Wednesday, May 8, 2013
2) The Night Circus:
This was a better read than Team Human... probably because it showed more effort. The author obviously loves both circuses and the act of writing; the descriptions of the circus fall into that rare category of compelling and not overdone, and I came out of it craving chocolate-drizzled popcorn. The plot itself is interesting, as it covers a somewhat-fantastic wager between two larger-than-human men who use the circus as the chessboard and two young people as the playing pieces. There is the mandatory starcrossed-lovers angle, but as the book jumps back and forth over decades, I was okay with what turned out to be a lengthy-in-real-time romance. I appreciated that the book was set approximately 150-110 years ago, as that formed my perspective of the circus and the characters. I don't think it would work at all if set more recently.
I also liked the magical elements, although the author could have contrasted the two schools of though more clearly. Basically, one man wagered on natural talent and the other believed that anyone can reach a high level of skill; the former teaches his daughter through tough love and a disdain for traditional styles, while the latter picks an orphan boy and makes him read all the lore he can find. Clear enough, but I didn't actually see many differences in how the boy and girl practiced magic. So, without giving away the details of the contest, I would have to say I don't think either should have won, if winning was meant to prove either mentor's theory correct.
The ending is set in the present, and it made me afraid that the entire book was a lengthy advertisement for a real circus (the narrator is given a business card with the email address for the owner of the circus). I'm sure if one starts up based on the book's success, it would be fun to go to, but there's no way it could measure up to the fictional one. If nothing else, most of the non-magical stunts and rooms are illegal (too likely that a customer would die/be injured).
By Rebecca Hoyt
Posted by Ms. V at 4:39 PM
1) Team Human:
I said a little about this before, but basically it's a obvious Take That at the entire Twilight/Anne Rice/True Blood/Laurell Hamilton genre of sexy vampires that are worth giving up mortality for. I liked some of the background details involved in the everybody-knows-about-vampires universe (vampires have constitutional rights! there are legal procedures that must be followed when turning minors!), and the background mystery involving the principal (hint: not everyone successfully transitions into vampirism - those who fail either die outright or become zombies).
The main character was fun, although she was absurdly bad at solving mysteries when she claimed to be skilled at doing so, and I liked her love interest (a human boy raised by vampires - his "mom" is also great as one of the examples of a well-done secondary character who defies her species stereotypes). I didn't care for her friend who wants to turn the moment she meets the Edward-alike at school. Technically, that was the point of the book; people who want to become vampires tend to be weird, because anyone who would want to give up the ability to eat chocolate, go out in the sun, and have a sense of humor, among other drawbacks, has to be off the rails. Her friend was not a terrible person, but both her and her vampire squeeze were simply dull, self-involved dramatic types. Again, a Take That at Twilight. Also, her mother was clearly depicted as being a terrible parent for allowing her daughter to turn at age 17, given the high risk of death (technically, it's certain death, and possible resurrection with a sober and distant personality - like being a mere shadow of your past human self), so at least there's that antidote to other fictional parents.
Unfortunately, I don't think that most of the target audience will understand or like this book - perhaps one or the other, but not both. Kids that already don't like vampire stories will not pick it up, and those who loved Twilight may be hurt by the implication that they are stupid for liking it. The handful that get past that, and end up realizing that committing suicide for love is crazy, will make the book worth writing, though.
By Rebecca Hoyt
Posted by Ms. V at 4:36 PM