In Which I Discuss The Mirrored Shard, by Caitlin Kittredge…

(So it’s been quite some time since my last update, but between getting hit with the flu, the holidays and starting a new job AND internship – it’s been insane.  The move to the city proved to be one of the greatest things I could have done. Slowly but surely I’m working my way into the industry and enjoying every crazed minute of it.  The subway rides have also given me ample time to catch up on my reading. I have about thirty books I’ve read that I desperately want to talk about. Which brings us to today’s post!  The first review in ages and it’s on one of my new favorite books, by an author I geek out over frequently on here. It’s the most recent one I’ve read, but it was so good it gets first slot! So without further ado my kiddies I bring to you the review of The Mirrored Shard by Caitlin Kittredge.)

Since reading the first pages of “The Iron Thorn” I have been hooked on the Iron Codex series by Caitlin Kittredge.  What first grabbed me about the series was the story line.  Steampunk-Plus I like to think of it. It really had everything I enjoy reading all packed into one book.  In addition, the level at which Kittredge writes is superb.  She has a firm command of language and how to weave words into a story that so few authors today have.

As I’ve become even more jaded about writing styles, plot and execution since I started my internship at the agency, it was great to read a book by an author whose work I enjoy not marred by my ever growing critical eye. Even in the cases of published books these days, I find things that make me cringe.  Mirrored Shard had none of this.

It picks up some few months after the end of “Nightmare Garden”.  We get to see Nerissa unmarred by the effects of iron poisoning that drove her from Aoife’s life to begin with.  The story itself follows Aoife as she goes on the journey/hunt/adventure to get Dean back, while she has to deal with the repercussions of opening the gate to the nightmare realm. Needless to say, Aoife has really found herself between Scylla and Charybdis.

What I like most about this novel (and honestly the series as a whole) is that you can truly see how the events Aoife experiences change her. Whether for the good or for the bad, she grows as a character through these novels and it’s believable.  It’s subtle until she does something that makes you say “Well wait in book 1 she never would have done that.”  It’s clear that Kittredge has a grasp on how to grow her characters through multiple books.

Some of the beloved characters return, including Cal who is a personal favorite of mine. The Ghoul with a heart of gold.  There are also some new characters. Some of whom I fell in love with immediately (even though one or two were supposed to be bad…what does that say about me?) and others who had to grow on me.  It’s rare, I feel, to find secondary and tertiary characters that have been as well fleshed out as those in this book.  It gives the story a far more realistic feel that, for example, the stranger Aoife encounters once acts in accordance to certain economic and social conditions. It’s clear that to some degree even these minor characters have a story behind them.

All in all, despite my technical babble the story is great. The writing is great. And I devoured it heartily. I never like to give away too much in reviews because I loathe spoilers. But let’s just say that between the East Coast and the West Coast, Kittredge gives more to the landscape that she started in Iron Thorn.  Hey, we even get to see Alcatraz in this universe – which is pretty cool if you ask me.  There’s also a character, Lei Xiang, that REALLY reminds me a little of something in an old Kung-Fu movie (which, by the way, is not a scathe. I LOVE old Kung-Fu movies, wrought with their crazy villains and ladies with insane eyes.)

And, I also have to say because of the subtle Lovecraftian undertones in this series (and some not so subtle which is by no means a bad thing) I’ve been sparked to pick up the old master again.  I feel my life has been fulfilled a little more because of this. So thank you Ms. Kittredge, for reintroducing me to an author I loved so long ago and had long forgotten.  And thank you for a stunning end to a trilogy.  Though my heart is sad to leave the world of Aoife Grayson, it was indeed a fine finale. I thoroughly look forward to what this author puts out in the future.

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Weak vs. Strong Heroines (Book Edition)

I used to work at a book store. Seems a pretty good place to start this. Working at a book store was great, I worked in the receiving area so I got to see the books before everyone else did. For someone who loves books as much as I do, this was like Mecca for me.  I’m sad sometimes, having left one of the most personally rewarding jobs (because I’m a weirdo who simply loves books, and not just what’s in them. the feel and smell of a new book fills me with joy) I’ve had. It was a move purely for financial gain and to get the hell out of New Jersey.  But, my love of books has remained.  I’m getting off track. The point is, working there afforded me access to books. I read many a back book covers, and let me tell you…I wonder sometimes.  I’m far from a critic, but have you ever read some books and slap your head and go “WHY?!”

I even read books I never would normally read, because…I had access to them.  I think perhaps the biggest waste of my time, and the real point of this scathing review, are the Twilight books (because of their weak lead character).  Watch out, tweens and adults alike everywhere are reeling backward and hissing. They’ll call me names and throw rotten tomatoes at me in public for this I’m sure. But really. Really?!? I made it through the first book, which shows you what a glutton for self inflicted pain I am. I will never gain back the brain cells I lost reading that novel. (Nor will I gain back the sight in my eyes after deciding to watch the movie to see what everyone was going crazy about.)  But the book. The book first…then I’ll get into bashing the horror that Robert Pattinson became in that series (BRING BACK CEDRIC DAMNIT! I liked him as Cedric….)

I tend to like books with strong heroines. (not strong heroine. this is not a drug addiction site).  I like female and male protagonists equally, but I like novels that portray their female lead in a kick ass way. Meaning, they don’t need a man to save the day and they don’t sleep with everything that walks. I like contemporary fantasy a great deal, but I notice a lot of the A-list mainstream high selling novels have female leads that make me want to claw out my eyes, move to an island and live out the rest of my days in obscurity pretending I’m not a female.   Twilight was no exception.

I have never read such a wishy washy, ridiculously moronic lead female as Bella Swan.  Girl needs to take some classes in feminism. For serious. Mopey, bleary eyed youths may be in and hip, but dear god do they make me want to vom in my mouth. Now, I’m 28. This should be said early on because I want the clarification that I am an adult that will read young adult novels. Why? because a lot of times they are amazing and the story is well worth the read.  And a lot of the young adult novels I have read have AWESOME female leads that really, really exemplify what I would love to see ALL female leads in contemporary fantasy be like.

(WARNING. I will shortly be making comparisons to other novels and female characters, please don’t hold it against the writers. This is all MY opinion and mine alone. So if you want to throw any backlash for it, throw it my way and not theirs.)

One of my favorite series (which is a newer one, but one i love so much I’m using it to compare the characters) is the Iron Codex Series by Caitlin Kittredge.  Now, I love all of her stuff. That should be said right off.  In my hierarchy of favorite writers of this day and age she’s at a tie for the top.  So admittedly I am a little bias. But that’s what blogs are for…throwing your bias out into the world and watching it fly away.  However, she wouldn’t BE my favorite author if she couldn’t write, or if I didn’t like her stories or characters.

The first novel in the series by Kittredge is called The Iron Thorn. And of course I ordered it when I worked at the bookstore to get it the day it came out. Why? Because I was so excited by the premise that I had to read it as soon as I could.  (Now keep in mind this comparison is just to show the QUALITIES of the female leads. Because these books are in two TOTALLY different realms). Within the first five pages I fell in love with Kittredge’s heroine Aoife Grayson. Why? because she’s tough as shit and even though she’s young and goes through some moments, you genuinely believe in her. You want to see her kick ass and take names. She’s a STRONG FEMALE LEAD. Sure, she gets help from the males in the story but I reckon Aoife could handle herself on her own if she had to. But the bottom line kids, everyone needs help. If a character did EVERYTHING on their own the story would get real boring real quick. But there’s a fine line between needing help and needing your hand held while you take a pee.

Now, let’s do an experiment. We’re going to throw Bella Swan into Aoife Grayson’s world. My prediction is that Bella wouldn’t last .5 seconds. Why? because she has no mind of her own other than “make me a vampire. I hate my life and I can’t do anything.” Bella never REALLY solves anything does she? Her entire existance seems based on the fact that she wants to be a vampire. (okay yes, friends have told me a lot about the series. but I still reserve the right to make fun. I wanted to claw my eyes out at the end of the first book. no way in hell was I reading more).  What’s the freaking point of her?

Now. Aoife has drive. She has spunk and sass. She goes on a fact finding mission. She abandons everything she knows, she gets into scuffles and she comes out on top. She thinks. That’s the bottom line. The girl is smart. I like that. No. I love that. I found myself caring so much about her character that I was upset when I finished the book and didn’t have the second one right away.

So. Yes. I hate whiny, good for nothing heroines who need a man to save the day or sleep with to get things done. ( *cough*anitablake*cough*) <—more on this another day.  I love free thinkers, kick butt girls who you KNOW could handle shit on their own but know it would be suicide to run into dangerous situations without some kind of backup.

Oh, and also. I don’t mind sex in novels. I really really don’t. As long as it’s written well and not the only plot in the novel. Kittredge’s adult Black London Series has sex in the books. And by god does she write a great sex scene. But you know what? It doesn’t over power the story. So, go Ms. Kittredge. Keep writing because I love your stuff. You give me hope that one day the crap will all go away. That we won’t have Bellas and Jacobs and Edwards marauding through the written word mucking things up for decent characters everywhere.

As for Twilight, I will steer very very clear of it and it’s ilk. I like my brain cells in tact. And I certainly don’t want to idolize a woman who’s sole purpose in life is to become a vampire like the man she loves.  Dear Bella Swan. Seriously. I really really hate you.

Stay tuned for the film/television edition of this post where I shall highlight my love of Canada’s show Lost Girl and it’s strong female heroines, and my complete distaste for Rose from seasons 1 and 2 of the Doctor Who reboot. Now THAT’S gonna be fun to read.