P. Pufferfish has mixed feelings about the ending of an otherwise fantastic trilogy.

clockworkprincesscoverToday’s featured book: Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare (Book #3 of The Infernal Devices trilogy)

Format I consumed it in: E-book, from the library near my house

The premise: The book opens with Tessa trying on her wedding dress, ’cause in case you forgot what happened in Clockwork Prince, she and Jem are about to get married! Of course, since they’re living in the London Institute, where all the action happens, they’re interrupted by Gabriel Lightwood running in to inform them that his father’s morphed into a giant, murderous worm. The gang immediately rushes off to help Gabriel reason with Benedict Lightwood (if still possible) or deal with him (if necessary). Without spoiling anything, the rest of the book continues in a similarly fast-paced fashion. There are countless automaton attacks, Jem’s supply of yin fen, which he is dependent upon to live, runs out unexpectedly early, Tessa finally learns the entire story behind who/what she is, Charlotte faces incredibly sexist and therefore unreasonable and frustrating challenges to her leadership from Consul Wayland, who had previously supported her, and that’s only in the first 60% of the book!

My thoughts: [Spoilers] I am inordinately pleased with this book. It was by far the best of the three Infernal Devices books, and I thought the other two were pretty good. Tessa is a damn good heroine/protagonist, and I get why Jem and Will both love her so much. I also get why she loves them and has trouble choosing between them, AND! I really see how much they love each other and am surprised they both ended up loving another person in addition to each other. I jumped ships not once, not twice, but THRICE over the course of this trilogy. At first, I shipped Will/Tessa. Then I shipped Jem/Tessa. Then I shipped Will/Jem. And finally, I decided it had to be a perfect triangular romance between the three of them. Will/Tessa/Jem. Will/Jem/Tessa. Jem/Will/Tessa. Whichever order would work. Normally, love triangles are more like love carets (this symbol: ^^^^). They meet in the middle but that last line that would make it a true triangle is non-existent. NOT SO HERE! There is even a line at the end about how half of Jem’s heart belongs to Will and the other half to Tessa, and half of Tessa’s heart belongs to Jem and the other half to Will or something like that, but I read it as Cassandra Clare canonically declaring that Will/Tessa/Jem is a thing, and YOU CANNOT CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE.

I was surprised by what happened to Jessamyne. I thought that she would be given a redemption arc, like the one that Gabriel Lightwood got, but guess not! Speaking of Gabriel, he is a treasure. Like a more awkward version of Will. He actually reminds me a lot of Alec (from The Mortal Instruments, who is his descendant). Izzy is more like Cecily, who is very, very free-spirited and independent for a girl from a proper “mundane” Victorian home; I kept remembering when Tessa first came to London and was more reserved and conservative– not so with Cecily, who is a force in and of herself. Gideon and Sophie’s romance was like romance novel fare, but so entertaining to read, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that they both survived to the end. CHARLOTTE AND HENRY– my god, Henry gave me such a heart attack during that big battle in Cadair Idris. I thought he was a goner for sure! And Charlotte! That woman is the queen of my heart! And pretty much the queen of the Institute and later on the Clave as well. There’s an actual line comparing the male Shadowhunters of the London Institute pledging loyalty to her the way Englishmen pledged loyalty to Queen Victoria. I also liked that Bridget, the cook who sings tragic songs about love, death, and murder all day, is an insanely talented fighter and almost singlehandedly kept them all from being overwhelmed and crushed by automatons during the final battle.

I thought the book should have ended with the Christmas party, where Jessamyne’s ghost makes amends with Will and pushes him to propose to Tessa. It was unnecessary to do an extended epilogue with Tessa dealing with Will’s death, but I wouldn’t have minded the book ending in a bittersweet way like that. The Jem ending, though? What the hell? I felt like Cassandra Clare started flip-flopping and being indecisive about Jem’s fate. He doesn’t want to be a Silent Brother ’cause it would mean no more music. He decides to become a Silent Brother because he doesn’t want to die and leave Will and Tessa behind. He is a Silent Brother, but apparently he gets to ignore the rules of Silent Brotherdom and even gets to come back as his young self (albeit as a mundane) to live with Tessa decades after Will’s death? He mentions the reason for all of this having something to do with Lightwoods, Herondales, and Fairchilds, but I don’t remember anything like that happening in the first three books of The Mortal Instruments, so it must have happened in books 4-6, which I haven’t read (don’t plan to read?). I guess it’s nice that Tessa gets to not be alone for another 60 or so years, and it would support the Will/Tessa/Jem thing, but ehhhh, I wasn’t a fan.

Rating: 4.75/5.

By the way, did anyone read the preview for The Last Hours? So THIS is the Downton Abbey-esque series that everyone was talking about. I ended up reading the entire preview, and it’s not really working for me. Magnus is great. I love Magnus. But this James kid…… ehhhhhhh…… and the whole Tatiana Blackthorn-in-her-crumbling-manor-with-her-beautiful-bitchy-ward thing just reminds me too much of Great Expectations, a book that I HATED. I don’t know if I could read a whole trilogy about James-Pip pursuing Grace-Estella but with supernatural stuff thrown in (if that’s the angle Cassandra Clare’s going for). I’d rather read the three remaining Mortal Instruments books I’ve been avoiding.

The return of P. Pufferfish

knifeofneverlettinggoI had the day off for the first time in a long time today, so I spent the past 2 hours watching booktube videos and reading book reviews, which reminded me that I haven’t been on here in a while. Now that I’m finally done with grad school, I don’t really have an excuse any longer, except for but Summer Reading (capitalized) is going on at the library and so I’ve been living at work and I’m so so busy! And but I still have projects and deadlines to meet and job applications are time-consuming and what about the actual reading of books?! I can come up with excuses for anything. So there’s nothing to do but shove them aside and just write. Type. Whatever.

Today’s featured bookThe Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (the guy who wrote that book that just got made into a movie… is getting made into a movie? I follow him on Twitter and he seems pretty cool)

Format I consumed it in: Audiobook. This is important, because apparently, in the print/e-book versions, there are misspellings everywhere to reflect the narrator’s lack of proper education. I didn’t know that until I was done, since I was only listening. I did get to hear it read in what, to me, sounded like a stereotypical country accent, though.

The premise: Todd Hewitt(? See, the problem with listening to a book is that you have no idea how characters’ names are spelled) is a 12-year-old boy living in Prentisstown, a small settlement on a different planet whose population consists of 100+ men. There are no women around because the women were wiped out during a plague that left all the men alive, but stuck with an affliction called the “Noise”, which makes all their thoughts visible/audible to those around them. There is no privacy, and yet there are still shady goings-on around town (the mayor, Prentiss, holds weird cult gatherings in his house). One day, Todd stumbles upon a swamp on the outskirts of town that throws him for a loop because it’s completely silent. Right after this discovery, he is attacked by Aaron, the town preacher, who reminds me of Father Knoth from Outlast 2. He heads home through the town, trying to suppress his thoughts about the Silence, but later on that day, the mayor’s son, Mr. Prentiss Jr. (*snort*), the town sheriff, pays Todd and his adoptive parents, Ben and Cillian, a visit. Then things REALLY go downhill.

My thoughts: I did not like this book. In fact, I hated it for the first 5 or so discs. I moaned and groaned my way through those 5+ hours and couldn’t stop hearing “Tooodd Heeewitt” and “bwoooyyy” in those drawn-out southern syllables when I was doing other things. Don’t get me wrong– I thought the reader did a good job. The accent was not the problem. I just couldn’t stand Todd as a character. At first, I told myself, He’s 12! Give him a break! But Lyra from The Golden Compass was 12, too, and she wasn’t an idiot like Todd is.

Later on, our “hero” [SPOILERS] runs into a girl named Viola, whose scouting ship has crash-landed on the planet. She informs him that the 13-month calendar Prentisstown has been using is “wrong” and, according to the real calendar, he’s actually already past 14. I was reading another book, The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams, at the same time, and the protagonist in there is also 14. He, like Todd, is obnoxious in that 14-year-old boy way, but he’s nowhere near as annoying as Todd. He listens and he learns. That was actually my main gripe with this character: I just couldn’t get over how he didn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. I felt horrible for Viola, who is obviously the intelligent one out of the two of them– she had to deal with his idiocy for the entire journey! I managed to hate-read (hate-listen?) my way through disc 6, which is when [BIG SPOILER] Todd gets stabbed, after which he is suddenly noticeably (and probably intentionally, on the author’s part) less annoying! I don’t think I should have to wait for the protagonist to get stabbed 3/5 of the way through the book before I can finally stomach the story without wanting to throw the case out the window.

Does this mean I am not going to be reading the sequel? Unfortunately, book 1 ends [HUGE SPOILER] in a cliffhanger, with a character’s life hanging in the balance, and I have to know what happens to this particular character, so I *SIGHHHHHH* will be back. I’ll hate-read my way through the rest of the trilogy, but I will be finishing it.

Verdict: 2/5 stars. I forgot to mention that I watched a walkthrough for Outlast 2 about a week before I started The Knife of Never Letting Go, and seeing the same backwards small town religious fanaticism sexism butchery thing presented in the form of a children’s book (although at the library where I work, it’s in the Teen section) was a bit alarming. I also hate cults and generally don’t enjoy consuming media that features cults or cult-esque groups (even though they’re being portrayed in a negative light), SOOOOO… I might be biased (fyi, I didn’t think about this till now).

Until next time. Cheers.

In which P. Pufferfish gushes about a series which she previously spurned.

cityofbonescover

The cover that almost stopped me from reading this book

I was going to talk about The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, or The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher, today, since I just finished them this week, but I have a talk/discussion on Tuesday with my library book club, so I’m going to wait till then to talk about The Sellout. In the meantime, I’m going to discuss a book trilogy that I read last month, but haven’t gotten around to talking about at all because of life and other distractions.

It’s… The Mortal Instruments (the first three books), by Cassandra Clare! Yes, groan and complain all you want– I know it’s been reviewed and talked about to death by every YA book blogger and booktuber, but after spending a day going down the rabbithole of booktube videos (prior to this week, I’d only ever watched one booktube video, but four days ago, I started watching one girl’s channel and then kept going), I’ve noticed that most of the reviews are about how amazing the books were and how everybody loves the dudes and the relationships, without really giving any details/reasons as to HOW they were amazing or why the dudes and the relationships are so great.

I’m going to backtrack a little: I’m new to YA. I only started reading YA novels last year, so I’ve read a grand total of about ten, give or take a few. I do remember one of my closest friends handing me City of Bones in a Barnes and Noble when we were about eighteen and gushing about how great it was, me standing there reading the first chapter or two, and then putting it back on the shelf and asking her, “Pandemonium? Really? And there’s a gleaming chest on the cover! What the hell?” I’d recently read the first few chapters of Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (I THINK that’s the title, anyway) a few months before that, and that book also started with the main character standing in line to get into a nightclub. I was equally unimpressed by that book, obviously, so the annoyingly familiar set-up convinced me City of Bones wasn’t worth my time. Plus, I was going through a phase where I read a lot of “finding yourself” novels like Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name (which is still one of my favorite books, btw). Clearly, this wasn’t going to cut it.

Fast-forward back to the present, and I’m stuck eating my words plain, no ketchup allowed, because lo and behold!– I devoured that gleaming chest-book, I am now a fan of The Mortal Instruments, I read Clockwork Angel and enjoyed that as well, and I just know I’m going to read my way through all the Shadowhunter-related books sooner or later. Oh, my. My friend who originally recommended the book to me has since lost her enthusiasm towards the series, and recently warned me not to read past the third book (in fact, she said I could get away with reading only the first two and not miss out on much, but I disagree with that, because who only reads 2/3 of a trilogy?!). “I read all six only for Magnus and Alec! They are the only saaving grace!” she said. My sister also refuses to read past City of Glass because she doesn’t want her “perfect ending” ruined. Unfortunately, I read the preview for City of Fallen Angels that was at the end of CoG and now I’m curious. What the hell’s up with that love triangle involving Simon, though? Just what I need– another love triangle in a YA series that already (arguably) had more than one.

That aside, I would recommend this trilogy (I’m going to refer to TMI‘s first three books as a trilogy) to fans of the supernatural and urban fantasy genres; it’s set in New York and revolves around a group of people called shadowhunters who hunt demons. Cassandra Clare’s world-building, while not extensive or anything, is developed and explained well enough that I found it totally believable for this secret, worldwide network of warriors to exist behind-the-scenes, fighting off demons and other threats using archaic weapons and runes drawn on their skin. Clary Frey, the protagonist and POV character, grew up in the “mundane” world (the ordinary human/muggle world that the rest of us are part of), but gets drawn into the politics and conflicts of the world of the shadowhunters because of her mother’s ties to it (which she isn’t aware of at the beginning of the series). In typical “book with a secret organization” style, we get to know the shadowhunters, their traditions, history, methods of operations, beliefs, narrow-mindedness, racism, etc. through her eyes. The shadowhunters, as another very important character notes, are a dying race, but as the story progresses, we realize, along with Clary, that they don’t have to be so long as they can adapt to the fast-changing times instead of stubbornly doing things the way they’ve always done. There’s definitely a generation gap thing going on with the young vs old characters (with a few exceptions); very relatable, imo, especially now that I’m older (but still young enough) and have found myself in similar situations quite frequently as of late.

So let’s talk a bit about the characters. I personally like Clary and didn’t find her annoying, which was a huge relief, because I find so many YA heroines to be unbearably annoying. There are moments, especially in the third book, where I wanted to join some of the other characters in yelling at her for being reckless and stupid, but hey, which protagonist doesn’t do at least one stupid thing in a series? I thought her accomplishments outweighed her transgressions, so I give her a B+ as a protagonist. The main dude, Jace Wayland, aka he who everyone swoons over in reviews, is my favorite character because he is HILARIOUS. I laughed out loud at some of his lines– I honestly didn’t expect for him to be that funny, because I’m used to the lead male in a YA series being more like Edward Cullen (UGH, don’t get me started) or the dude from Fault In Our Stars. Even while brooding and being angsty, Jace’s sense of humor doesn’t really waver, and I appreciate that about him so much. Another character with some funny lines is Simon, Clary’s mundane best friend who is (*dramatic gasp*) in love with her. Unfortunately, Simon is like Mal from the Grisha Trilogy (but funnier), so his existence and actions are almost entirely dependent on Clary. Then there are the Lightwood siblings (aka the only other young shadowhunters in the New York Institute), Alec and Izzy. I adore Izzy– I love how confident and bad-ass she is. She’s beautiful and aware of it, and nothing really gets to her; she just shakes it off and keeps going, the one truly stable character in a cast of sometimes irritatingly unpredictable and angsty people. Alec, as most of us know, is one half of Malec, the famous ship that compelled my friend to read three whole books that she didn’t want to read. I find him endearing, but also kind of annoying at the same time. He’s beautiful like Izzy, but shy, insecure, cautious, gay-but-closeted– very much a product of his upbringing. He takes a long time to warm up to Clary, he talks down to Simon, and I honestly didn’t get why Magnus was so enthralled by him in the first book (although I strongly suspect it was initially a purely physical thing), but good news: there is character development in the works here! He IS only eighteen, and considering when this book came out, his fear of being outed makes a lot of sense. I grew up in the dark ages, i.e. I’m the same age as Alec, if we stick to book timelines/dates, and I remember LGBTQ acquaintances in high school behaving the same way he did. There was this sense of uncertainty when it came to how people would react, and people like me, who supported them, would show that support by treating the subject of sexuality as if it were a non-subject (yikes), and kind of not talking about it to be polite/show that we were cool with it. It’s hard enough being an awkward teen without having to deal with that shit on top of everything. But yes, Alec is one of the few characters who does change as the series continues, so I was cool with him by the time I finished CoG. Which brings us to the other half of the Malec ship, Magnus Bane. Magnus isn’t really a part of the quintet, because he is Alec’s cool older “boyfriend”/more of a consultant figure that shows up from time to time, but he’s a scene stealer and can give Jace and Izzy a run for their money when it comes to standing out in a crowded room. He’s funny, sexy, and very intelligent. He’s also an immortal warlock, and this here’s my favorite thing– it’s not just mentioned once and then brushed off, it’s actually an essential part of his character. One of my biggest problems with immortal characters, particularly immortal love interests, is that they usually behave exactly like the other, actual young adults around them, but have the label of “200 years of age” or whatever attached to them, and then it’s all illogical and doesn’t make sense. Stefan from The Vampire Diaries TV show is like this (and I am a TVD fan), and so is Edward Cullen. They’re dudes who seem to have been hanging out, not doing much, biding their time for years upon years upon years until their love interests show up– it’s as if their lives have been in stagnation all this time. Not so with Magnus! This is a guy who’s been very busy for the past couple of centuries, sort of like Lestat from Interview With The Vampire. I swear, The Vampire Chronicles have ruined me for all other series featuring immortality– nobody has been able to capture the complicated nature of it quite like Anne Rice did. I think Cassandra Clare has managed to dig past the surface, but she’s still not there yet.

In terms of plot/writing/pace, City of Bones felt like a first novel– some of the dialogue and narration was a bit awkward and/or repetitive, especially Clary’s responses to things. The pacing worked, though, despite Cassandra Clare choosing to tell rather than show us a good chunk of the book. The characters were much more likeable in City of Ashes, thanks to the developments in CoB, and there were some classic humorous scenes, but I was so bothered/turned off by the borderline not-incest-incest that I didn’t enjoy it as much (it also took up like thirty pages or something throughout, so I couldn’t just ignore it). City of Glass is probably the best of the three– the villains are great, the way the book is split up (multiple narrators, parts, etc.) worked well, and all the characters play important parts in the way events unfold. I did think the final battle was a bit rushed, but things were resolved in such a logical way that I can’t really complain about it. Overall, I would give the trilogy combined 3.75/5 stars, because I liked it a lot (going by Goodreads’s ratings system), but it did have its problems, which make me hesitate to give it a full 4 stars.

P.S. I do not watch Shadowhunters, the show, because I tried watching one episode and couldn’t get past the bad special effects and the weird way the scenes are filmed/paced. It’s a pity, because it looks great from the gifsets I keep seeing on Tumblr. I’m also one of those annoying book purists, so it really bothers me that they made so many changes (like introducing technology to the institute WTF….).  The City of Bones movie’s pacing/line delivery is much better, but I prefer Katherine McNamara as Clary, Matthew Daddario as Alec, and Emeraude Tobia as Izzy, so it’s books and imagination only for meeee…