Book reviews: May 2014

Alma Katsu, The Taker

By now, I’ve grown pretty wary (and weary) of paranormal romance trilogies, even when they’re meant to be read by adults and are somewhat interesting (yes, I’m talking to you, Deborah Harkness). The foremost problem for me is, why does there have to be three books, when all the interesting stuff fits into one book? To sustain the reader’s interest and the credibility of your story over three (or more) books, you really need to have a tale of epic proportions in mind (think The Lord of the Rings, although that’s technically not a trilogy), with lots of intriguing, colorful characters whose stories are interwoven on a larger scale (and not just two or three of them). I shudder to think that there’s only one author in this whole romance niche who can actually do it, and that’s J.R. Ward with her Black Dagger Brotherhood 14-volume series (and counting). She dwarfs everyone else in this sub-genre, primarily because the woman can write.

Coming back to Alma Katsu, who is right in thanking her editor profusely, as even after his intervention her prose is shaky and mediocre at best. The only parts that work for me are the retrospectives into the past(s) of the main protagonist and antagonist, where at least you can tell that the author took some trouble to dig and research a bit of history. But as soon as she comes back to the present, Katsu’s prose becomes insecure and her characters insufficiently fleshed out. The romance between the main protagonist and her love interest in the present tense is completely devoid of any chemistry, which makes it almost painful to read. The Historian‘s formula is not easy to replicate, my friends.

So, with one book down and two more to go, I don’t find myself motivated enough to continue reading, as the story arc reaches the present time again and becomes quite predictable. I fail to see why this book is getting noticed so much, and can only attribute it to an uneducated, superficial audience who hasn’t read any of the masterpieces from the blood-sucking genre to be able to tell the difference.

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

When I asked my mom how she liked this book, she said she’d found it disappointing because she’d expected more from a book so feted (hey, there’s even a movie adaptation coming out this year). Having recently read it myself, I think I know what she meant, but I still find that it’s a very well-written and gripping book, which is really all I look for in modern prose. I’ve accepted the fact that nowadays books like Let’s Talk About Kevin (which this book resembles a bit in terms of structure and twist) come along only once every ten or twenty years, so I curtail my expectations accordingly, but Gone Girl really is a solid, proper book. The twist is unexpected and unforeseeable, the characters are well fleshed out, only the ending left something to be desired to my mind. And that’s really all I can tell without giving away more of the story. I thoroughly recommend it.

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