proved me wrong: war, racism, slavery and death are all themes that feature in Discworld books.  And yet there is not a single one of his novels that failed to make me laugh.  It’s cliched to call someone inspirational, but he was.  If it weren’t for Pterry, my attitude to writing wouldn’t be the same.

There are a lot of Terry Pratchett quotes about death going around.  Considering one of his recurring characters was Death himself, such quotes are unsurprisingly easy to find.  In true Pratchett fashion, they’re all funny and achingly true, and I couldn’t choose between them.  Instead, I’ll leave this video, of the part at the end of Hogfather, that made me determined to read the book.

Humans need belief to be human.  To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

I like to believe that Death greeted you like an old friend, Pterry; with his scythe in one hand and a copy of Reaper Man for you to sign in the other.

Scarlet

I finished reading Scarlet, the sequel to Cinder and the second book in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles.  Before I even get close to the text though, I want to point out the cover.  As in: ‘Gosh, I wonder where they got the idea for that cover from?’

scarlet vs eclipseIt’s actually made kind of worse by the fact that, throughout the whole book, Scarlet never once wears a shiny red cloak.  Instead, she has a tattered red hoodie.  Again, this cover isn’t Meyer’s fault – authors get pretty much zero say in their cover appearance – but the likeness to Twilight is irritating.  I mean, it’s not like this is book has werewolves in it.

Umm … or maybe it does?

Scarlet‘s protagonist, as suggested by the cover and title, is a French farm girl based on Little Red Riding Hood, named Scarlet Benoit.  Although Cinder is still around: she picks up a roguish ex-military man named Thorne when they escape prison together, but the pair of them spend most of the book sitting around in space nothing doing much.  Instead, the focus is on Scarlet.

This is actually a bit of a pet peeve of mine: I don’t like it when sequel books straight up change protagonists.  Adding new characters is fine and fun, but after being madly invested in Cinder, I found Scarlet a bit slow.  In fact, the whole first half of Scarlet is slow, in which Scarlet is trying to find out who’s kidnapped her grandmother.  She gets the help of Wolf, an escaped gang member who claims to know where her grandmother is.

Aaaand I really didn’t like Wolf.  He’s a beaten up ex-villain just trying to be good while angsting beautifully and I’ve just seen it so many times before.

Heck, Buffy had two of them and that was on telly how many years ago?

I saw his cross-and-double-cross coming a mile away, and actually I wish Meyer had shifted it into the first half of the book so there was a little more goings-on there, and to remove it from the otherwise perfect second half.

One more complain, before I move on to the good stuff: Meyer fell into the common misconception that wolf packs have an Alpha-Omega dynamic.  I know right?  But everyone knows wolves have an alpha male and a little omega trailing along getting ignored by the others!  Well, nope.  It’s a myth.

Okay, good bits!

The second half of Scarlet was a hundred times better: we learned more about Cinder’s mysterious past, and her and Scarlet’s stories became much more carefully intertwined.  There was at least one twist I genuinely didn’t see coming (to do with Wolf’s gang – I shan’t spoil it) and plenty of action and suspense.  Evil Queen Levana became that much more skin-crawlingly nasty as she launched an attack on Earth, and we were left on a nail-biting cliffhanger, with all of our protagonists together except Cinder’s Prince Kai, who now has to marry Levana.

All in all, Scarlet was good.  It’s first half let it down – I think it just needed a touch more trimming and maybe some rearranging to get to the good action and plot twists sooner.  If you liked Cinder, definitely check it out.  Maybe just skim through the beginning, though.

Next up is another new character in the third book, Cress.  After Scarlet‘s ending, I’m looking forward to it!