March 28, 2017

The Winner's Kiss: A Rambling Review

25526307The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

An excellent final book in the series! Marie Rutkoski was not afraid to put her characters in dark, dangerous situations with the odds stacked against them. She certainly didn't make things easy for Kestrel and Arin. I also really appreciate the way she showed how relationships are not neat, black-and-white, clean-cut things, but full of uncertainty and emotions that don't necessarily make sense, and that one may not want to even acknowledge.

I did think that the book could have been tightened somewhat; the first half became somewhat repetitive in its exploration of Kestrel and Arin's relationship, and the second half had a few too many battle (and battle preparation) scenes for my liking. (Battle scenes are always quite hard for me to picture, and so they don't do all that much for me as a reader.)

I thought it was clever the way the climactic scene was structured, split between what Kestrel was involved in and what Arin was up to (and plus, I liked how Kestrel's plan involved an element introduced earlier in the book). Also, the opening part of the book, detailing the treatment of Kestrel in the mines (and the psychological toll of that), really made me feel for her and was a way to create conflict in the Kestrel/Arin relationship without relying on a cliche such as a love triangle or "star-crossed lovers."

One thing I would have liked would have been more discussion of the whole issue of slavery; this largely seems to get dropped from the narrative, given the pressing issue of the war going on, but given how very recently the Herrani had been slaves to the Valorians, I think realistically that tensions surrounding that would have been high.


March 11, 2017

The Wrap-Up List: A Rambling Review

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson

13429646This was an odd, quirky little story. It has a fantastical premise (creatures called "Deaths" are responsible for 'departing' certain individuals), and is set sometime in the future (no year is given, but the US is on the brink of what sounds like another world war) and yet it is centered very much on protagonist Gabriela's teenage concerns and daily life. There really isn't much world-building going on, but given this book seems to be more of a contemporary novel with a fantastical premise, I don't know that it really needs a ton of world-building.

Despite the fact that Gabriela's wrap-up list (what she wants to have happen before she departs) is centered on first kisses, romance really doesn't play that large a role in the story. Her "love interest," if you can call him that, is a sad specimen and I honestly don't know why she wanted him as her first kiss. He seemed like kind of a jerk, to be honest. Gabriela's taste in guys aside, however, she was a likeable enough protagonist, although her voice sounded a little younger than her specified age -- more like fourteen rather than sixteen. I enjoyed seeing her Mexican heritage highlighted in a natural, organic sort of way.

My favourite character without a doubt was the Death Hercule. He had attitude. I wish we could have seen even more of him. Just generally, I think some of the side characters could have been fleshed-out more; I would have liked to have seen more of her relationships with friends and family. It felt a little like the basics had been sketched out, but not completely filled in.

Plot-wise, there weren't many "big events" before the climactic scene, and then the ending itself was fairly predictable (highlight for spoilers: for one thing, I totally guessed that the "wait for Gabriela" hint could refer to after Sylvester's departure).

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