Coven Chat: The Remnant Chronicles

25944798Today’s Coven Chat is about Mary E. Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles. Remember, spoilers lie ahead in a Coven Chat, so if you haven’t read these books yet, don’t go on!

Allison: I’m so excited to talk about the way The Remnant Chronicles wrapped up with you both. We’ve had so many conversations about these books over the last year. I was on vacation when I started The Beauty of Darkness and I had a tough time putting it down.

In terms of the adventure, I was a little so-so on things in this book, especially towards the end. There were parts I was really into, and others kind of dragged for me. The strong character development is what kept me reading. By no means do I feel that the pace lagged or at any time that I became disinterested in the book.

Nicola: I said this about The Raven Cycle a couple of weeks ago, but it applies to The Remnant Chronicles, too. In all three books in the series, I sometimes feel like almost nothing is happening in terms of the overarching plot, and yet I’m still completely engrossed in the story for the characters and their world. I think that displays real skill as a writer, as there are few who can pull this kind of thing off without me getting antsy for more action.

Alyssa: Yes, that’s a great comparison! Like with The Raven Cycle, I was more interested in the characters and their relationships than in the overarching plot. I love the world-building and multiculturalism in this series, too, and how the characters’ identities and relationships evolve because of their adventures in Morrighan, Dalbreck, Cam Lanteux, and Venda.

My only gripe with the world-building is that I wish I understood the mythology better. I’m still a little confused about how the excerpts from sacred texts, such as The Last Testaments of Gaudrel, relate to the series’ main plot. I’d like to read Morrighan because maybe it would explain that backstory for me, but I still wish the excerpts made more sense to me.

Allison: I also wish I’d understood a bit more about the world-building. I haven’t read Morrighan either, so I wish it had been integrated into the text. However, it reminded me a little of a series I read when I was a child, The Darkangel Trilogy, where there’s a “past” that isn’t remembered by those in the present day of the text, but it informs the way the world-building works. We get to know some things about the ancient people, but not all and that fact is integral to the plot of the story. It works for me.

My only real complaint with The Beauty of Darkness was that the multiple POV got weird for me. I don’t know. It’s not that I couldn’t “tell the difference” between the voices, but that at a certain point I was a little overwhelmed by them. I didn’t have this problem so much in the other books, so I was a little surprised. This might be me as a reader though.

Nicola: I was going to say exactly the same thing! I think it worked really well in the first book, because we’re not meant to be able to tell which of the two boys is the prince and which is the assassin (for the record, I was convinced Kaden was the prince), and their POV chapters tended to be short and to-the-point. I think what bothered me about the multiple POV in this book was that I did get a little confused as to whose head we were in at any given time, and sometimes the narrative seemed to jump back in time so we could read the same thing from someone else’s POV, which was rather jarring.

Alyssa: The multiple POV didn’t bother me for the most part–except during the battle scene at the end, when numerous multiple POV were in a chapter. Each POV was very short and that was a bit jarring.

Allison: Overall, I think the multiple POVs benefitted the series. It was cool to see how both Lia and Rafe change as they take more responsibility for themselves and that the ending isn’t some “pat” thing where one of them gives up their kingdom for the other. I do think it’s a little hard to see how they’re going to make things work, but I like the idea that they’ve both done things that were unimaginably hard and that they’re willing to work hard to be together, rather than being miserable apart. That’s a relationship I’d read about again!

Nicola: I actually really loved that it’s not exactly clear how they’re going to make things work. I think it’d be hard to come up with a solution that’s not too neat or cutesy, so by leaving it open like that we can see that they’ve done the important character development work of reaching the point where they are both committed to their kingdoms AND to each other, but without trying to tie it into a neat little bow.

Alyssa: Yes, I loved how Lia and Rafe’s relationship evolved throughout the series. While I was always hoping that they’d overcome all of their obstacles to be together–and I’m happy they did in the last two pages!–I also had reservations and conflicting feelings about their romance. I’m glad they spent time apart–and were not weakened or devastated by their separation–and that they didn’t give up their kingdoms and their other responsibilities to be together.

I also appreciate that Lia and Rafe were not always perfect for each other, and they still might not be. The ending is hopeful and romantic but feels realistic, too, and I don’t think it would have been tragic if they hadn’t gotten together in the end. I was 99% sure Rafe would show up–even when I only had three pages left!–but I was more excited about Pauline and Kaden’s romance by then.

Allison: Pauline and Kaden! This was a good match from my perspective. I love how it came together. It really made sense for me. It was slow and steady and I appreciated the way that Kaden’s vision came to pass. That was fantastic and just the way I always imagine prophetic stuff going: you see something, but it doesn’t happen at all the way you thought it would.

Nicola: Yes! I was really rooting for them as a couple.

I also loved the development of Lia’s relationship with her parents. From the start of the series, it’s clear she has a very close relationship with her brothers, but she has a much colder relationship with her parents, and I really liked seeing more background into why they made the choices they did with her upbringing, especially her mother. A lot of teenagers attribute nefarious motivations to their parents’ deeds, so although Lia’s stakes are higher it was a nice little reflection of rather typical teenage thought processes for Lia to assume the worst of her mother when in fact her mother is only trying to protect her.

Allison: I was also really interested to see more of Lia’s parents in this book. In the first book they’re positioned as very unfeeling and it was interesting to see how the political plot line interfered with Lia’s personal relationship with her parents. I wasn’t expecting a lot of the “reveals” in terms of both her mother and father in this book.

Alyssa: Yes, Lia’s reconciliation with her parents really strengthened the series’ ending. Not just because of the necessity of her homecoming after a long absence, but because we get an even better sense of how much she’s matured since The Kiss of Deception. In many ways Lia’s still the runaway princess we fell in love with, who defied her duties and chose her own destiny, but she’s also less selfish, more responsible, and more empathetic.

Allison: I love who Lia became over the course of the series. I love that she started as someone with substance and grew into someone with adult concerns and feelings. In fact, I like that all the characters grew so much. This is the benefit of the multiple POV. We get to see the inner-workings of each character and I think that Pearson does this well.

Nicola: Yeah, it feels like the characters started the series as teenagers and ended it as adults, and while the multiple POV thing didn’t quite ‘work’ for me I did appreciate being able to see into the characters’ minds and to understand their motivations.

Allison: Thanks everyone for joining our discussion of The Remnant Chronicles. Our next Coven Chat will be about Sarah J. Maas’ Empire of Storms, and the Throne of Glass series.


What’s Ahead: Coven Chat

Most of what I’ll be reading over the next few months is for our Coven Chat discussion posts, so I figured now’s a good time to announce what we’ll be talking about as a group in August through October.

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater:  I’ve been reading (and re-reading) this series for five years now, so Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah, Blue, and the women of 300 Fox Way are some of my most beloved characters. I’ve just started The Raven King (#4), after revisiting The Raven Boys (#1), The Dream Thieves (#2) and Blue Lily, Lily Blue (#3), and I can’t wait to find out how this series ends.

The Remnant Chronicles, by Mary E Pearson: Read The Kiss of Deception (#1) and The Heart of Betrayal (#2) if you haven’t already because The Beauty of Darkness (#3) is out now.

 

 

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2), by Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) was one of our favorite 2015 releases and we’re so excited for its sequel.

We’re only a month away from perhaps our most-anticipated release: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), by Sarah J Maas. You must know by now that Sarah’s books (Throne of Glass (#1), Crown of Midnight (#2), Assassin’s Blade (#.5), Heir of Fire (#3), Queen of Shadows (#4), and Empire of Storms (#5), as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses (#1) and A Court of Mist and Fury (#2)), are our favorites to discuss! We’ve chatted about them here and here and here.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #1), by Leigh Bardugo: Last year we had a blast discussing Six of Crows and we’re really looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Snow Like Ashes series, by Sara Raasch: Another fabulous fantasy series is coming to an end with the release of Frost Like Night (#3) next month.

The Young Elites series, by Marie Lu: Adelina is my favorite villainous protagonist (see my post) and I can’t wait to find out how her story ends in The Midnight Star (#3).

 

Have you read these series? Which books are you looking forward to the most? 

 


What I’m Reading: Three Dark Crowns

23207027A couple of months ago, I included Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake, as one of my most-anticipated September releases. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, I can confidently recommend this novel. Especially if you like YA fantasy with multiple characters, worlds, and narrative perspectives.

Three Dark Crowns is told in the alternating points of view of three queens, Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella. Every generation, on the island of Fennbirn, queen triplets are born and raised by foster families as “daughters of the Goddess.” Katherine is with the Arrons, a strong poisoner family in Greavesdrake Manor; the naturalist queen, Arsinoe, is with the Milones, the most powerful naturalists in Wolf Spring; and Mirabella, the elemental queen, lives with the priestesses in Rolanth Temple.

The novel opens on the eve of their sixteenth birthday, the beginning of the Ascension Year, when the queen triplets must use their gifts to fight to the death because only one of them can become queen of Fennbirn. “The people of Fennbirn Island grow in strength with the ruling queen. Naturalists become stronger under a naturalist. Elementals stronger under an elemental. After three poisoner queens, the poisoners are strong to the last, and the Arrons most of all.”

Each sister is being trained by her foster family to use her magic against her sisters. But so far only one of the triplets, Mirabella, possesses her gift; the others have been faking their powers. Rumored to be immune to the deadliest poisons,  Katherine cannot ingest even the weakest poisons without getting sick. And Arsinoe, who “ought to be able to bloom entire bushes[,] ripen whole fields” and control the fiercest lions, cannot even “bloom a rose from a rosebud” or call forth her familiar; while her best friend Jules Milone is “the strongest naturalist in sixty years.”

Only Mirabella is truly powerful, able to unleash fierce storms. “Every ship that sails to the northeast of the island returns telling tales of the fierce Shannon Storms besieging the city of Rolanth, where the elementals make their home.” But does this mean that she will be the Crowned Queen?

Alyssa thanks the Boulder Book Store, HarperCollins and Edelweiss for a digital review copy for review purposes only. Please note that the material quoted is from a review copy; therefore, it is subject to changes prior to publication and may not reflect the final edition. These quotes will be checked against the final published edition once that’s available.

 


Short and Serial: Summer Comics

I am at the start of yet another summer of back to back summer school sessions. I teach writing online and in the summer, students are allowed to take a 15 week course in just 5 weeks. It’s crazy and I’m teaching two sessions that nearly overlap…

No, I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m letting you know that in times of extreme busy-ness, my reading list usually pares down to things like magazine and literary journals, rather than novels. However, in the last year I’ve gotten so much more into comics and they’re the perfect summer school balm to soothe my need for good storytelling, while providing a more substantial story arc.

I talked last week about Monstress, which I still absolutely recommend, but this week I’d like to tell you a little about the other comics I’ve been enjoying recently. While Monstress is written and illustrated by women, some of the following have male/female collaborations. To be honest, I’m not sure how that affects things in a larger sense. I’m not a wide comics reader, so I can’t speak to the issue on a larger level, but I have noticed that both Monstress and Pretty Deadly, which have women at the helm of the creative team both have a distinctly different vibe from other comics I’ve read. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the narration, art and story arcs overall have a slightly different vibe from comics I’ve read where men and women have collaborated.

Even in the case of Pretty Deadly vs. Bitch Planet, both written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, the narrative style feels distinct, and not just because they are different types of comics. Something about Bitch Planet, despite its overtly feminist themes feels more masculine than Pretty Deadly, with its mystical story arc and strange narrative style.

I know this is a less-than-well-supported assessment. In fact, it’s pure opinion, based on nothing but my feelings, but I do see a subtle difference in the ways the stories are told. Not that any are worth more than others, but after almost three years of reading nearly all fictional work written by women, there is an almost intangible way that women tell stories that differs from the way men do. I’d love it if someone else could speak to this in a more intelligent way!

Onto the recommendations:

Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

While Monstress is currently heading up my favorites list in the comics department, Pretty Deadly is a close, close second.

In Pretty Deadly:

Death’s daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

I’ve loved Saga from the first issue. Fiona Staples brings amazing life to Brian Vaughn’s storytelling. Much like Monstress, Staples’ art is detailed in a way that is simply mind-blowing.

In Saga:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds.

Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro

I’ve just gotten started on Bitch Planet. And if I’m honest, I’m a little on the fence about it. One of the things that I love most about Monstress, Pretty Deadly and Saga are the beautiful art and I’m simply not as attracted to DeLandro’s style as I am to Takeda, Staples or Rios’. But I’m enjoying seeing where the story goes and I’d recommend giving it a read.

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker?

Allison Carr Waechter is waiting for the rain so she doesn’t have to go water the garden. 


Outrun the Moon, by Stacey Lee

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Last July, in my post “Cross-Dressing Heroines in New YA Westerns,” I called Stacey Lee’s debut, Under a Painted Sky, “a nontraditional, diverse, feminist western that celebrates female heroism, adventure, and resilience.”  Her latest novel, Outrun the Moon, is not a western; but it is a nontraditional, diverse, and feminist exploration of a significant historical event: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which destroyed the city and killed roughly 3,000 people.

Like Sammy in Under a Painted SkyOutrun the Moon‘s Chinese-American heroine, Mercy Wong, is headstrong, ambitious, and clever. According to her Ma, her high cheekbones, called “bossy cheeks,” are a sign of authority, meaning she’s assertive and independent. So true.  We can tell from the first few sentences alone that she’s bold and adventurous:

In my fifteen years, I have stuck my arm in a vat of slithering eels, climbed all the major hills of San Francisco, and tiptoed over the graves of a hundred souls. Today, I will walk on air.

Tom’s hot air balloon, the Floating Island, hovers above us, a cloud of tofu-colored silk trapped in netting.

Mercy almost floats away in Tom’s hot air balloon. But this is not how she wants to escape Chinatown! She has a plan. She will become a successful business woman like Mrs. Lowry, the author of her much-loved Book for Business-Minded Women. First, she must get a prestigious education; but how will she do that when the best schools exclude non-whites? (Mercy has graduated from the Oriental Public School.)

Mercy’s clever plan for admittance to St Clare’s School for Girls is just the beginning of this powerful novel that celebrates triumph over racism, sexism, and classism. When the disastrous earthquake strikes, her assertiveness and resilience become even more important as she must rally other survivors to overcome their sorrows and prejudices and work together to build a community amidst the ruins.

Alyssa just realized she published this post without including her bio! Here it is. She thanks the author for an ARC of Outrun the Moon, for review purposes only, and Alyssa’s opinions are her own.