I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost, “Acquainted with the night”

Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Hearing The Queen of the Tearling called “female” Game of Thrones makes me think of this:

George R. R. Martin women momentQuestioning the judgment of journalists from Variety, Figaro and a number of other media websites has never been this easy… Have they really been watching the same show and reading the same books? They probably didn’t do either.

There is no denying that George R.R. Martin created some of the strongest female characters out there. Arya, Daenaris,Cersei, Sansa, Melissadre, Bryenne, Margaery, even now deceased mamma Stark…. Mothers, sisters, wives – ladies run the show. While they may not be the most moral of role models, with all the lies, manipulations and murder sprees that surround  them, the suggestion that Game of Thrones is a guy oriented book/TV series is plain wrong. The Queen of the Tearling is branded a “female” Game of Thrones stems from the fact that Erika Johansen’s debut novel happens to have a strong-willed young woman for a lead. She’s also happens to live in a brutal, somewhat medieval post-apocalyptic world that has elements of magic about it. This is where the similarities end. The non-existent similarities with the Hunger Games series do not even deserve a discussion…

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Kelsea grew up in isolation, taught to be just and fair, but unprepared for the true dangers and responsibilities that the crown bears and completely unaware of the real life of her kingdom under the rule of her evil (and weak) regent uncle. At 19, as the custom goes, Kelsea is supposed to take over the throne and the Queen’s Guard comes to find her to take her to the capital.

Queen Elyssa, Kelsea’s mother, was beautiful, vain and well… passively evil. When, years ago, the neighboring kingdom ruled by the Red Queen, invaded Tearling, Elyssa forged a peace treaty involving monthly human tribute. Men, women and children were picked by a lottery and shipped to face their fate in iron cages. First thing Kelsea does when she arrives to New London is free the prisoners unlucky souls, triggering adoration from the common folk and dangerous scheming from the corrupt noblemen and officials. She also lays ground for another war.

The writing style is engaging, but somewhat unexceptional for my taste. The character development is one of the strongest assets of The Queen of the Tearling,  however, we do get only small glimpses of the true thoughts and motivations of the the secondary characters. The unique feature of the book is the setting. Three hundred years prior to the described events, William Tear led a group of Europeans to a new, tech-free utopia. The books that still exist are the remnants of the pre-Crossing world, medicine and healing are a lost art… Johansen gives hints of an apocalyptic-like event (at least in my understanding) that led to the exodus, but does not provide sufficient detail. For some books, this could have been a major flaw, in case of the Tearling, the absence of information makes one look forward to the second installment entitled the Invasion of Tearling.

Overall: 4*

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Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

“We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.”

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

 One of the great mysteries of life is why Paper Towns movie happened before Looking for Alaska, because John Green’s Looking for Alaska is an emotional hurricane-of-a-novel.One that claws at your heart and makes it bleed…

Looking for Alaska is a young adult novel, a genre that I try to avoid since the moment I saw the sacrilegious mentions of Harry Potter in reading lists recommending teenage angst. Green is, however, an exception. Some books transcend genre and readership categorization, and Looking for Alaska, I believe is one of them. The man tore my heart to shreds with Fault in Our Stars, and sent me on a real detective adventure looking for Margo. In his debut novel, Green tells the story of the people who shine too brightly to linger in this world for too long, the guilty ones, the ones who search for meaning and understanding, ones who learn and become different.  The after part is devastating and somewhat savage in its beauty.

Overall: 5*