Gaiman has always been hit or miss for me. Some of his books I love, some I don’t care for, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Neverwhere, outside of the fact that there’s something deeply satisfying about holding the illustrated version—something about thick little hardcovers is just the best feeling. Anyway, Neverwhere is a not subtle in its message: the homeless are invisible to those who want to pretend the “problem” doesn’t exist—but make it magic that has a very Tim Burton feel, because this is Gaiman, after all. When Richard sees one of those who have fallen through the cracks—a citizen of London Below—and proceeds to help her, it sets off a chain of events that plunges him into London Below and makes him just as invisible to London Above, and his old life, as the rest of the characters in this novel. In which there a lot, all of which are unique and magical and so beautifully distinct from each other. I even loved Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup who are unequivocally terrible people, but they are written in such a creative way that I couldn’t help but love them just as much as Richard and our heroine Door, with her opal-colored eyes.
Don’t you just hate when a book synopsis lies to you? Because this one lied HARD. And, normally, I wouldn’t even bother giving a rating or a review for a book I DNF’d simply because I can’t speak to the story in its entirety, but I do make the occasional exception. The Windup Girl being one of those exceptions. This book should have been excellent, you would assume it was, given all the praise and awards this debut garnered when it was published in 2009 for its biopunk look at our future. When the climate has changed, the oil run out, and bio-terrorism has destroyed the food to where only manufactured food (think hardcore GMO’s) survives. But, instead, this book is full of harmful stereotypes and still leans on this idea that Western colonialism is what the world needs in this, supposedly, far future setting.
“The Last Witch” follows Lilly Hooper as she steps into a new world—out of her uncle’s basement and into a mansion with other witches. Told she is a monster all her life, beaten and abused in quite literally every way imaginable, Lilly is discovering that the magic in her veins is limitless, and she hasn’t even learned all the powers there are yet. But with great power come lots of men who want to use that power—and her—in order to further their own goals: one wants to return magic to the world while the other wants to eradicate it completely and destroy those who would have magic if it did return in force—and neither is the good guy. Caught between these opposing sides, Lilly also finds love and friendship, and even has her very first Christmas that she can remember. Which all sounds great, honestly! So, what was my problem with this book when the premise sounds so promising? The stereotypical shallowness of the characters, and the overly gratuitous nature of the violence, to be frank.
If you’ve read or heard or even watched anything even remotely centered around Alice in Wonderland, then you’ll understand “Queen of Hearts” which is a Wonderland retelling, but focused on the future Queen of Hearts, and without an Alice. The twist the author gives her version of Wonderland is truly stunning, it sounds like a beautiful and terrifying land all at once. I also really enjoyed the twist she gave to familiar elements of Wonderland: The Cards aren’t actual cards, but different ranks and classifications for soldiers. Cheshire is a conniving, manipulative advisor to the King instead of a cat, the Mad Hatter is the main character’s (Dinah) troubled brother who does love making some pretty lovely hats, and while there is no white rabbit, we all know Dinah’s tutor is the little rabbit always afraid of being late. Unfortunately, that about sums up the things I really liked about this novel.
“Laura and the Shadow King” sounds far more ominous than the story actually is: “Shadow” is the name of an elite force of military operatives, and “King” is the nickname of the man in charge of shadow—J.J. Berger. In J. J’s world, a rampant disease has swept through civilization, turning people into a type of zombie, where they devolve into cannibalistic animals, and one bite will infect and turn a person into one of them. Governments have collapsed and the only people in charge are groups of militia, military units, and gangs. It’s a fairly familiar storyline, but the one thing that makes it unique is Laura and her mother, and their role in this new world. Unfortunately, I found the writing style to be the biggest determent in my enjoyment of the novel.
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