I was going to write a really thoughtful, intelligent post about the expectations and constraints placed on writers in terms of word counts and what “counts” as a novel…but then I realized I could just squawk about books instead? And this seems like the better option? (I still might get to that other post later, but I make no promises.)
We are more than half way through July. I’ve read four books so far.
And two of them fall into the almost-five-hundred-pages category?
Who am I??
I took care of my friend’s cat while she and her family were out of town, and in between feeding said cat and giving him pets, I managed to STEAL ALL MY FRIEND’S BOOKS. Because what else are friends for? (If you’re reading this, friend, HELLO THERE. You know who you are and I love you).
I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to say “I read two 400+ page books this month!” will be, so I’m carpe-ing the diem and the excuse to talk about books.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts about two stolen, 400+ page fantasy books.
* * *
Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
My Very Informative Summary: It’s Russia (early 1900s, I think), but there is MAGIC, including, but not limited to: a witch, a talking cat, a firebird, an ice dragon, and walking furniture. Elena lives in an impoverished village and Ekaterina is rich, but mistaken identity happens and the two girls end up joining forces with Baba Yaga to save Russia from being too wet.
I’d heard that this book had good writing–the kind of writing where you frequently want to stop and re-read a sentence just because the words are beautiful. To which I said, “YES PLEASE.”
Can we just take a moment to appreciate lines like this?
Sooner or later you realize that everything you experience, especially something like being arrested, is never only about you. Your life story is really about how the hands of history caught you up, played with you, and you with them. History plays for keeps; individuals play for time.
…Peter Petrovich was a kind man and a good one. Yes, a good man, despite his breath, which smelled as if he had inhaled all the animal and human germs he had ever met, and kept samples in the twin cabinets of his lungs.
Ok, I just read back over that one and I guess it’s a little gross–but “the twin cabinets of his lungs”?? COME ON! This is my kind of imagery.
I Am Here For:
- The writing (in case you didn’t get that yet)
- Baba Yaga being the snarkiest ever
- Matryoshka is SO FUN to say. Sometimes I stopped reading just to say it out loud. [Also my grandparents had one when I was growing up and it was my favorite thing ever (it’s one of those dolls that you open up that has another smaller doll inside that it turn opens up, etc.)]
- Elena and Ekaterina being far from perfect (like…not even considering the fact that the other girl might be getting arrested or eaten by a wild animal or something while they’re worrying about their own problems), but eventually becoming real friends
- Not knowing how the narrator fits into the story until halfway through the book
- Baba Yaga being like “I’M GOING TO EAT YOU” …but is she, though?
- Prince Anton joining the protagonists way late and being kind of useless, but he’s so entertained by everything that he’s entertaining
- Baba Yaga referencing things like Cheerios and everyone’s like “…What?”
- Snarky kitten
Not So Here For:
I didn’t have any real complaints with this book, but…
I wasn’t totally satisfied by the ending. It wasn’t bad, but… The thing is, because the book was so long, the post-climax/falling action bit was pretty long. I didn’t realize we were at that point until…until I realized nothing else was going to happen. It sort of felt like when you’re driving and you miss your turn but you don’t realize it until 20 minutes later like, “Oh, wait, was that the climax back there?”
So it wasn’t really an anti-climax. Just a sort of early climax.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My Very Informative Summary: A wealthy merchant hires a teenage boy to break into a high security fortress and steal a prisoner. To accomplish the mission, the teenage boy pulls together a crew of teenagers who alternately steal, commit murder, and talk about waffles.
I think that sums it up.
I’ve been sort of vaguely aware of this book for a while. I wasn’t particularly planning on reading it, but then I saw it on my friend’s bookshelf, and it seemed like a fitting book to steal.
Fairly early on, my sister was like, “Wait, isn’t that a series?”
Me: (knowing absolutely nothing) “A duology. But I’m pretty sure the first book stands on its own. I don’t think it’s a cliffhanger or anything.”
Me a few days later: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”
What a fool I am.
I Am Here For:
- …I mean, do I even need to say it? I just want to watch Kaz Brekker brekking into places
- Gangs and street kids and such. The author said the city was partially inspired by Victorian London which is totally MY JAM
- Inej who is fierce and has been through so much and manages, against all odds, to retain a conscience (rare in this place)
- Jesper just…being Jesper
- Peeps being like, “Help me with this dangerous thing and I’ll buy you waffles”
- Kaz talking to Inej and thinking She is so beautiful and wonderful and the actual best thing in the world, what would I do without her and then what he says out loud is, “I really like…money.”
- Nina always being hungry, because me
- Kaz walking with a limp (especially after reading the acknowledgements and finding out that Leigh Bardugo has osteonecrosis and shares similar symptoms) and using his cane to basically weaponize his vulnerability so he can beat people/emotions and KEEP THEM AWAY
Helvar came up beside him. “Was that really necessary?”
“No.” But it had been–to make sure they were left alone to do what needed to be done, and to remember that he wasn’t helpless.
- And finally, the memes. Most of the books I read are basically nonexistent on Pinterest. This is a whole new world.
Not So Here For:
*flips to first page of essay*
The introduction to Matthias / Nina and Matthias’s relationship really bothered me. My perception at the start of it was:
Nina: “We can never be together because he thinks my life is worse less than a dog and he wants to kill me…but he’s so HANDSOME.”
Matthias: “There’s nothing I want more than to MURDER this CREATURE. I will do it with my bare hands. Ugh, but she’s really gorgeous and I wanna kiss her too.”
And yes, there turned out to be more to their relationship. Before he ended up in prison (where we first meet him), they got to know each other a little and there was betrayal and stuff, but still?? How is this okay?? He literally tries to strangle her. She needs to GET AWAY FROM HIM.
Their relationship improved later on in the book, but the first part kind of spoiled it for me. I get that Matthias was raised in a pretty toxic environment, and the situation is complicated–and by the time I finished the book I didn’t hate him anymore–but please, just no.
Okay, that wasn’t actually that long of an essay.
On a less serious note, the NAMES. There are SO MANY names, and I was LOST for a LONG TIME.
There are six main characters. I can handle that.
But don’t forget all the side characters.
And also, the names of the different countries. The cities within those countries. The districts within those cities. The DISTRICTS WITHIN THOSE DISTRICTS.
AND the names of all the different gangs. The names of the leaders of those different gangs. And don’t forget about keeping track of which GAMBLING HOUSE belongs to WHICH GANG–
I was so lost. They were like, *GASP* “Pekka Rollins!” And I thought they meant Per Haskell??
*frantically flipping back through the pages to figure out who on earth this is*
* * *
That was quite fun. I don’t usually review books (do these count as reviews?? I have no idea??), but maybe I’ll use this format to squawk about more books in the future?
Have you read either of these books? Do you read more long books or short books? What have you been reading recently? Do you have a favorite Six of Crows character (mine is Kaz, in case you couldn’t tell)? Is the second Egg and Spoon quote gross, or is it wonderful? Or is it both? Would you like to read more “reviews” from me in this format? Do tell!