Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: Week 4 (part 2)

Posted on: February 16, 2013

cover image for Curses! Foiled Again!Curses! Foiled Again! by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro

Alas, this was not an improvement on the first book.  On top of the persistent problem of not utilizing the medium properly, the nicely done characterization in the last book has faltered in this second installment.  While Caroline plays a bigger role (yay!), it’s mostly as damsel in distress (boo).  Avery was annoying rather than amusing, don’t even get me started on Aleria’s fencing instructor, and Baba Yaga was more of a McGuffin than someone real (this is what I get for reading this right after watching the Lost Girl  “Babi YiGA!” episode).

cover image for Sisters RedSisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Werewolves are real!  (Only, they’re called Fenris.)  So is little red riding hood, only in this version she’s a teenage were- sorry, Fenris hunter and has been ever since one of the monsters ate her grandmother in a battle that left Scarlett one-eyed and in charge her little sister Rosie – and the Fenris dead as a rug.

This might have been an interesting book.  Instead it was made up of a lot of repetitive conversations and inner dialogs, a twist I figured out a good 100 pages before it was revealed, and way too much slut-shaming.  (Don’t get me wrong, Scarlet feels bad about the slut-shaming, she really does. And a part of her wishes she could be a fragile, beautiful butterfly, too – but what do those silly girls think they are doing? Being all pretty and young and female like that when there are werewolves about?) There were some cool parts to this book – especially Rosie’s fiery and clever and daring escape – but they didn’t manage to balance out the “meh” or the “ugh.”

cover image for Dragon's BloodDragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen

I have such fond memories of this book from childhood.   Vivid, vivid memories of stealing a dragon with Jakkin.  Of sneaking off to his hidden oasis and raising the young dragon up to become a wonderful and clever fighter.

Re-reading it as an adult, I just kept thinking what an idiot Jakkin was towards his friend and love interest Akki.  (Akki, my girl, you can do so much better. Even on that hell-hole of a planet you live on.)  Also, is he seriously raising this dragon up just so that it will be forced into fights that drunk men will then place bets on????  (I sooooo missed the dog-fighting parallels when I was a kid.)  I’m also now giving Yolen the side-eye for the strong implication that some people are just meant to be owned by other people; at age 10 I failed to understand the full implications of the story being so focused on individual initiative when the backdrop was one of widespread indenture.

I don’t completely cringe at the thought of kids today reading this book, but I am very glad that there is much better to recommend nowadays.

(I am amused, however, at the reviews on goodreads that are all “drugs! prostitutes! in a novel for kids!” – especially since the whole point is that Jakkin is virtuous and spends his money on his dragon instead of any of those things.)

cover image for Briar's BookBriar’s Book by Tamora Pierce

Briar’s story takes us back to where his story began – symbolically, if not literally.  While visiting a friend who survives on the streets of Summersea, as Briar once did in a city much further away, he and Rosethorn stumble across an outbreak of a new, deadly, and as-yet-incurable disease.  As before, the four magical friends and their teachers must battle to save the kingdom and each other – at times waging war against not only the disease but also with the short-sighted selfishness that the privilege of wealth and class often bring.

Solid. The final in the first quartet of stories about Sandry, Triss, Daja, and Briar this is not the kind of book that one rushes to tell others that they must read, but neither is it a story with faults (small or large) that prod you to pick it apart and encourage you to forget what you enjoyed.  It’s an easy, fast-paced read that can be rather predictable and simplified at times, but not so much so as to irritate the children it is meant to be read by.

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