Thursday, 14 August 2014

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Release Date: September 30th

Arc provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers through Edelweiss

TW's: Victim blaming

Some stories you casually find. Others, you anxiously wait for their release date.
Winterspell was the latter case. Since the moment I read its synopsis and _YES, I admit it! _ saw its cover, I've been eagerly anticipating its release, or as it is this case, its released arc.

This is not the first book I've read by this author. The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls was a superb middle grade book with a wonderful assertive heroine. I think Victoria will always live in my mind. I loved it.
You can see where I am going, right?
Big expectations for this one.  Yes, this one would be directed to a older audience, but I was practically certain that I would love this... and that, definitely was not the case.
Every time a situation like this arises _loving a book, and disliking another by the same author _ I reach a point in which I question myself:
What is wrong with me?
But, as often happens, no matter how much I try to, I can't (couldn't ) get into this story. I tried to, and I forced myself to keep on reading it, but the thing never clicked with me, as a reader.

The Pace:
Awfully, awfully slow...
I understand that the author is trying to set the tone of her story. I understand that she wants us to understand each and every environment, and the consequences it would have on its characters; but long phrases, paragraphs, even pages are wasted on mind numbing details, when the plot doesn't flow!

The characters:
They had so much promise, but in the end they just felt flat and one dimensional...
The story takes place in the beginning of the twentieth century, just on the verge of the 1920 Constitutional Amendment who granted women the right to vote.
Clara who, due to the time frame and her background (wealthy and educated family), I was expecting a lot more from, ends up being a doormat of a girl, who in the first chapters intimately explores victim blaming.
Let me explain: In this story, with its mix of historical with fantasy descriptions, there's quite a number of villains. Some of them in the fantasy setting, others _lets say_ on the more realistic one. So, in this latter one there is this f******g pedophile who for years has been leering after Clara. OFF WITH HIS BALLS!
To make matters worse he is a pedophile with rank and power, and unfortunately it seems that Clara's family has been losing theirs... so, obviously, it falls to Clara to put up with this bastard's attentions, without being able to tell her father about it.
So, for long, long pages we get treated to victim blaming, because Clara _of course_ feels that the problem it's her. She must have done something to engage his attentions...

This is so wrong! I know that this happens today, and it probably will never be eradicated, so we can only imagine what it was back then.
But this is a fantasy work. If you can put fairies into a story, you should well be able to pass some assertive messages: This is never the victim fault.
This is one of the reasons why lately I've mostly been reading middle grade books: They're so less infuriating.

The author takes advantage of the fact that the characters supposedly already know one another to basically ignore the development of their relationship... which was a gross mistake.
The thing is, Clara and Nicholas can't really know one another, not with the type of "relationship" they had.
The guy was a statue for crying out loud!
How could they possibly truly know one another?

The Wicked Fairy Queen had so much promise!
Do you like love triangles?
Well, this story kind of has one... no matter how much it is diluted and disguised...

In our typical YA romance/dystopia/fantasy book, Anise would be the bad guy, and we all know that most of the time, our leading brainless female characters choose the bad guy over the good guy (exceptions made to Suzanne Collins awesome Peeta!). So why not here?
Maybe the author didn't wanted a lesbian/gay romance, but she sowed the seeds, and the thing got some strong roots! In fact, I think that had this character been properly developed, this could have led to a much more promising story route!
As it was, the whole time that Clara spends with Anise just feels like a huge waste of potential, and subsequent waste of time.

As for the remaining characters, I am afraid that with some exceptions, such as Bo and Clara's Godfather, the whole lot of them were just too insignificant to point out.

The whole YA or New Adult thing...
I got the feeling that the author felt that she needed to constantly reminds us that Clara as a young woman felt confined by society restrictions, and as such her femininity was always very on the surface... the descriptions of clothes, nakedness, what that made her feel... the butterflies, the heat, the feelings...
Another part of the story that made this book feel quite, quite long!

Too "Bloody" much telling, not enough showing
Patience hold on....
This happened through out ALL of the book. If a fifth of the time that was wasted on describing dresses and feelings had been used to show us what was happening, I would be giving this book another rating.
Most of the times the descriptions are clumsy. Reading them at times feels like fingernails on a blackboard.
I couldn't get into the story. Things were at times too disperse and not sufficiently explained.

The plot
I know this is fantasy we're talking, but the basic plot after a while was directed at throwing Anise out of the throne to be replaced by Nicholas. But I am afraid that it all felt too little. I am talking of the prince's army, I'm talking about his "not very convinced" allies. It was too convoluted to be seen as realistic... yes, the irony of that hasn't escaped me...

I guess the whole ordinary girl that suddenly becomes special, and the whole quest she finds didn't convince me.
But who knows, maybe you will like it.

In the end, one of my favourite things, was the last page _ and I'm not being mean here_ it was really well done, as were the parts told from Nicholas pov.

Isa's Review:
To come...

Pre-order "Winterspell"

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