Review: The Traitor’s Kiss

 

The Traitor's KissThe Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

*Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purposes of review*

I need to pour myself a drink — not many books reduce me to alcohol consumption due to extreme irritation, but Traitor’s Kiss gets that dishonourable distinction from…pretty much page one. I should have known — I really should have known better.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super-excited about this book; it didn’t really seem like my cup of tea, but there was just enough in the description to make me think that, maybe, I’d be surprised. It’s happened before — c.f. something like Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones — and so, as always, I am ever the optimist, hoping that a book will exceed my initially low expectations.

Not only did Traitor’s Kiss fail to exceed my low expectations, it didn’t even manage to meet them. I don’t think there are enough negative words in the dictionary to express my disappointment, my irritation, and, by this point, my blistering fury with this novel. This is every young adult-fantasy trope I hate, rolled into one book, that doesn’t even have the decency to be, at the very least, marginally entertaining.

And the core problem lies in its protagonist. Sage is a terrible protagonist — I’m sorry, there’s no polite way for me to say this. She’s awful. Clearly the author wants her to seem “special” because, boy does she go out of her way to have Sage deliberately isolate herself from other characters. The amount of vitriolic “You other girls dress yourselves up so you are clearly vapid and shallow and I am better and smarter than all of you becuase I don’t”-girl-on-girl hate that makes up the entirety of Sage’s inner monologue and dialogue is both staggering and exhausting. It starts to feel like a personal attack from the author upon girls who either (a) like to put effort into their appearance and/or (b) have cleavage.

Now, I’m certainly not particularly invested in my appearance unless it’s a “special occasion” or I’ve got some errant whim to exert effort, but I am definitely a gal with cleavage and, let me tell you, Ms. Beaty, my possession of cleavage — something I cannot control — and wearing of clothing that shows it off — not always something I can control, but usually a personal choice — doesn’t make me, in any way, supercilious, vapid, or unintelligent. My possession of breasts has no correlation whatsoever to my intellect. So what’s with Sage’s hatred? And what’s with reinforcing her attitude as “correct” by making Sage seem special and, therefore, better when in the perspective of male characters? Women can exert effort in their appearance while also wanting to wear trousers or ride horses or push themselves physically. I know plenty of incredibly strong woman who can be both tomboyish and dress to the nines in highly feminine styles, while also (shocker!) being fiercely intelligent and well-read.

Also Sage smells like sage. Someone, please, put me out of my misery right now.

And let’s talk about the writing. Well, first off, the plot is unbearably slow. Now, I don’t mind slower novels, especially if they’re doing interesting things with character development and world-building. Except that Traitor’s Kiss isn’t, and this book is a slog. As much as this novel promises betrayal and intrigue, you’re not going to find any of it here. I mean, if anything, it betrays you by thinking it might be interesting. It’s, truly, a masochistic endeavour, reading this book, begging for it to do something interesting or, at the very least, end soon so that you can be put out of your misery.

Or maybe that was just me.

I doesn’t help that there were moments where Ms. Beaty actually wrote jump-cuts in the middle of chapters. I was so jarred by these, I actually flipped back and forth between my kindle-edition pages to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped a page. But, no, it’s true: she writes one scene going somewhere and suddenly jumps to something else without so much as a hint or even the decency of a chapter break.

This book is barely over 350 pages, but it feels like twice its length and I, for the life of me, cannot understand how anyone would want to read this unless they were (a) a fan of slipshod writing with poor world building and a special snowflake of a main character that has a vendetta upon the members of her own sex and/or (b) completely inebriated.

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Review: Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Son Of Ares #1

 

Pierce Brown's Red Rising: Son Of Ares #1
Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Son Of Ares #1 by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BloodyDAMN.

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t normally read comics, not even when they tie-in to franchises/novels that I love. But, for this I made a major exception. How can I resist something that promises to tell me the story of Fitchner au Barca?

I can’t. I really, really can’t.

And what a brilliant start. It’s violent, it’s bloody, it’s wonderfully illustrated. I particularly like little details such as speech bubbles for characters reflecting their Colour; it’s a small thing, but (a) makes the dialogue a lot easier to follow and (b) just shows the level of care and attention to detail of the creative team.

The only problem now is that I suddenly understand how comic fans feel in getting brief little bites of great storytelling and then needing to wait, ravenous, for the next one.

break the chains

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Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

 

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cards on the table: I am an action over romance girl any and every day of the week.

Give me blood and battles and armies. Give me fighting and intrigue. Tales of deception and danger. Of people kicking ass and taking names, usually (maybe even preferably) without mercy. Grand epics or back-alley brawls — I am all about it.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I stumble upon something sweet. Something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Something that tugs at my heartstrings and has me suppressing high-pitched squee-ing sounds that really are rather undignified coming from a young person in their mid-twenties…okay maybe it’s not that undignified, but you get where I’m coming from.

These are not my usual books.
These are special.

The first book in this series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, was my introduction to the fictional world of Jenny Han. I remember hearing the pitch for the book and thinking, “Huh…well that sounds interesting.” And when I saw that Jenny Han would be having an event here in my city for the book, I knew it was clearly meant to be: I had to read this book.

Now, putting the books aside for the moment: Jenny Han is a gem. She is a human ray of sunshine that I’m not sure this world truly deserves. When you look up the term “sweet cinnamon roll,” it’ll say: c.f. Jenny Han. I’ve now been to all three events she’s had here for the Lara Jean series and I have left every single one smiling, eager to read whichever book was in my hands, and full of kind words of advice and encouragement.

And then we have the books. Oh do we ever have these books. These charming, sweet tales of Lara Jean and her sisters; Lara Jean and her dad; Lara Jean and all the everyday, seemingly mundane things that can happen to young teenage girl. And yet it’s those seemingly mundane and ordinary things that are the best parts of the story: how everyday life suddenly feels so technicolor. How there’s even great moments that talk about serious teenage topics, without it feeling it was contrived for the purpose of creating drama in the narrative. How family bonds, especially between siblings, are some of the closest and most loyal, even when they’re complicated at times. And how life is sometimes weird and strange things doesn’t always work out the way you want them too.

But we do. We make things work. We carry on. We live our lives and we live them as full as we can, savouring every moment. We live, we laugh, we love.

As always, Lara Jean, Peter Kavinsky, their friends, their families — all of them! — have brought a smile to my face and warm fuzzies in my heart. Thank you.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*sigh*

This is hard for me to write — which probably seems strange since I’ve just given this book a very high star-rating. How could this be so difficult for me? Why am I not crowing how great this book is from the rooftops?

Probably because it’s not good.
It’s not, and you won’t ever hear me say it’s objectively “good.”

It’s trash — pure trash.
But it’s good trash; it’s my kind of trash.

Most of it, at least.

There is more than one thing about this novel that makes me either roll my eyes or scream in frustration, and that comes down to SJM as a writer; she has some tendencies that drive me nuts, and they’re on full display in this novel.

For example: there’s a lot of sex and flirting. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not care if there is sex in books. And I know that SJM likes to write characters who often take multiple sex partners. Good for them, have a healthy sex life. And this series, especially in the second novel, has proven it has no problem being sexually explicit…but it’s at the detriment of the plot and also, in this case, the tone/impact.

Rhys and Feyre exist mainly to find different ways of telling each other “I love you”, and their constant flirting really started to wear on me through the novel — and nobody tell me it’s just that “They’re young” because we meet another pair of married mates who haven’t been together all that long and they at least seem to have a healthy amount of decorum about them. (All hail Kallias and Viviane, who are basically #highfaemategoals.)

And there is one scene in particular that really, really upset me as it pertains to the way Rhys and Feyre behave. (view spoiler) I didn’t hate them, but every time they flirted or made an innuendo or had sex — which was basically every other page — I couldn’t help but make a noise of disgust and roll my eyes.

Now look, yeah, I’m not one to really be turned on by sex in novels, but good grief there was a lot of it — and a lot of it that served no purpose other than titillation. I’m not bothered by sex in novels, but sex that serves no purpose other than to just be sex? It’s boring after a while, especially when there are so many instances of it across 700+ pages. I think of the quote from Oscar Wilde:

Everything is the world is about sex except sex.

And, therefore, the moments where the sex actually makes sense beyond titillation and I think, “Yes, this works and I get it”…that’s fine! And there are moments like that, but they’re mainly in the back quarter of the novel when the war finally manages to show up.

Oh yeah, did I mention it takes a really long time for the whole war bit of this story to show up? We have to endure a lot of meaningless, and in some cases wholly anticlimactic and ridiculous, side-quests that constantly distract the story. And that’s not even mentioning the dumps of extraneous and unnecessary mythology from other cultures that show up to help in leading to what is, without question, one of the biggest deus ex machine endings I’ve ever encountered. And I was predicting it from a mile off because, honestly, SJM isn’t that subtle. All of her twists aren’t twists because she’s so heavy-handed in her foreshadowing that it might as well not even be called foreshadowing.

And this is just the beginning my innumerable complaints with this novel and with this series as a whole.

So how in the name of all the circles of hell can I give this five stars?

Because, though it took a while, I did get a war. I got battle speeches. I got betrayal and High Lords who were great additions to the cast— to be honest, that entire “Council of Elrond”-esque sequence was the best in the novel and I am now convinced I want standalone novels for all the other High Lords because they’re without question the most interesting players in this game and they basically stole the show. I got some interesting tidbits on Lucien’s older brother, Eris, who’s still an asshole but now intrigues me — also really annoyed that that went nowhere in this book, just sayin’. And even Tamlin got some fascinating moments. The shit that was my shit, was good shit. And I absolutely ate it up.

This book was garbage, but it was my kind of garbage and going along for the ride was a helluva lot of fun in the midst of all my groans.

And trust me, there were a lot of groans.

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