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? 

 


The Skylighter (The Storyspinner #2)

The SkylighterOne of my very first posts here at Coven Book Club was a recommendation for Becky Wallace’s debut, The Storyspinner. Now, a little over a year later, I’ve had the chance to read the conclusion to this duology, and it was fantastic. Familiar characters grow closer together (and further apart), and minor characters come to the forefront, bringing the series to a stunning, magic-filled conclusion. If you haven’t read The Storyspinner yet, be aware that spoilers lie ahead.

One of the characters who intrigued me in The Storyspinner but didn’t seem to have much development was Maribelle, Duke Inimigo’s daughter. She flirts with Rafi, clearly at her father’s orders, but there’s an underlying sense that there is more to her than what we see. In The Skylighter, she remains mysterious and reserved, but slowly the reader (and Dom) learns more about her: her motivations, her desires, and her fears. She’s a fascinating character, not least in part because it becomes increasingly clear that, though her father abuses her and treats her like a toy to be bartered with the other dukes, but his behaviour has not left her meek and biddable, but only stoked her hatred of him.

Speaking of Maribelle, one of the things that Wallace does really well in this duology is the way she intertwines the romantic relationships with the wider storyline. While it’s never quite clear whether Maribelle and Dom actually have romantic feelings for each other, they both feign them at various times in order to attain their own ends, which causes conflict with Brynn, whose feelings for Dom are well-known to the reader.

Likewise, Johanna and Rafi’s relationship is inseparable from their duties to Santarem and Santiago. They were betrothed as infants, but with Johanna the only heir to the Santarem throne, after repairing the barrier she must remain near it in order to keep Santarem safe, which would make a relationship with Rafi, duke of Santiago to the south, impossible.

The relationships – romantic and otherwise – between the characters aren’t the only reason to read this book, however. Like its predecessor, The Skylighter blends them seamlessly into a world with a rich magical history and political intrigue. The machinations of the rival dukes, the dangers posed by the Keepers who wish to turn people into slaves, and the Brazilian-inspired culture will draw the reader in. I always say that relationships are only interesting after the author has made us care about the characters involved, and Johanna’s fierce determination, Rafi’s inflated sense of honour, Pira’s urge to prove herself, and Dom’s inferiority complex compared to his brother all mean that we do care. We care about their relationships with each other, we care about them protecting Santiago and Santarem, and we care about the threats to their safety. And if The Storyspinner has made you, too, care about these characters, then you’ll definitely want to pick up The Skylighter to see how it all turns out for them.

Nicola is sitting in her flat on a rainy Scottish summer’s day envying the people of Santarem for their mango trees and sunshine. They can keep the warring dukes.


Shadowhunters and Downworlders and Mundanes, OH MY!

256683 I know I said last week that we were going to start talking about Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Trilogy this week, buuuut, as life would have it, we all read Cassandra Clare’s new book Lady Midnight first and we’ve been itching to talk Shadowhunters with you for a while now. Never fear, fans of The Winner’s Trilogy, we’re returning to the series in a couple weeks, but starting today we’re going to spend the next couple weeks delving into Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters universe.

Honestly, I’m not sure how none of us has recommended any of the Shadowhunters books to you before now. Perhaps it’s the epic scope of the Shadowhunter universe. There’s a lot of books to talk about! Cassandra Clare has no less than six series (and a codex) planned or already written within the Shadowhunters universe, with The Morta1582996l Instruments as its “flagship” series. These are books for people who like the long game. If you’re looking for quick reads, these books aren’t going to fill that bill. I’m going to get to talking about TMI in a bit, but first I want to get Shadowhunter newbies acquainted with the ‘verse.

Clare’s worldbuilding is based on the idea that there is a secret supernatural world that normal humans (mundanes) cannot see. There are angels, demons, “Downworlders” and “Shadowhunters.” Downworlders are magical beings who have distant demonic relations (warlocks, werewolves, vampires and faeries). They aren’t necessarily bad or evil, due to their demonic origins, but their magical abilities separate them from humans, and they’re generally looked down upon by Shadowhunter society. As for Shadowhunters:

“Shadowhunters (also known as Nephilim) are the appointed warriors on Earth of the Angel Raziel. They are appointed specifically to control and preside over the demons and supernatural creatures that reside in our world. A thousand years ago Raziel bestowed the tools to accomplish this task. These tools are: The Mortal Instruments—used so Shadowhunters may know truth, speak with angels, and make more of their kind; The country of Idris—where Shadowhunters live away from demons and the mundane world; The Book of Raziel (or “Gray Book”)—used by Shadowhunters to access the magic of angels to protect and augment themselves. Raziel gave these gifts to the first Nephilim, Jonathan Shadowhunter—the Shadowhunter namesake.” (from Shadowhunters 101)

Basically, Shadowhunters are total badasses, but their governing organization (The Clave) has set a bunch of laws that are incredibly strict and often unfair. These laws are necessary in many cases, but are often outdated in terms of inclusiveness and difference. The Clave has a tendency to get caught up in its own self-righteousness and its openly bigoted towards Downworlders, and has problems with Shadowhunters who are “different” in any way. As readers, we pretty much love individual Shadowhunters, but feel like the Clave is a bunch of jerks with sticks up their rears. I did3777732n’t even attempt to find a more elegant way to say that… You should know that while the Clave can be a bunch of close-minded asshats that Clare’s Shadowhunters are usually kind and there is increasing diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender as the world expands into other series.

If some of this feels a little familiar to you, it might be because some of Clare’s work was based on her Harry Potter fanfiction (and a ton of frequently used fantasy tropes that pretty much everyone writing urban fantasy uses). I only mention this because you may have heard some of the controversy around Clare’s writing. So let me dispel some of that for you right now: The Shadowhunter ‘verse is NOT Harry Potter in the slightest, and it does share familiar bones with a lot of urban fantasy, but so does most urban fantasy. So let’s just move on from that. Nicola, Alyssa and I agree that part of what’s appealing about reading these books is getting to stay in a worldbuilding framework you love, with new (amazing) characters from series to series, an amazing amount of intricate worldbuilding that spans centuries and general excitement and good writing.

So if you want to delve into some books that will yield several series worth of stories in one cohesive universe, let me start by recommending The Mortal Instruments to you. Though Clare’s series The Infernal Devices is technically “first” in terms of linear time, you don’t want to read it first. Starting with The Mo6752378rtal Instruments is key because Clary Fray is our way in. Everything you need to know about Shadowhunters, you can learn by following Clary’s story.

At the start of the first book of TMI, City of Bones (which has been made into a film and now a television series), Clary Fray is an ordinary girl in New York City. She’s an artist, she has a best friend named Simon and life is just all around fairly mundane. But she witnesses a gruesome murder at a dance club one evening and everything changes. The “murder” she sees is actually a group of Shadowhunters slaying a demon, and if Clary is a mundane, she absolutely should not be able to see such a thing. One of the Shadowhunters, Jace Wayland, makes a connection with Clary and reveals himself to her. At first, the Shadowhunters assume that Clary is a rare human with the Sight, but of course there’s more to Clary’s story than a touch of magic.

As the mystery unfolds, Clary’s mother is kidnapped and Clary is attacked by a demon. All hell (literally) breaks loose at this point and Clary is thrown into the Shadowhunter world head first. City of Bones is8755776 my favorite of the six books in TMI. Getting to know how Clary fits into the Shadowhunter world is really fun. It’s also a bit horrific at times. One of the things that strikes me about TMI as a series is that it’s supernatural horror. The demons are scary. The fight scenes are incredibly tense. The stakes are really, really high.

New York City is an amazing backdrop for the series and it’s so fun to follow Clary as she gets older and finds out who she really is. These books are heavy on the romance, Clary falls hard for Jace and their relationship comes with bucketloads of built in angst, lies and mysteries. I am consistently impressed with how Clare is willing to torture her darlings. Really, the depths to which all of her romantic leads are tested are kind of stunning. Though TMI focuses mainly on Clary, there is a great cast of supporting characters, and the complicated relationships that Clary has with each of them (and that they have with one another) are par8755785t of what makes this series not only incredibly readable, but I daresay a bit addictive.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to recommend not only this series, but the entire span of Clare’s work, is because I am a reader who never wants the story to be over when I really love a series. I love being able to pick up books that have new characters, but in a world I already understand. Of course, there are characters that make their way through all of the Shadowhunters books, so the people you love will show up again in one way or another. I like that.

Clare has made a career out of the Shadowhunters. You might think that somehow the stories would become diluted and not as fun, but I’ve actually found it’s the opposite. Everything that Clare creates in TMI just gets better in subsequent books. This is because Clare’s talent isn’t primarily awesome worldbuilding (though she has that going on too), it’s great characters with exciting relationships. Love, friendship, family, all of these things are what make these series worth reading. Give them a shot, and welcome to our two weeks of Shadowhunter love!

Allison Carr Waechter would usually prefer to be a vampire, but in terms of the Shadowhunter ‘verse, she’s pretty sure she’d be slaying demonic hordes. Maybe she’s just feeling violent this week, it is the end of the semester after all. 


Coven Chat: Starbound Trilogy

 These Broken StarsAs you know from reading Nicola’s post, we are thrilled to share our discussion of The Starbound Trilogy, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Please keep in mind our discussion posts often reveal spoilers, so if you haven’t read the books you should do so before reading this post. If you’ve read this series, let us know your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to come back next week for our recommendation and discussion of A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab.

Allison: I’m a big fan of the collaborative model in this instance.  This worked really well through all three books: These Broken Stars (TBS), This Shattered World (TSW), and Their Fractured Light (TFL). I felt like this was an incredibly well planned series, which is probably a result of the fact that the collaborative process probably takes abit more forethought than a single-author process, even if you’re a plotter, you’d still have to be more up on your planning to write in a partnership.

Maria: I agree that collaboration seemed to work really well for this series. I have no experience writing fiction collaboratively, but I was really impressed with the fact that the writing style and tone was consistent throughout all three books- there weren’t any spots where I could tell that there were two authors.

Alyssa: Yes. I think collaboration helps keep the story moving and the characters dynamic and distinct. And it’s a great way to alternate perspectives and write an ensemble cast. I like how this series first focuses on the villain’s daughter, Lilac LaRoux, and then moves away from that central conflict–and romance with Tarver–to focus on what I believe are more interesting characters and relationships (Lee and Flynn, Sofia and Gideon), as well as subplots, and then relates back to the central narrative really well. I think the series would have fallen a bit flat if it had just been told through the perspectives of Lilac and Tarver and didn’t incorporate those other characters. Kaufman and Spooner concluded the series well by focusing solely on Sofia and Gideon for the first part of TFL, then reintroducing the other main characters.

Allison: I was really impressed with how the ensemble cast, in the first-person POV worked out for all three books. I love how in TFL it’s apparent that stuff has been going on with the other three couples, but you don’t necessarily feel like you’ve completely missed out. I love that Sofia and Gideon got their own narrative and it wasn’t diluted by the series concluding. I see that there’s no short that connects the second two books — would love it if there were! Wouldn’t it be fun to know what Tarver, Lilac, Jubilee and Flynn got up to while Sofia and Gideon were doing their thing?

Nicola: Agreed! I think the decision to write each book entirely from the main characters’ POVs worked really well here, especially in TFL. We see plenty of the other MCs through their interactions with Sofia and Gideon, but because they’re the POV characters they essentially carry the story. I also think it helped that the first half of the novel was just the two of them, before the others appear, so there was an actual storyline for them. But, yes, I completely agree that there was a good balance between a discrete narrative for Sofia and Gideon and a series ender.

Allison: I have a hard time deciding which book I like best. The second half of These Broken Stars was amazing, but I love the tone of TFL. I thought TSW was good, but it had the classic Book 2 issue where it needed to further the story. I also wasn’t as interested in Avon as the other worlds.

Maria: I don’t have a hard time deciding which book I like best: Their Fractured Light hands-down. I did really enjoy the second half of TBS, and I found TSW interesting, but I would agree that I wasn’t as interested in Avon as I was in the other worlds.

Alyssa: I’m not sure which is my favorite book, but I liked TBS slightly less than TSW and TFL. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it’s because it’s slower and less eventful than TSW and TFL. It took me a little while to get into this series, and I thought the survival narrative of TBS dragged on a bit, whereas TSW and TFL take place in more dynamic settings, with mThis Shattered Worldore action and a richer cast of characters.

Allison: While TSW might not have been my favorite book, I do love Jubilee and Flynn both. They’re probably my favorite individual characters, though I have a bit of a tough time really buying their romance. It feels the “newest” of all three, which is why I would love to see a novella to connect books 2 and 3. Favorite romance: Hands down, Tarver and Lilac, which seems natural since theirs spanned all three books. Ultimately, my favorite character is Lilac, who has the biggest, most important character arc. I’d argue that she’s the protagonist of the series.

Alyssa: It’s funny, because even though Lilac is the protagonist, I’m less emotionally invested and interested in her than I am the other characters. It may be because I think there’s less action and world-building in TBS than in TSW and TFL. I really like that we witness her relationship with Tarver through the other characters’ perspectives, though. I enjoyed reading about Jubilee and Flynn and Sofia and Gideon more than I did Lilac and Tarver. Horrible things happen in all three books, but I found their narratives more enjoyable than Lilac and Tarver’s story. My favorite characters (and couple) are Sofia and Gideon.

Maria: Sofia and Gideon were my favorite couple too, and I felt like they were constantly trying to outsmart each other (at least for the first half of the book), which created a really interesting dynamic. They reminded me a little of classic old hollywood con artist characters, like Nicole and Simon from How to Steal a Million. I also found their chemistry to be the strongest and most believable. I would say that Sophia is my favorite, even though she makes everything worse with that plasma gun.

Nicola: Yes! That plasma gun is a huge turning point not just for the plot but also for Sofia’s character arc, which is one of my favourite character arcs in the series because of its focus on themes of revenge versus forgiveness. The reconciliation of knowing LaRoux’s actions were wrong while also acknowledging that killing him will only harm herself (and Lilac) is quite powerful, IMO.

Allison: I agree. I love Sofia’s complexity and that she is constantly torn. When we met her in TSW I didn’t get the impression that this is who she was, so it was an interesting surprise to find that she wasn’t a meek character. She was very low key seeming in TSW, so it was cool that she had this vibrant personality in the last book. 

Nicola: One of the the things I love about the way each book has its own pair of protagonists is that it gives us a better chance to see the sheer vastness of the world and different people’s experiences of it. Each novel takes place on a different planet, giving us a glimpse into some of the best parts of the civilisation and some of its worst, between Lilac’s privileged upbringing in metropolitan Corinth and Flynn and Sofia’s childhood on a remote planet with limited resources.

Allison: Speaking of worlds. The. Worldbuilding. I think when I think about these books I think of two words: meticulous and graceful. The ends all tie together so well (which we understand so much better in TFL), but the stories are so gracefully told. I think there are a lot of parallels between this series and The Lunar Chronicles: space opera, re-tellings/re-imagining of classic stories, ensemble casts, big interstellar conflict, each book centered on a romance. The stories couldn’t be more different though. I was impressed with the way there were heavy nods to Titanic, Romeo and Juliet and Alice in Wonderland, but they weren’t out and out retellings. It was more of a feeling, rather than a straight up reinterpretation of classic stories. Atmospheric retellings? I don’t know what to call it, but I like it.

Maria: I agree that the worldbuilding was really well done. I love the term “atmospheric retelling,” Allison. I thought that the writers used Titanic, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and other stories as jumping-off points, or loose frameworks for each book, instead of adhering to each element of the plot throughout the entire book. The Lunar Chronicles did the latter, and I felt that Meyer’s commitment to the original fairy tales sometimes hampered the plot and prevented her from being a little more creative with the stories (IMHO). With the Starbound trilogy, I didn’t feel like I was reading a “retelling,” even though I was conscious of the many references to other books/movies.

Nicola: One of the things I love about this series is how each book is different. It’s not just that they have different MCs and, therefore, a different core romance, but each is essentially a different genre. These Broken Stars was a Robinson Crusoe-esque story of shipwreck and survival. This Shattered World was a story of war and rebellion. And Their Fractured Light is almost an espionage story, with Sofia and Gideon infiltrating LaRoux Industries to learn the truth and stop him. On a worldbuilding level, it’s the perfecTheir Fractured Lightt way to show both the vastness of LaRoux’s empire and the diverse lives of the people who live in their world, but it also means that even though there’s an overarching narrative that ties the three books together, they’re also discrete stories. I think even Their Fractured Light, which concludes so much from the first two books, could be enjoyed as a standalone (but why would you want to? They’re all so good!).

Allison: So, do we think that These Broken Stars is supposed to be “Titanic”, This Shattered World is “Romeo and Juliet” and Their Fractured Light is “Alice in Wonderland”? That was kind of the vibe I got.

Nicola: I definitely see Titanic in These Broken Stars and Romeo and Juliet in This Shattered World. I don’t see the Alice in Wonderland parallels as much, but I’m also less familiar with that story and there is a definite surrealism to the way the whispers affect people.

Allison: As well developed as the characters were and as good as the plots were, overall, my feeling about the whispers-as-threat/M. LaRoux storyline was that it was a little flat. The actual plots were fantastic and very compelling, but the underlying root cause of the issue was hard for me to get emotional about. That might just be personal preference. What did you all think about this?

Alyssa: I agree. I like that everything wasn’t explained right away in terms of the whispers and intergalactic travel, but I wish that I had a better sense of LaRoux–his motivation and influence–and this series’ overarching narrative.

Nicola: It worked for me, but I think you’re right that LaRoux/his relationship with Lilac could have been better-established. I feel like I understood his motivations only on a more general level, because I can appreciate the desire to protect your loved ones, if that makes sense. I understood a father wanting to protect his daughter, but less so LaRoux wanting to protect Lilac (besides the fact that I adore Lilac and obviously everyone should want to protect her).

Allison: Thinking back, I do see that his greed was the motivating factor, but it’s not really even him that bothers me, he’s a despicable enough villain. It’s more that I wanted to understand more about why I should care about the whispers. I did care about them, but I guess I wanted a bit more depth — I wanted them to have the depth that the rest of the protagonist characters have because they are protagonists, I think.

Maria: I felt that LaRoux was never really developed a much as the other main characters were, which created a big problem because he was the “villain” so to speak. I didn’t feel like he was particularly scary or intimidating- the books just repeatedly TOLD us that he was, and as any creative writing instructor will tell you, “show, don’t tell.” I also thought that his motivation- greed and the desire for revenge because they didn’t bring his wife back to life- wasn’t strong enough to justify his behavior. I mean, he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds people, and the enslavement of a whole species- those aren’t the kind of things you do just because you want to make money. Throughout all 3 books, I kept waiting for a revelation, or explanation that would really allow us to understand him and his behavior, and it never came.

Alyssa: Yes, exactly! Being TOLD repeatedly (rather than SHOWN) that LaRoux is evil and the most powerful person because of his massive empire bugged me. I feel like LaRoux’s villainy and influence were just givens in this series and never really explained or explored. The loving aspects of his relationship with Lilac seems a bit forced. I wish he were more multidimensional and complex. While The Lunar Chronicles and The Starbound trilogy both deal with similar themes of tyranny and rebellion, Levana is a believable villain, while LaRoux is not.  We almost need a prequel from his perspective, like what Meyer’s did for Levana in Fairest, to better understand this series’ overarching narrative.

Allison: I agree. Even before Fairest, we get the idea that Levana has a backstory that makes her relatable, whereas LaRoux’s backstory is present, but LaRoux still feels not-real to me. I think the series’ primary weakness is that there’s not enough development of LaRoux as a character and that his relationship with Lilac isn’t fleshed out enough.

Nicola: I agree. When Lilac jumped in front of that bullet to save her father, and everyone was just like, ‘Well, of course she did, he’s her father’, I kind of accepted it, but still didn’t really understand it. At the end of These Broken Stars it seemed their relationship had been fractured permanently, and it’s hard to understand that she still loves him when all we’ve really seen of the two of them is her sense of betrayal and her desire to right his wrongs. I think those inter-chapter passages from the POV of the whisper could have really helped here; they show scenes from Lilac’s childhood, but few interactions between her and her father, and I think seeing him playing with her or comforting her would have helped show that he is not simply a monster to her, but her dad.

Allison: Yes!! This was exactly how I felt. It was one of the few moments in the series where I didn’t quite believe what was happening.

Maria: Ha! I thought the same thing. Like,“he’s the root of all your problems, but you took a bullet for him?” I didn’t find it believable, and I had no sense of what their relationship was really like, and why it would prompt her to take such a risk for him (because her getting injured means the whispers could overpower her and then do whatever they wanted).

Allison: Other than that though, I have to say that I adore these books. I’m very into the whole space opera idea and I feel like it can be a very male dominated genre, so it’s so cool to see female authors in YA venturing into this territory.

Nicola: Yeah, and I like how this series doesn’t shy away from ‘feminine’ themes like romance, which is such a cornerstone of YA; instead, it melds it seamlessly into the narrative alongside questions about autonomy and choice.

Allison: I totally agree. This is why so much sci-fi and fantasy in YA consistently impresses me, especially where women authors are concerned. There’s so much great work being done to incorporate common genre conventions and then push them to another level of understanding that blows traditional sci-fi/fantasy away.

Alyssa: Yes, exactly. I love how expansive and yet interconnected this series is with its ensemble cast, multiple worlds, and mix of genres.

Maria: I found this series to be satisfying in a way that many other YA sci-fi and fantasy series I’ve read haven’t been. That’s not to say that those series weren’t great or entertaining in their own right, I just felt that this series did something innovative; something that I hadn’t seen before. The dynamic MCs, different genres, and the deft interweaving of themes from classic stories with new worlds and characters were a powerful combination.

Allison: Thanks for joining us for the first Coven Chat in our multi-week series! Please join in our conversation in the comments.