Book Review: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Favourite quotes

“Real grief is ugly and uncomfortable. People look away from grief the same way they look away from severed limbs or gaping wounds. What they want is pain like death on a stage: beautiful, bloodless, presented for their entertainment”.

“Happiness is self-sabotage, a mean trick that your own mind plays on you. It makes you careless, makes you lose your grip, and once you lose your grip, you lose everything. You certainly aren’t happy anymore”.

“People will come up with a hundred thosand reasons why other people do not count as human, but that does not mean anyone has to listen”.

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

In the future, there are two New Yorks – the self-indulgent Light City ruled by powerful and ruthless Council of Light magicians, and the Dark city where dark magicians deemed too dangerous to live with the rest of the people are buried. Both races need each other to stay alive. Lucie Manette was born in the Dark city, but she managed to win herself a place in the Light city, amongst the elite, through careful manipulations and lies and becoming a symbol of the Light magicians’ mercy. The status has also helped her win the heart of Ethan Stryker – son and nephew of Charles and Mark Stryker, prominent figures on the Light Council. All is well, until Lucie uncovers a fatal secret about Ethan that involves a forbidden Dark ritual and a despised Doppleganger named Carwyn. Once Carwyn’s existence comes to light, the future of the Stryker family hangs by a Golden thread that’s becoming thinner and thinner as Carwyn’s revolutionary activities come to “Light”. The two cities are facing the threat of burning, and it is up to Lucie to save Ethan, Carwyn and bring about the end of the revolution.

 

The author of “The Lynburn Legacy” has created a retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. Needless to say that the adventures of Lucie, Ethan and Carwyn are very different from those of Kami, Jared and the rest of the Lynburn legacy crew. Firstly, “Tell the Wind and Fire” is not a funny book – not that you’d expect a retelling of a Dickens novel to be funny. The book does certainly have enough familiar elements to be called a “retelling” – the two cities, the Revolution, the murders and the heroine who is perceived as the beacon of light (The Golden Thread) thanks to her hair and status. I did like how the author added magic into the mix to make this an urban fantasy dystopian, but I wouldn’t call the plot devices used in the book “groundbreaking”. We have seen them in “The Hunger Games”, “Divergent”, “Half Bad” and several other YA dystopians. There’s nothing wrong with the societal divisions tropes, but to be frank, I have read far too many novels that use it to be suitably impressed.

Another issue I had with “Tell the Wind and Fire” is the pacing. It started off really well by diving into action that involved death threats right away, but what followed is a large chapter of nothing but background information on how Lucie and Ethan came to be and how the Light and Dark city can’t function without each other. What follows is events not unlike the ones that transpire in “A Tale of Two Cities”, except the pacing is kind of all over the place, making it quite difficult to understand why characters (bar the exception of Lucie, thanks to the info-dump) act the way they do. A great storyteller, which I know Sarah Rees Brennan to be, would weave a story that makes us understand the characters and the plot, as well as the setting without random chunks of information thrown at the reader. I am honestly a little surprised – Brennan’s other books weren’t anything like that.

However, I can’t imagine that retelling a novel as massive and dense as “A Tale of Two Cities” was an easy job to do, and I’m not saying that the author failed to complete the task. It’s certainly a far better retelling of a Dickens novel than “Olivia Twisted”, for instance. However, I do feel that it is next to impossible to squish a plot of “A Tale of Two Cities” into 350 pages or so and expect excellent results. My verdict is that “Tell the Wind and Fire” has an amazing premise that could’ve been executed spectacularly if it were a series or at least a much longer standalone, with fewer info-dumps and more room to flesh out the characters. My rating is 6/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Tell the Wind and Fire” if you liked:

“A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E.Schwab

“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J Maas

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

Have you read “Tell the Wind and Fire” yet? Do you have any good retellings of Dickens’ novels that you’d like to recommend? Do let me know!

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Book Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

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For my review of “Unspoken” – the first book in this series – please click here.

Naptime is over for Kami, Angela, her brother Rusty and Holly, as Robert Lynburn’s scarecrows attack Sorry-in-the-Vale. Rob is quickly gaining followers in town, who are either terrified of him or still remember the old ways when the Lynburns had the power. Kami attempts to engage her reporter skills to tell people the truth, but to no avail. Her friends’ efforts to help are unfortunately fruitless. Enter the Lynburn cousins (or are they?). Ash is the son of Rob and his wife Lilian who has no attraction to evil stuff. And of course, there is Jared, Kami’s former imaginary friend. At the end of “Unspoken” they, rightly so, severed their mind link, removing their connection to each other. Or so they thought. They are missing each other immensely but what can one do if Jared’s uncle is a magical murderer demanding a blood sacrifice from the town and Jared’s aunt is an aloof, cold witch who wants to take him down but doesn’t want any help from outside the family. She is quickly forced to change her mind about that though – Kami’s instincts and talent for investigation, Angela’s readiness to channel her anger at the evil wizards and Holly’s magical heritage are not something she can do without, it appears. However, what if their forces are not enough to defeat the entire town standing behind Rob? And what if Kami is forced to lose the ones she loves and destroy herself in the process?

 

First of all – dear Miss Brennan, your love for “The Princess Bride” is showing.

Second of all – every good book starts with a scarecrows’ attack, and with ladies being represented in the scarecrow movement.

Just kidding.

But it’s a great start. And it sets the tone for 4/5 of the book that was action-packed, full of funny quips and ladies getting stuff done (boys helped sometimes but with the exception of Rusty, they mostly brought drama). I do have issues, however, with all the romantic drama which makes up the rest of the novel. For starters – I haven’t liked Jared since “Unspoken” but he’s even more annoying in this installment, bar a few moments when him and Ash bond. And do, please, leave Kami alone – she doesn’t want to depend on anyone. I may be biased but I don’t believe they would ever work as a couple – there is too much history with them knowing each other’s every thought and feeling when they were linked. While Kami may miss him and feel attracted to both him and Ash (which is understandable – they both have excellent hotential), Jared is slightly obsessive and borderline homicidal and Ash did try to kill her best friend. My advice is to stick with journalism – she said herself before that guys disappoint but journalism never lets her down. Re: romantic option – may I suggest sticking with Rusty? He is handsome, deep without being homicidal, and appreciates her intelligence – calling her Cambridge speaks for itself.

Next issue – Holly, darling, what are you doing? We are all guilty of using other people to help us escape our own problems and struggles, but you know – there are evil sorcerers running around your town! Although I do understand that having your parents join the villains may be a bit much, but you have your friends by your side! And you don’t even have to make out with them – talking works just as well, you know. Also – props to Miss Brennan for including a bisexual character struggling with her sexuality and not making it the central focus of the novel. Her and Angela need to get back together! After they kick the sorcerers’ butts, of course.

Enough of the boy/girl drama – the best part of reading the book was getting another insight into Kami’s sleuthing and journalistic abilities. As a book blogger and an amateur legal journalist, I can appreciate a witty piece of writing and research. I am really hoping to see Kami combine what she has learnt during her time at the Lynburns’ library and her street-smarts and create some beautiful articles for “The Nosy Parker”, the town’s newspaper (which she has started herself by the way – could she get any more awesome?). Her one-liners didn’t go anywhere, fortunately – “hotential” is officially a term I shall be employing on a regular basis from now on. The combination of action, funny dialogue and drama (which was admittedly too much sometimes) means that I am rating “Untold” 7/10.

 

Favourite character

That spot will always belong to Kami in this series, for many reasons. Her character can be summed up in a single quote – “If the truth didn’t help anyone, and love didn’t last, what was there left to struggle toward?”. We know that, despite everything, Kami loves Jared. But she also loves her parents and her brothers more than anything. We can see her struggling to make sure that her loved ones are OK throughout the book, but we also know that she is the type of person who would do anything for people to know the truth. I respect that.

 

Character who gets the most development

See above – Miss Kami Glass goes through a lot of stuff in this book, both romantically and magically. I am looking forward, but at the same time I am not, to how SPOILER

her new mind link with Ash would affect her in “Unmade”.

END SPOILER

 

Favourite realtionship

Kami and Rusty – he’s good for her

 

Favourite quotes

“For the preservation of our sacred journalistic integrity, we have to see every scarecrow in town”

Being able to depend on someone doesn’t mean you’re dependent on them”

“If the truth didn’t help anyone, and love didn’t last, what was there left to struggle toward?”


Dreamcast:

Kami Glass – Jamie Chung

Angela Montgomery – Janel Parrish

Rusty Montgomery – Joe Dempsie

Holly Prescott – Jennifer Lawrence

Ash Lynburn – Richard Madden

Jared Lynburn – Jason Dohring (circa Veronica Mars)

Lilian Lynburn – Emilia Fox

 

Recommendations

You would like “The Lynburn Legacy series” if you liked:

“Buffy”

“Veronica Mars”

“The Raven Cycle series” by Maggie Stiefvater”

Book Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Recommended by Kerry Winfrey of Hellogiggles

Kami Glass is a young half-Japanese student from a small English town called Sorry-in-the-Vale. She spends her time hanging out with her friend Angela who makes it her mission in life to find the World’s Best Napping Spot, and together, they run the school newspaper. Kami’s also got a best friend named Jared who really gets her. The only issue is that he is imaginary. He’s just a voice in her head whom she talked to since she was very young. Or so she thought. Kami can be said to be the Veronica Mars of England, so when the town’s founding family, the Lynburns, move back to their creepy mansion on the edge of town, she has no other choice but to figure out what’s going on with them. Why did they disappear in the first place and why does the whole town, including her own parents, seem to be scared of them? At first, nobody would tell her anything. But then, she meets one of the Lynburns in an elevator. He is tall, dark, and very handsome. There’s only one problem though – his name is Jared. Like you might expect, he is the Jared from her head (interesting band name?) A dream come true, right? Your imaginary friend who knows you better than anyone is actually a real walking and talking person. However, when this person is a member of the town’s most hated family who may or may not be trying to kill Kami and her friends, things get a little complicated. Kami’s penchant for detective work coupled with the connection to Jared may, on the one hand, be the key to uncovering the town’s dark secrets that are culminating in the form of horrific animal sacrifices and attempts on her friends’ lives. On the other hand, however, their connection may actually do more harm than good and destroy them both in the process…

At a first glance, this is your standard paranormal romance, which I am not normally too fond of. However, thanks to Brennan’s hilarious and brilliant characters, “Unspoken” is a wonderful work. First and foremost, it’s really funny. The technique of one-liners may have been employed a little too often, but it made me laugh really hard! To give you an example from a conversation between Kami and Angela:

“Your sould is like the souls of a thousand monkeys on crack, all smushed together. But enough about you. Show me to my napping sofa”

That’s another thing I loved about “Unspoken” – the friendships between Kami, Angela and their new friend Holly. The supporting characters were written just as well as Kami was and they didn’t conform to any stereotypes. Angela and Holly are, according to Kami, the most beautiful and popular girls in school, while Kami is more of an outsider, but neither of the three considers herself better than anybody else and has no problem trashing stereotypes about “popular girls” and “manic pixie dream girls who are not like other girls because they like to read and write”. This is why books like “Unspoken” are so important – girls today are under just as many pressures to fit in as ever, and not conforming to a certain “type” is not easy. Having someone to look up to, whether they are real or fictional, is one of the integral parts of growing up. The fact that the characters of the book are diverse just makes it better.

Re: “romance” part of the book – I have said before that love triangles and romances are not my favourite aspects of literature. However, Brennan handles the potential love triangle between Kami, Jared and his cousin Ash really well. The thing between Kami and Jared is very complicated and neither of them can be argued to have the ability to handle it. At that point in the book, I was waiting for some kind of a “I don’t care I love you we’ll get through this even though it’s emotionally unhealthy” monologue. You can imagine my relief when that didn’t happen. This is another reason why I really like Kami – she understands that glamourised unhealthy relationships are just that – unhealthy – and she wants no part of it. That, of course, did not take away the pleasure of reading about some very thick sexual tension between the imaginary friends! The one romance I am eager to read more about is Holly and Angela’s. I think that they work really well together! My rating of “Unspoken” is 7.5/10 and I can’t wait to purchase the next book in the series!

Favourite character:

I have enjoyed reading about them all (except maybe Jared because he got on my nerves on a couple of occasions), but Kami has to be a favourite of mine. I love ladies like Veronica Mars and Nancy Drew and Kami is an honorary member of their club of Lady Sleuths. I would actually love to see a Supernatural-type TV series with Kami, Angela, Holly and the Lynburn boys running around and solving paranormal crimes. (What do you mean “Buffy” already exists?!)

Character who gets the most development:

Again, Kami takes this spot. She has come very far from a girl who sometimes stared into space talking to herself and being afraid of fitting in. That girl was replaced by a young woman struggling with the concept of her imaginary friend coming to life and being deprived of her emotional privacy, who then grew into a person who… Well, read for yourself!

Favourite relationship:

Kami, Angela and Holly are the ladies who are coming to take a nap and kick the asses of magicians in your small town. And they are almost done with their naps.

Favourite quotes:

“You are a criminal. You broke my laws, in my town, and I am going to execute you. Step away from my sister“. Seriously, does that remind anyone of a certain Spaniard in a certain most romantic movie of all time?!

“Guys may disappoint, but she knew journalism would never let her down”

Dreamcast:

Kami Glass – Jamie Chung

Angela Montgomery – Janel Parrish

Holly Prescott – Jennifer Lawrence

Jared Lynburn – Jason Dohring (circa Veronica Mars)

Recommendations:

You would like “Unspoken” if you liked:

“Veronica Mars”

“Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

“Half Bad” by Sally Green