This book made my head hurt. This review is pretty darned long and complainy, I'm sorry. But I think some things need to be said.
Okay. Now that that's out, you know this won't be a positive, glowing review. Either prepare yourself for really sharp negativity, or stay away from this review - if you're a fan of this series/book, I don't want to hurt your feelings.
This book is way too long. The first twenty or so pages were spent rehashing everything that happened in the last book, and not in a smooth or intelligent way - I spent the entire beginning listening to Kaylin's notes to herself. For instance, the author's way of telling me that Kaylin stayed at a Barrani inn and put on a magic dress was to have Kaylin think, "Don't ever stay at a Barrani inn and put on a magic dress."
The entire story of the previous book was told, over roughly twenty pages, with sentences like that. Ugh. It was possibly the sloppiest and most annoying way of beginning a sequel that I've ever seen.
As I sometimes do with books I strongly dislike, I'm going to use some of my status updates to get my point across. Here we go:
When the first twenty pages are a huge supposed-to-be-funny note-to-self that's all in Kaylin's head, and mostly her just whining about how awful her leave has been, you know things aren't good . . . it seems like a really clumsy way to remind the reader of what happened in the last book.
And after that, the book stopped being even annoyingly original and went right back to the Elantra formula - lots of wandering around, whining and complaining and talking, Kaylin trying to be funny, pointless drawn-out dream sequences, Kaylin asking questions that shouldn't even have been in her head, Kaylin getting bitten by her dragon, people giving cryptic answers, more wandering around, more whining and complaining, Kaylin trying to be funny, asking questions out of the blue without reason or motivation, trying to be funny, whining and complaining, getting bitten by her dragon, etc.
I swear, all these books are the same.
I get that sticking with a formula can make your fans feel at ease, feel easily at home, et cetera. But it wouldn't hurt to show them something new now and again, would it? Yes? No? Maybe?
I honestly only read the series this far because I love Nightshade to pieces. He's awesome. But you know what? He was hardly in this book at all, and I didn't get to see his castle or his magic sword or really any of his best powers/abilities/whatever. He was sorely neglected.
So was Severn, actually. Severn has never been my favorite, but he's a good character, and half the time in this book I felt like the author had forgotten he was around. For instance:
On page 155, Kaylin touches Nightshade's mind, and Lirienne's, and Ynpharion's - but not Severn's. I thought she was worried about Severn? Just because she seems to forget for long periods of time that he even exists, doesn't mean she's not worried about him, right? And I know she can speak telepathically with him, she's done it before.
She also asked all these guys if Severn was okay, at one point. You know - instead of asking Severn if he was okay, or trying to telepathically communicate with him in any way to reassure herself of his safety, she goes around and asks everyone else if he's all right. Because that makes perfect sense.
I think the author literally forgot that Kaylin can speak telepathically with Severn.
Oh, and then there's Teela. Precious Teela, who hasn't been cool since the first or second book in the series. This is Teela's book, and half its pages were spent trying to make me feel sorry for Teela because some friends that she had hundreds or thousands of years ago aren't around anymore. Because Teela doesn't like her life as it is now, even though she practically has the world on a platter. Because Teela's modern-day friends are inferior to her old friends, and woe is she because she can't talk to them or hang out with them anymore.
Blegh. Teela's life is great, okay? She has everything she could want - wealth, status, talent, family, friends, a job she's good at. And she spent the whole book moping around because she was separated from her buddies thousands of years ago - or worse, being angry and violent because she was upset about it.
And Kaylin. I think I was supposed to feel sorry for Kaylin, too? She kept talking about her own self-loathing and how much she hates herself and how much her self-loathing keeps her up at night and how much she wishes etc.
When Kaylin would start whining about her precious self-loathing, I'd just think of Sirius Black or Kelsier or Gilbert Nightray, and compare her to them. Sirius and Kelsier and Gil all made a ton of mistakes. They knew it, hated it, but dealt with it and didn't keep ranting about their horrible self-loathing for books on end. And you know the best part? While I read Harry Potter or Mistborn or Pandora Hearts, I can actually feel what these guys are talking about. The authors show me what they think, let me catch a glimpse of their feelings without shoving it down my throat. And the past makes them who they are. Without it, they wouldn't be anything like the guys I know and adore. They wouldn't have personality without their past.
Kaylin doesn't do this. She hasn't changed since Book 1. She's still whining and complaining about the same stuff, trying to hit me over the head with the same cheap sense of humor, and worst of all, she talks about feeling this and feeling that because of stuff that's happened in her past, but I see no signs of her actually feeling any of it. Her past doesn't seem to have any bearing on who she is right now. Not her past since the first book, and not her past before that, either. She just kind of.....exists the way she is, never changing, never growing or evolving, and I just never get the sense that she lived through all the horrible stuff she says she did.
I could keep complaining about Kaylin forever, but I need to end this review in a semi-timely manner, so I'll move on. Let me complain about the writing style, and since I'm still loosely on the subject of self-loathing, I'll bring up another of my status updates. It's pretty long, so I'm hiding it under the spoiler tag. No actual spoilers though, so don't worry:
Been bored for hours. So what do I do? I make fun of poor books who can't defend themselves (well this one's giving me headaches so it deserves it) I mean, I post status updates that have been waiting for me to write them for, oh.....weeks, actually. *hangs head guiltily*
Oh, and I'm splitting up these posts, because otherwise it'd be a loooooooooong post indeed. I never know when to shut up. You've probably noticed.
Anyway. Let me look through my notes. *looks through notes*
On page 16-ish, look what I found! Kaylin is sensing another dude's emotions because she knows his True Name. Look how it was described:
....His rage was a constant battery.
She could have lived with the rage, the loathing, the disgust. It was the fear she found hard. He was afraid--of Kaylin. He was afraid of a mortal. The fear fed into his self-loathing. It was a downward spiral of ugliness.
She wasn't spared his descent.
Kaylin had no trouble finding hidden depths of self-loathing and disgust on bad days She didn't really need to bear the brunt of Ynpharion's, as well.
That last paragraph is her talking about her own self-loathing, not his, by the way. And let's see, in roughly three paragraphs we have the word "rage" written down twice in a row. We have "loathing" written down twice, and "afraid", and "fear", and "self-loathing". TWICE EACH, OKAY? Whyyyy? Get a bigger vocabulary, or else say what you have to say more quickly, so you can get it over with before you repeat yourself like this. Ugh.
Also, they aren't hidden depths of self-loathing if you have "no trouble" finding them. Right?
.........Oh. Look, on page 23! See what else I found!
He was instantly aware of her, but for the first time since the Lord of the West March had led this wilderness trek, his loathing and fury were directed at something other than Kaylin.
Wow, this guy really needs to get a new tune.....
Aaaand on page 103:
But she wouldn't see rage, self-loathing, the desire to lash out and break everything in sight......
......She couldn't see her certain sense that if it were not for her, both girls would still be alive. There was no self-loathing.
I omitted some of the stuff in between those, obviously, but those lines are in two adjacent paragraphs. Again.
And hey, on page 116 (are you surprised yet?) here we go again:
In the Barrani, fear, anger, and loathing were all expressed with shades of darker blue.
I AM SO TIRED OF SEEING THAT WORD I CAN'T EVEN-
On page 216, here we are:
.....Teela, like the rest of the Barrani, had a loathing of healers that skirted the edge of murderous rage.
Just to spite me, they threw the word "rage" next to it again. Ahaha. Haha. Ha.
His anger, his sense of self-loathing, was still present, but so vastly diminished Kaylin thought there was an actual chance she might be able to ignore it one day.
THERE IS NO CHANCE. YOU'RE WRONG. Seriously, every time the guy appears in this book, I get thumped over the head with his self-loathing again. Ugh.
On page 311:
There would be no paralyzing, self-destructive guilt, no self-loathing, no loss.
Oh, really? Is this an advertisement for the next book? Like "Hey, we know all the self-loathing gave you a migraine in this book, so we promise that the sequel won't have any! Aren't you excited?!"
Uh, no. Actually not. Sorry.
....Um, well, since I've noticed an overuse of the word "rage" in this book too, I was going to put those instances, but actually it's put down about a hundred times, so I'd better not. Let's just say I'm sick of seeing that one, too......
Complaining rant update over. Finally.
Have you read this whole ranting review this far? Wow, I don't know whether to hug you or run in terror. I think I'll give you cookies instead.
Hm. I want some cookies now. But moving on, I'm not quite done yet. I think I'll complain about the writing style next - I never did like the writing style, but in this book it's just ridiculously bad.
My first complain has always been the italics. Sagara uses so many italics it makes my head hurt, and always in the wrong places. Someone should take the italics keys away from her, because if you took a drink of water every time you saw something italicized in these books, you'd drown in about three chapters.
Next, more status updates! These'll hopefully explain part of why I hate the writing in this book.
On page 30, look at the similarities between these two descriptions:
.....Her shaking arms fell, as if they weighed too much to be lifted. But they stopped at the height of her heart, palms open again, and waiting.
......The Consort trembled for one immobile moment before she steadied herself and opened her eyes. Her eyes were Barrani-blue. Her arms were trembling, but she held them before her, palms once again empty and open.
Just no. And also, if you're trembling for a moment, it means that THE MOMENT IS NOT IMMOBILE. Because trembling is a subtle type of movement, right? You can't be immobile and tremble at the same time, it's a direct contradiction.
On page 69, the narrative feels the need to remind us that we should feel sorry for poor Kaylin the human. Again.
She froze. She was accustomed to being the butt of several jokes; she was even accustomed to condescension. Respect, when it was offered, made her ill at ease.
First, she's a low-ranking cop surrounded by immortal, graceful magical beings. Of course she's going to be condescended to, and not just by the nobles in this particular scene. And second, she's a Lord of the High Court, and she has been for seven books (I think). This means that the Barrani have been showing her respect for seven books, and yet I'm supposed to believe that she still freezes when one of them bows to her?
Especially since she's wearing a revered magical dress and she's an important figure in an upcoming ceremony. Personally, I'd only think it was weird if they didn't show her some respect.
Oh, wait. I guess Kaylin hasn't grown or evolved since the first book, so okay, maybe she'd still feel exactly as she did back then. But seriously, book, don't remind me that she hasn't grown. It's not going to help your rating.
On page 71, someone was trying to tell Kaylin that she'd better watch out for herself, because the Barrani play dangerous games.
"It may not be a game of which you will disapprove. Do not needlessly antagonize him."
I think he meant to say that it WOULD be a game she'd disapprove of. Or maybe that it wouldn't be a game she'd approve of. Either way, it's backwards and has the opposite meaning of what I think he was trying to say.
On page 72, when the Consort is sick, Kaylin doesn't want to "discuss the Consort's health in front of total strangers." Let me point out that she doesn't have to, since she can speak to half the characters in the book - Lirienne, Nightshade, Severn, a couple of others whose names I forget - using telepathy. Strangers can't overhear your thoughts, can they, Kaylin?
And why does Sagara use the word "dress" every single time? Why not shake it up a little and call it a gown or something? I'm so tired of hearing about "dress this" and "dress that". Not only is the dress mentioned WAAAAY too often, but it's always referred to with the same word! Grrr.
On page 107, when Kaylin is carrying around big 3D magic runes, I've got this:
The runes in her hands, had they been alive, would be agitated and panicked; they'd probably be screaming. She wondered if those screams would be laden with fear or joy, which was an odd thought.
I'll say it's an odd thought. What the heck was that paragraph doing in this book?
Kaylin's jaw would have hit floor if it hadn't been attached to the rest of her face.
Just . . . why? Of course it would hit the floor if I ripped it off her face, right? Gravity does that. Her eyeballs would also hit the floor if they weren't attached to the rest of her face, and her nose, and her ears, etc. (And yes, it says "hit floor" in the book. Not "hit the floor".)
On page 123, there's a hole in Kaylin's dress where a shard of ice pierced it. Apparently that hole matches a shard of ice in size and shape.
Let me point out that the size and shape of the ice shard were never specified, and even if they were, something being the size and shape of a shard of ice DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING. Is it as big as an iceberg, or as tiny as a snowflake? Somewhere in between? Yes, no, maybe? Help me out here.
On page 125:
She didn't entirely understand the Consort, but she understood her expression: she was in charge, at the moment, and she was Not Pleased.
Nice capitalization there. What are you, nine?
On page 134, Teela, who is immortal, feels the need to remind us again that Barrani aren't human - or something. I'm actually not sure what she was doing:
"Don't frown like that--your face will get stuck that way. Immortal faces don't."
I don't have the faintest clue why she would throw on that last sentence. It has nothing to do with Kaylin's face, since Kaylin isn't immortal, and it has nothing to do with Teela's face either, since she wasn't frowning.
The small dragon's claws did their usual attempt to burrow.
I have to read about how the cat-sized dragon on Kaylin's shoulder is cutting her up and biting her ears and strangling her with his tail and beating her with his wings ALL THE TIME. I mean five or ten times a page. Not only am I sick of the repetition, but I don't think it's funny. Also, after Kaylin was told that the world might end if she gets blood on the magic dress, why wouldn't she stop the dragon from abusing her like this? Oh, and despite the fact that she gets her ears bitten and her shoulders clawed up every third paragraph, apparently she never bleeds. Because if she did, there'd be blood on the dress and that = end of the world, right?
Stupid dragon. Not many dragons have ever annoyed me this much.
(I mean, even a cat-scratch will bleed. I'd think a dragon-scratch would bleed more. Especially since later in the book, Sagara goes out of her way to point out that the dragon bit her gently enough to not break the skin......Which means that all those times she didn't say he was biting her gently, he actually was? Or was he biting and clawing her hard enough to make her bleed, which made this one particular gentle bite noteworthy?
It defeats the purpose of mentioning it once, if it was always like that. And if it wasn't like that, Kaylin obviously would've bled on the dress and caused the end of the world, so.....yeah.)
On page 148, Kaylin apparently develops X-ray vision, because she says she can see a wall "through Barrani back" when one of her guards jumps in front of her to keep her safe.
On page 154, Lirienne feels the sudden urge to call Kaylin kyuthe, (like family), because if he didn't, we wouldn't know that it was him speaking to her. This book doesn't often add little things like "he said" or "she said" where they'd be useful, so instead of putting "Lirienne said this", we get him speaking OOC so that we know it's him speaking in the first place. Way to go, book.
On page 156, we get this:
There were a lot of roots. As she'd spent a week stubbing her toes or tripping over smaller versions of the same, she recognized them.
What, Kaylin, you wouldn't recognize tree roots unless you tripped over a thousand of them first?
Someone needs to buy this girl some brains. Really.
On page 163, we find out that the Consort only has eyelashes on one eye:
She closed her eyes, her lashes a dark, trembling fan against her pale skin.
Only one fan. Singular. Wow. And I always imagined that the Consort had eyelashes on both eyes.
She didn't pause to see the effect of his breath, because big, huge, and ugly had pretty much crushed the obstructing remnants of the doors, and he was way too close for comfort.
Seriously? "Big, huge, and ugly"? What are we, six years old?
She prodded Iberienne with her very booted foot.
Yeah, because we can't forget that it's a very booted foot. As opposed to a regularly booted foot.
That type of humor stopped being funny when I was a little kid. And this series is still doing it. Doesn't it ever grow up? Evolve? Improve? Accidentally do something different?
Teela gave her A Look.
Please, no. Not the babyish capitalization again.....
"Why do you still expect things to make sense?"
Ahaha. That's an actual quote from the book. Kind of feels like it's mocking me.
"You stupid human, mwahahaha! The first book in this series didn't make sense, and every book since then has made less and less sense! Mwahahahahahaaaa!!! Yet you still read them! You're on Book 9! MWAHAHAHAHAAHAA! STUPID STUPID HUMAN!!!!! I'VE GOT YOU NOW!!!! MWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!"
He wasn't skipping - that would have been enough to assure Kaylin she was dreaming - but he was practically beaming.
No one said anything about him skipping, Kaylin, so why would you bring it up? If he was skipping, I suppose you could tell me about it, but don't randomly tell me when a person is not doing something. Is Severn not shoveling mouthfuls of green cake? Is Nightshade not slicing off his right hand with a glowing dagger? Is Lirienne not standing on his head? Is Ynpharion not singing opera?
Of course they aren't; that would be silly. There's no reason to mention it. So don't tell me about how Iberienne isn't skipping, either.
But hey, you've probably noticed by now that this review is really, really long, huh? Want some more cookies?
Okay, I'm almost done. Promise. Just let me reconstruct a few of Sagara's sentences for you.
He glanced, once, at Kaylin, and grinned.
Now, I personally would like to see those interrupting commas gone. They're all over the book, and they drive me insane. They break up the flow of the narrative so badly I frequently have to stop mid-sentence and reread what's going on. So I'm going to reform some of those poor, butchered sentences. I'll put mine in bold and hers in italics.
He glanced at Kaylin once and grinned.
The implication was clear: neither, at the moment, did Alsanis.
The implication was clear: at the moment, neither did Alsanis.
The ground beneath her feet was, in fact, becoming solid and uniform.
In fact, the ground beneath her feet was becoming solid and uniform.
She realized, with a start, that there were no walls......
With a start, she realized that there were no walls......
She understood, as Nightshade continued to speak, that she was the end-point.
As Nightshade continued to speak, she understood that she was the end-point.
She couldn't, she realized, see them as wings at all......
She realized she couldn't see them as wings at all.......
They were, Nightshade told her, words meant for these worlds.
Nightshade told her they were words meant for these worlds.
See, it's not hard to get rid of commas. Sagara should try it sometime. It's even kind of fun.
So, moving on. Let me point out that the only thing they ever do in these books is tell stories, sing songs, and throw around magic words. Seriously. If there's a monster attacking, throw some words at it! If there's a comatose patient, sing to her! If the world is about to self-destruct, tell it a story! If someone's lost in another dimension, throw some giant glowing runes around!
Everything always turns out fine. No one in these books ever dies, and as long as there are stories, songs and runes around, the world will be safe forever.
Oh, and the climax of this book, as always, was a lot of cryptic babbling and psychological/analytical mumbling on the author's part. None of it matters and very little of it makes sense - it's like the book just loves the sound of its own voice, so it rambles on and on and on for ever hoping it'll eventually spit out something worth reading.
One star for this headache of a book, and I'm officially done with the series. I'm sorry, Nightshade, but I read nine increasingly bad books just for you - I have to draw the line somewhere.
Speaking of drawing lines, I'd better shut up now. This might be the longest review ever. Whoops.
But look, cookies! And kittens! Yay!