Monday, September 27, 2010

Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire

2005, 352 pages.
Sequel of “Wicked”.

*** SPOILER ALERT: contains spoilers to the previous book “Wicked” ****

“Wicked” is one of my favorite books ever. Very few heroines touched my heart like Elphaba. Unfortunately, Elphaba died at the end of the book. I wasn’t too compelled to go on to the next book in “The Wicked Years”, “Son of a Witch”, because I knew Elphaba wasn’t there, but I decided to read it anyway, hoping she will at least be mentioned, or appear in memories and recollections (kind of desperate, I know…).
This book focuses in Liir, who could be Elphaba’s son – nobody really know. The book starts about a decade after the end of the previous book and the death of Elphaba. Liir is found bitten, unconscious, almost dead, and taken into a Maunt, where he is treated. From here the story go back to his memories from the death of his – maybe – mother to the present. We learn how Liir tries to find his place in life, and what had become of Oz during this time. We meet some of the characters of the previous book, like Glinda, and we get to know Dorothy and her companions a little better.
The book is called “Son of a Witch”, though Liir (and the reader) does not know if that is true. But Liir finds out that he can have a saying in this issue – he can choose to be the son of Elphaba, the rebel, the only one who dared to defy the Wizard and what he did to the Animals in the previous book. He has to make that decision and make up his mind if he want to be her son, no matter if they share a DNA or not, or if he wants to run away from her legacy and memory – memories that are not necessarily pleasant, since Elphaba wasn’t the example of a maybe-mom – or find himself, what he really is, not as a son or not-a-son of somebody else. Liir goes through a big change in the book.
I didn’t like the Liir at the beginning of the book, and I didn’t enjoy the first half. After about half a book I was much more interested in what is happening and what Liir is going through. All in all I enjoyed the book, though it took a while to get caught by it. It has all the good things I loved about “Wicked” – the witty and shrewd writing, the words play, the moral discussions, the analogy to our reality of this fantasy world, the cynical use of war and suspicion by the rulers. What I didn’t have is a captivating main character as Elphaba that made Wicked to what it is. I am still glad I read it after all. I also guessed the end, but still liked it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

2010, 390 pages
The third and final book of “The Hunger Games” trilogy.

*** Spoiler Alert: contains spoilers to the first two books in the trilogy: “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” ***

Unlike the first book, which ended in a relatively closed manner, the second book had a cliff-hanger ending. I am glad I didn’t read the second book until the third book was available.
So many surprises at the last pages of the second book. Katniss was rescued from her second hunger game by the rebels in district 13 that do exist, apparently. Peeta was taken captive by the Capitol. District 12 is gone. Completely destroyed by the Capitol. The few survivors, including Gale and Katniss’ mother and sister, join the rebels of district 13.
It seems like the third book is very different than the previous two books. The first books were all centered on the first and second hunger games, and took place in district 12, the Capitol and the arena. Now we are in district 13, and the big event isn’t the hunger game, but the rebellion, and the war against the Capitol, led by the leaders of district 13, hoping to get all the other districts to their side, with the help of Katniss, the mockingjay, the hunger game winner who defied the capitol. But is it really different? Isn’t Katniss again a pawn in the hands of people who have their own agenda?
Katniss has to get used to the life in district 13, get over her guilt over leaving Peeta behind, and decide if and how to take part of the rebellion.
I didn’t find this book as captivating as the previous two. I didn’t have this urge to know what happens next and I didn’t have a problem to leave the book. The story is less centered, more scattered. I didn’t like at all some of the events in this book. I am still happy I read it and know how the story ends. I liked what the author tried to lead her characters and readers into, but I didn’t always feel it was done in a very convincing way. I still liked the direction and the main theme of the book. I have no doubt that anyone who read the second book will not stay handing on the cliff and read this book to know what happens eventually.
All in all it is a good trilogy that worth reading, even though the first two books are better than the last one.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

2009, 391 pages
Second book of “The Hunger Games” trilogy.

*** Spoiler Alert: contains spoilers to the first book in the trilogy “The Hunger Games” ***

This book starts a short time after the end of the previous book, “The Hunger Games”. Against all odds, after tricking the Capitol, both Katniss and Peeta won the hunger game. We could think they reached the “happily ever after”. They are alive. Their families will never suffer hunger again, as long as they live. With only the small problem of how to handle Peeta’s surprising love and the long-time friendship with Gale, seems like Katniss will not have any serious problems. But of course, if that were the case, we wouldn’t have two consequent books…
All Katniss wanted was to somehow survive the game, and then go back to her family and get off the Capitol’s radar. But it turns out that as a Victor, a winner of the hunger game, she cannot do that. First she and Peeta have to do the winner’s tour in all the districts and the capitol. Then, every year, she’ll have to play as the mentor of the tributes, at least until there will be enough Victors to choose mentors from.
If that’s not enough, the Capital’s president, Snow, is furious at Katniss, as we found out at the end of the previous book. The whole idea of the hunger game is to show the districts that they are weak, that the Capitol can do whatever it likes to them and to their most precious treasure, their kids, and there’s nothing they can do about it, so that they will never think of rebelling again. But Katniss did just that, she tricked the game makers with the poisoned berries to let both her and Peeta live and win the game. She did it on live TV in front of all of Panem. And it is very dangerous for the capital.
Katniss has to handle her new position in district 12, the rivalry between Gale and Peeta over her, her duties as a Victor, and convince Snow that she is fully cooperative with him, because she knows he can hurt her, and hurt her bad.
The book is again very captivating, hard to put down throughout the whole book. I always had to know what happens next. It is a little harsher than the previous one.
Katniss was a little annoying, reminded me of Bella from twilight with her self-sacrifice determination and self guilt over things she did out of self sacrifice and taking care of others before herself. She is not my favorite character in the story. I still enjoyed the book a lot. I think everyone who enjoyed the first book will enjoy this one as well.