I feel the need to be aggressively positive today; hence this post.
Spoiling its own ending: The Book Thief
I know it bothers some people that our friendly narrator Death is continually going, “Oh, and by the way, this person is going to die, tragically – but we’ve got at least two hundred pages to go till then, so let’s not focus on that for now!” Personally, though, I loved it.
It calls to mind mythology. Like, for example, I’m currently trudging through the Iliad, and you know how every other line someone says something about how Achilles is not long for this world? Or how Norse tales often have those little passing comments, “oh, and this is the very same beast that will KILL EVERYONE at Ragnarok!” “oh, yes, by the way, the reason this person is here is because he hasn’t been TRAGICALLY KILLED yet. because you haven’t got to that part yet. you know, the part where he’s TRAGICALLY KILLED.” Also I seem to remember a lot of dire foretellings being foretold when Cu Chulainn acquired his spear.
Anyway, the point is, mythology and heroic legend often spoil their major plot points as, sort of, a way of emphasizing their importance. At least I assume that’s why they do it. Maybe it’s also to make you savor what you’ve got while you’ve got it and to heighten your awareness of tragic irony. It’s a very myth-like thing to do, is what I’m saying, and so The Book Thief doing it kind of gives the story that mythological feel that I think it’s going for. In a modern way.
So yeah, I think it’s cool Marcus Zusak did that.
Bryant + Anna: The Salzburg Connection
What’s this, you say? A Helen MacInnes novel that Sarah doesn’t like?
Yes, my friends, alas, it is so.
Perhaps the main reason I don’t like it is because Bryant and Anna get such…well, to keep it spoiler-free, they get such short shrift. Both of them. It’s not fair.
But I loved Bryant from page one. And throughout the rest of the story, punctuating the dark stretches of boringness (because even suspense novels aren’t all that captivating if you don’t care if any of the characters die) like brief flashes of spring lightning, a hint here and a passing reference there, are moments that make me go, “Bryant, I love you.” And other moments that make me go, “Anna, I love you.”
Bryant is this levelheaded (former?) British agent living in Austria. Anna is his (Viennese, I think) wife, who is very nice and very proud of her husband and not very good at keeping her house clean. They’re just both kind of darling, and I wish there was a book with them as the main characters.
King George III + Kell + Kell’s coat: A Darker Shade of Magic
I suppose it’s not really fair to say I didn’t like A Darker Shade of Magic. I’d probably give it three stars if I had to rate it? It was fun. I liked it enough to read the sequel, which turned out to be a terrible decision. But the opening chapters gave me such high expectations, and they were…not met.
THE OPENING, THOUGH.
Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.
The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed. Not all of them were fashionable, but they each served a purpose. There were ones that blended in and ones that stood out, and one that served no purpose but of which he was just particularly fond.
See? You see why I was drawn in? What a delightful opening. (I vaguely remember Cait@PaperFury always saying that she shipped Kell with his coat? And this I can support.)
So anyway, Kell, who’s a magical traveller between worlds, then goes on to visit the mad King of England, George III (before he visits the Prince Regent – take that, Prinny!) and feels sorry for him.
Kell paused. There was nothing more, save a signature. King George wrung his hands.
“Is that all it says?” he asked.
Kell hesitated. “No,” he said, folding the letter. “That’s only the beginning.”
He cleared his throat and began to pace as he pulled his thoughts together and put them into the queen’s voice. “Thank you for asking after our family, she says. The King and I are well. Prince Rhy, on the other hand, continues to impress and infuriate in equal measure, but has at least gone the month without breaking his neck or taking an unsuitable bride. Thanks be to Kell alone for keeping him from doing either, or both.”
V. E. Schwab was a smart, smart lady to start the book with this scene, I’m just saying. From the moment he was as kind as he could be to a lonely, aging king, I was devoted to Kell. I’m still devoted to Kell.
Kell is amazing.
Nancy: Oliver Twist
The desert: The Blue Sword
I’ve never read a Willa Cather book, but I’ve heard it said the land itself is a huge part of her stories, almost the protagonist. And that makes me want to read one someday. Besides, recently, All the Crooked Saints (and, come to think of it, The Scorpio Races too…Maggie Stiefvater gets it), I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where the land itself has as much…character, as much hold on people, as it does in real life. (Maybe The Home Ranch does, a little? Maybe that’s why I like it so much.)
But maybe I have. Maybe that’s The Blue Sword. In one of the beginning chapters, Harry had a conversation with the nice old colonel man. Most of the soldiers stationed at this fort complained about the heat and monotony of the desert and couldn’t wait to be transferred to a more topographically interesting post. But the colonel loved the desert. He didn’t want to leave. He’d fallen reluctantly in love with the very bleakness and bareness and harshness and red-yellow sand of it. And Harry was the same. Not that she didn’t miss her old wooded home – but the desert had got ahold of her, some way, without her suspecting.
That was when I started grinning ear to ear because I just knew it was going to be a wonderful book. (Which it wasn’t. But for the moment I was thrilled.) A book that understood how deeply some people’s feet have sunk in their soil, how home is more than people and even a little more than family – it’s roots you put down into the very bedrock of a place, twined with the roots of everything in that place, un-pull-up-able, always reaching out to touch the untouchable center, the elusive heart. Of…of this place. This land.
I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I felt like the book almost managed to explain it, and I still cherish some really amicable feelings toward it (despite my disappointments with, like, every other aspect of it) because of that.
Alrighty, that’s all the positivity I can muster. What are your opinions on these books and these elements? What are books you’ve read where you really like one element, but the book overall is a disappointment? Tell me in the comments below! Like and subscribe and don’t forget to hit the notification bell if you want to be notified every time I post a new video!