I have to apologize for the late post. I should've planned ahead a bit better, but as it was, the alignment of holidays really did my blogging schedule in. (No one would have taken it seriously if I posted it yesterday, anyway.) :P As usual, March brought its share of awesome reads my way. Love's Labour's Won and Discover are both short stories available for free through their authors' respective newsletters, Les Misérables was a beautiful but soul-crushing experience that quickly became one of my new favorites, and Gathering Blue was a re-read as I begin to revisit one amazing series.
Love's Labour's Won
Kyle Robert Shultz
My rating: ★★★★
One of the best things about anything Shultz writes is the wonderful sense of humor, and Love’s Labour’s Won is no exception. It stares sickly-sweet love tropes straight in the face, and while making subtle fun of them, Cordelia delivered a truth bomb during the climax that pulled it all together beautifully. (Cordelia, by the way, is quickly becoming one of my favorite fantasy heroines ever.) xD In short, Love’s Labour’s Won delivered the characteristic Beaumont and Beasley goodness we’ve all come to know and love.
My rating: ★★★★
Well that was adorable. I’m a sucker for sweet love stories, and this one delivered, let me tell you. *dies of cuteness* It tells the story of how Maggie and Ethan met—two characters that will be familiar if you’ve read any of the other Allegiance books. Stories like these are so refreshing in a world where lust gets labeled love so often. Ethan loves Maggie for who she is, and Maggie loves Ethan for who he is, end of story. I also liked getting to know a little more about Ethan’s past! I already knew some of Maggie’s, but this short story colored in Ethan’s character a little more vividly.
All in all, Discover is a quick read, a sweet read, and a worthy addition to the world introduced with the rest of the Allegiance series. ^_^
My rating: ★★★★★
“It is nothing to die; it is dreadful not to live.”
Directly translated, Les Misérables means, “The Wretched.” Victor Hugo knew exactly what he was doing when he titled this magnificent monstrosity of a book. It takes an unflinching look at the lowest rungs of the French—and especially Parisian—social ladder during the early 1800’s, and brings back beauty.
Throughout the book there are themes of redemption, themes of injustice, and themes of love and self-sacrifice, which makes for a winning combination. Early on, Jean Valjean is shown Christ’s love in the form of the Bishop Myriel, which turns this galley-hardened ex-convict into one of my favorite characters ever. Jean had been sent to the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children, but stayed there for nearly twenty years because of various escape attempts. He came out more animal than man, but when the bishop shined the light of God’s love into his life, everything changed. He repented, and from that moment on, he was a warrior for God. (Although he wouldn’t put it that way.) He was a voice for the unjustly accused, and over and over again showed the same compassion that the bishop had shown him.
Probably my second favorite character in the book was Baron Marius Pontmercy. Words fail to describe him. xD When telling my sister about something he did, I found myself saying simply, “Marius is being Marius again.” Marius was… Marius… a lot. The man was even dramatic while unconscious, you guys. *inserts GIF of Peggy Carter telling Cap he’s ‘always so dramatic.’* There was a scene where he chased a rat of a man named Thenardier out of his house by angrily throwing money at him, (in his father’s memory—Thenardier had once ‘saved’ his father’s life), and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Marius, I don’t know what does. He’s fiercely loyal to family, sensitive to a fault, loves passionately, and is the king of being dramatic. So, so, dramatic. xD
The only cons I have come in the frequent references to prostitution (there was one poor woman that became a prostitute out of desperation early in the book, but we only saw her pacing in the snow with a low-necked dress on), “hussy,” “jade,” “b----rd,” occasional taking of the Lord’s name in vain, and a general flippancy to getting married and staying faithful (especially on the part of Marius’s grandfather), that if there hadn’t been such a glowing theme of redemption and self-sacrifice in the form of Jean Valjean, I might have had to put the book down. That said, seeing these poor people driven to desperation by the circumstances of life made the aforementioned themes all the more powerful. I didn't agree with all of Hugo's theology, but his message that all could repent and be redeemed at the foot of the cross is one that everyone needs to hear.
Another, more minor con, is the resemblance of Les Misérables to Moby Dick. Victor Hugo delivered lengthy lectures on History (Waterloo), Language (Slang), Architecture (the Parisian Sewer System), and others—often right when I wanted to find out What Happened Next™. Everything had a point, but having to read a hundred pages of nonfiction every so often in the midst of his work of fiction was a little trying to my patience. In short, these detours are the reason it’s 1,200 pages long.
Looking back over my review, I realize that it barely even scratches the surface of this book. Les Misérables has an enormous cast of characters, and that, working together with increasingly complicated circumstances and symbolism made for some of the most pure, the most beautiful, the most honest and raw moments in literary history. Jean Valjean loved, and that was all. He loved the downtrodden and oppressed, he had mercy on his enemies, he even carried an injured young man miles through the Parisian sewer system at great personal risk just so that he’d have the chance to live. There was nothing in it for him—nothing at all—and if that doesn’t show a picture of what Christ did for us, I don’t know what does.
My rating: ★★★
Gathering Blue tells the story of a young orphaned girl named Kira, who is blessed with none of the usual “superpowers.” She can’t fly. She doesn’t have x-ray vision. She can’t even kick somebody’s tail with awesome karate moves. In fact, she's somewhat crippled by the twisted leg she was born with. “Well, what can she do?” you ask. She can weave. And that weaving, while not sounding incredible on its own, is a pretty spectacular ability. She doesn’t know how she does it—she just does. The patterns and colors come to her own their own, and she creates incredible designs.
One of the most impactful parts of the book (for me), comes from the theme of what makes an artist, followed up by what being an artist is like. Because really, when it comes down to it, being an artist is not all fun and games. There’s a lot of grinding out the necessary things when we’d rather be creating whole new worlds, or painting a new landscape, or writing a new song. Gathering Blue deals with that horrible feeling of having reached the bottom of the well of creativity—of having peaked. Harnessing creativity for work might just kill it. And yet—Kira the Weaver was given her gifts for a reason. Thomas the Carver was also. Even little Jo the future Singer was given her voice for a very special purpose. They were given their gifts to reshape the future—something that Kira realizes by the end of the book. And that's a message I can get behind.
Unfortunately, I’ve always had a difficult time connecting with Kira as a character. She always seems rather aloof, and for a long time that puzzled me—but I think it comes down to Lois Lowry’s writing style. The same minimalistic style that worked so well in The Giver, because it was utopian and no one had cause to feel deeply just didn’t work as well in Gathering Blue. Everything in Kira’s village is the polar opposite of Jonas’s, and yet she doesn’t seem to really feel. There were a couple times that she cried, and it caught me by surprise, even though this is the second time I’ve read it. Often, I thought the secondary characters were better developed than Kira... especially little Matt.
As for content, Kira’s people hold some weird beliefs surrounding births and deaths, there’s mention made of worshipping a cross (they’ve entirely forgotten why—never mind the fact that the cross shouldn’t be worshipped, only the Savior who hung on it), p--s, and naked children.
At first, as a sequel to The Giver, Kira’s village, with its noisy squalor, is kind of a jarring transition. But there’s that same growing sense that all is not right, and that those in positions of power are not really the benevolent leaders they appear to be.
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!
Progress for round four of edits on Warriors of Aralan #9: