Was Wonder Woman Wonderful?

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Well, *unpopular opinion alert*, no it wasn’t. In fact, if this book had a special ability, I’d say it was in the power to send me to sleep. Before I get into all the reasons why I thought this was super dull, I do want to add that I don’t see this book as a reflection of the author and nor does it affect the respect I have for Bardugo in general.

That said, there was literally nothing I liked about this book. To me, it was a cheap cash grab attempt to jump on the superhero bandwagon. It was sadly a waste of Bardugo’s talent, with writing that was surprisingly lacklustre and missing the author’s usual flair. If it had been any other name slapped on the cover, I wouldn’t have known the difference.

The plot was tremendously predictable, cliché and uninteresting. I wouldn’t say this is thanks to it doing things wrong, it simply doesn’t do much right. There were, happily, some good throwaway lines about Spartan myths just being Athenian propaganda- yet there are better books on Greek myths that are far more engaging. Indeed, there are also far superior superhero stories. A lot of this felt like the 70s Superman movies with constant “what are you?”s- which isn’t a terrible thing in and of itself, it just added to that unoriginal vibe.

Unfortunately this wasn’t helped by the flat, cardboard cut-out characters, who were impossible to connect to. In another instance of trying to milk the reader for all they’re worth, the book feature the stereotypical STRONG women characters. Alas, I’m past the point of being easily sold on the kickass woman + female friendship = banking a pay check formula. It’s simply not enough for me anymore since everyone and their mother is doing it- which maybe we should see as progress, instead of getting mad at me in the comments for not being on board 😉 Frankly, Diana was a stereotypical Mary Sue: impossibly strong and with the only weakness of being too compassionate (which turns out to be her greatest strength *surprise surprise*). Alia was supposed to be smart, yet I never saw any evidence for that and quickly grew bored of her.

And the villain- man, that was in equal parts disappointingly obvious and lousy. Frankly, that was the LAST STRAW for me. Until that “reveal” I was gonna give it 2 bananas, but after that I could only spare…

1/5 bananas

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Evidently that left a lot to be desired- but I wasn’t done with Wonder Woman yet and decided to *finally* watch the movie everyone’s been raving about as the only decent DC film this decade. So how did that measure up?

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Eh- it was okay. Better than the book (though that’s not hard)- but still not anything compared to the Marvel movies (there I said it). To me, it was a poor (wo)man’s Captain America/Thor- though not as good in exploring the concepts of myths and war.

Now believe me, I get that the mythology has to be revamped for the comics, but C’MON the background of this story was Lucifer vs God- this is straight out of the Bible not Greek mythology. Which feels like a waste and meant it failed to bring anything spectacular or *new* to the story.

There were ups and downs to this. The plot was okay, with some emotional moments, but soooo predictable. Gal Godot put in an entertaining performance, the cinematography was especially strong, yet the soundtrack was not utilised properly (it kinda came and went at random intervals). Worst of all, there were I kept joking were “pause for ideological commentary” that ruined the pacing and took me out of the movie.

wonderwomanNone of this was helped by the fact that Wonder Woman Mary Sue had no character arc. Oh, sorry, I can’t see her as an actual character, because, AGAIN SHE IS PERFECT AND HAS NO FLAWS. She’s a little bit of a fish out of water, but in the end, that’s just a surface level issue that doesn’t get in the way. Having her be so overpowered for me removed any tension and meant she had no room for improvement. To be charitable to the story, the mc doesn’t have to have an arc and you could say she inspires the people around her. Except this wasn’t satisfying to me, given the fact some of her mistakes were detrimental and simply brushed under the rug. For instance, *spoilers ahead* when she stops to save a village, she doesn’t care that this interferes with their covert op AND blames everyone else when its blown up anyway, EVEN THOUGH she was the one to make the detour and slow down the mission (also she has no idea how to be a spy). The problem here isn’t that she makes mistakes- it’s that they’re played off as everyone else’s fault (again, Mary Sue can’t have flaws, that’d be sexist!). Plus, even if she’s wrong about who Ares is, it doesn’t matter because she’s basically right in the end. This not only stops her from learning and developing as a character, but also means she’s a terrible teacher figure, and any development of other characters feels unearned. Consequently, when Steve sacrifices himself, it doesn’t feel like it’s because Wonder Woman taught him something. And it also seems illogical that Diana uses that moment as inspiration, since she’s already internalised the idea that humanity is basically good.

Overall, I felt this had some funny aspects and kept me mildly entertained, but I still thought it was massively overrated.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Alright- dare I ask- what do you think of Wonder Woman? Love, hate or meh? Let me know in the comments!

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Getting to the SPIKY Issues in Language of Thorns

 

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Oh boy, I had some pretty barbed thoughts when it came to this book. Well- in a manner of speaking. Because I don’t actually think my views are all that controversial: I liked the stories overall, I thought they were super well written and a lot of them had great characterisation. I even liked how Bardugo used multiple stories as inspiration- that was a sharp idea! Most of all I LOVED the illustration style, all round the page. The artist, Sara Kipin, deserves ALL THE PRAISE. She can have all the bananas she likes from me!

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However, as with many collections, this had weaker tales and I ended up concluding that a few of the overarching themes didn’t sit well (especially in relation to the originals). In order to explain that though, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to get into the spoilery details, so if you don’t want to read those, maybe skip to my rating at the end, cos I’m about to give the play-by-play for each of these stories.

  1. Ayama and the Thorn Wood

Overall, I liked the first tale. The writing was crisp; the narrative structure was tightly wound and slowly unspooled in an intriguing way. I also really enjoyed the stories within stories element- even if I wasn’t totally sold on each of its messaging- like “there are better things than princes”. I mean, yeah, but it feels like a pointed statement about old-school fairy tales and that misses the mark for me. Because this pervasive view throughout is far too simplistic. That’s why- while I liked the aspects of *monsters are not always who you think they are*- this story didn’t totally ring true. And that’s a shame, because it was very close to perfect.

4½/5 bananas

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  1. The Too Clever Fox

I *adored* the personalities in this. I’m a huge fan of characters who live by their wits and the fact that the fox was ugly was a nice touch. The lyrical tone and the writing was splendid from beginning to end. It was complex, felt open to multiple levels of analysis and the ending was very clever in deed. I also liked how it played into the “Russianness” of the setting. It was exactly as it should be.

5/5 bananas

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  1. Witch of Duva

Well, time for some unpopular opinions. I guessed the (rather obvious) twist for this straight away and if you’re at all familiar with a lot of modern story structures then you could too. This was derivative of Hansel and Gretel– only it was clear from the get-go that the monster was the MAN and the heroes were the OLD CRONE and the STEPMOTHER. Wow, never saw that one coming *heavy sarcasm*. Now, while I’ve already mentioned that I liked the things are not as they seem concept, this was the second story in the collection to employ this idea. What makes it dubious storytelling for me is that it’s no fun if you can always guess where things are going because it’s following the formula: man = bad, woman = good. Again, this isn’t a particularly sophisticated reading of the original and only results in an okay-ish retelling (one that overlooks that Gretel is the one to save the day in the fairy tale- but whatever *man wrote it, man bad* and all that grim business). Despite my complaints, I really liked the writing and gave it:

3½/5 bananas

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  1. Little Knife

Again, the writing for this was excellent and I particularly liked how it captured the orality of fairy tales. Sadly, although I didn’t see it coming this time, this falls prey to the same issues as the last story. Some of the lessons are alright; some weren’t. Look, I don’t have a problem with the direction it took with the suitor or father- fairy tales are full of idiots getting what they deserve- BUT why did the protagonist ends up in a sort of purgatory? Sitting alone on a rock in the middle of nowhere till you die is the kind of punishment narratives usually dole out to villains and heroes that have wasted away. It symbolises wasted potential- not a grand victory and certainly not empowerment. The protagonist doesn’t really gain anything- she gets the freedom to sit… and do nothing. Independence isn’t powerful when you end up completely alone. Sure, the dimwit men may have lost her *sparkling* company, yet she’s the real loser here, since she’s lost everything. Unfortunately this left a bitter taste to what was shaping up to be a pretty good course.

3/5 bananas

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  1. The Soldier Prince

Ahh this was better! Straight away, I appreciated how the tone shifted with the “source” of the story (Bardugo bases this around different locations in the Grishaverse and this one takes place in the equivalent of Amsterdam). I worried a little about the downward trajectory of the stories- especially since this starts with a stereotypically evil male villain who feels like they’ve owed a bride- one that happens to be a young child (eww). Nonetheless, I was wrong to judge it on that score (though can you blame me?) and this helped me go back to judging each story on their own merits. In fact, this ended up surprising me in more ways than one. I know I’ve spoilt everything by now- but somehow I don’t want to taint this one- because I adored the final turn! Easily:

5/5 bananas

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  1. When Water Sang Fire

I’d describe this as the Ugly Duckling meets Little Mermaid (three guesses where this is supposed to be set 😉 ). Once more, there was a different style employed- notably a brilliant use of second person that created a striking opening! This was one of the best in the collection for me- and there’s stiff competition! There were a couple of unique touches here as well- particularly the use of magic changing the colour of the pages and resetting the illustrations to be drawn anew. That detail blew me away. And, naturally, I loved the twist in the tale.

5/5 bananas

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Alrighty then- as you can tell I had a mixed experience with this. I really liked a huge amount of this- yet what I didn’t like sometimes got in the way of perfectly good storytelling. It was a shame, because I felt like this collection could have been completely magnificent. Fairy tales are constantly evolving- that’s one of the things I love about them- yet I’ve got to admit I’m a little tired of newer interpretations bitch-slapping older ones. Often to the detriment of the incredible historical heroines who overcome hardship without becoming hermits. There’s a core to the old stories that keep us coming back- warnings and wisdom and endless complexities. And this just wasn’t quite there.

Anyway, my average still ended up being:

4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? And do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here? Let me know in the comments!

Unfolding My Feelings For Crooked Kingdom

crooked kingdom….as much as that is possible to do. Because I swear this series had my emotions in a vice. Honestly I was nervous to even start, but I needn’t have feared because this book was hella entertaining. It was as twisty as Inej on a tightrope, as funny as Jesper’s banter, as smart as Kaz… you get the idea- it was fantastic.

I fell straight back into the world and the story and the characters. And then, right when it had me in the palm of its hand, it crushed all the spirits it had previously raised so high. Don’t worry, no spoilers, but somehow Bardugo managed to simultaneously incinerate my heart, and then stoke what remained over a deliciously warm campfire, until I melted in a puddle of marshmellowy gooey goodness (can you tell I’m getting ready for bonfire night?) To say this ending was bittersweet would be an understatement. But whatever my feelings were about it: it was glorious.

There are so many levels to enjoy this series on: adventure, romance, friendship, darkness, characterisation. I feel like it has something for everyone. But speaking of characters, I have to state the obvious: I was head over heels for them. Plus, it even had a couple of great cameos from the other Grisha series- though I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who it was for anyone planning on reading it 😉

And oh my goodness the writing! I rarely stop reading to write down quotes- but this was too damn good. “Knife edge posture”- *shivers*! Perfectly fabricated, it injected so much life into the characters and the story. I also loved the use of slang like “the deal’s the deal” to make the world feel so much more real.

Okay, clearly I could sing this book’s praises forever, so I’m gonna leave it there, with the very obvious final rating of:

5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Six of Crows Made My Heart Fly!

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If there is a single word I could use to describe this book it would be: faultless. I devoured this book in one sitting and didn’t take much in the way of notes- so if this review is in any way lacking- take that as a testament to how good this book was!! It was, in fact, too good for me to be proper book blogger right now, so I’m just gonna have to insert some totally deserved squeals:

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Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about why I loved this book. The most obvious thing to talk about first is the characters. AHHH the characters (yeah I’m not totally done screaming yet…). I cannot express how stonkingly ridiculously brilliant they were. This was a book full of anti-heroes (two of my favourite things right there: book + anti-heroes = happy orangutan). Not only that, but it managed to do a slow reveal of their backstories *whilst* simultaneously leaving me wanting more for book 2.

And this was not the only way this book managed to satisfy me and whet my appetite at the same time. The story itself built to a perfect crescendo and just when I thought it was all tied together nicely- BAM! It threw me under the bus and went *I’m not done with you yet*.

Every twist and turn led me somewhere I didn’t expect- but more incredibly, it led me back to the world of the Grisha and made me love it *so much more*. It’s no secret that I was on the fence about the original series- BUT BOY OH BOY- the world and story here gave me a whole new level of appreciation for Bargugo’s writing.

Because it was soooo good. Everything so well thought out. From chapter to chapter, scene to scene, Bardugo passed  the buck of the story so that it flowed like a perfectly executed relay. Where one moment left off another began- it never gave me the chance to catch my breath.

Add to that some subtle messages and growth as the characters learn about hatred of the “other” and all I can say is this book made my heart soar!

Rating: 5/5 bananas (duh!)

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Okay, so this was much less a review and more shameless gush. But I can’t help it with this one! Right now I’ve lent my copy to my sister, saying “if you don’t love this there’s something wrong with you” and am waiting for a good moment to crack open the next one!

So have you read this? Are you planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments!

For the Crooked Kingdom review, click here.