BOOK REVIEWS

SIX OF CROWS BY LEIGH BARDUGO

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

What I love about this duology is that it’s incredibly fun, and somewhat light-hearted, while also managing to add in quite a lot of depth and emotion. In some ways, you could compare it to a novel version of a Marvel or DC movie, because these two books are packed with action; they are thrilling and fast-paced. There is some romance, but unlike most YA books, it isn’t intrusive and is more of a realistic sideline. And yet the series manages to go beyond that basic action and delves into a lot of deeper, emotional themes through its characters, such as a former victim of sex trafficking, an antihero with PTSD, and a dyslexic character with family issues. Leigh Bardugo is known for creating multidimensional characters, and in this duology, she manages to create a stunning read by combining a captivating plot with highly nuanced, emotive figures.

 

NEAPOLITAN NOVELS BY ELENA FERRANTE

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.

In a series of four books, Elena Ferrante presents an extremely raw depiction of life in a certain Italian setting. Choosing friendship as a theme running throughout all four books, she writes about a highly dynamic relationship between characters, including subtle references to things like peer pressure and insecurity. The beauty of this series is in its nature as a rich, immersive story: the autobiographical narration manages to capture everything that happens in the process of growing up, from innocence to sexuality to changes in society to changes in the body. This series is essentially the story of a young girl growing up and discovering herself, and by describing experience in excruciating detail through the eyes of the protagonist, Ferrante immerses you in a powerfully moving web of love, hate, aspiration, and life.

ASYMMETRY BY LISA HALLIDAY

Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, “Folly,” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, “Folly” also suggests an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

Asymmetry is a standalone novel, although it is made up of two separate stories. There’s a good deal of humor and wit, especially in the first part of the book, Folly, along with some amusing events. The second part, Madness, is one that alternates between the present and flashbacks of life during wartime, and this section is one that is more suspenseful. However, along with the ability of this novel to pull readers in, it’s also a book that is very thought provoking. Compared to the other books mentioned in this feature, Asymmetry is one that holds a lot more literary value, because underlying the writing is a reflection of the asymmetry of life. Both stories are tied together by this theme, with the power difference between Alice and her lover, and the spontaneity of Amar’s past, and the writing encourages readers to reflect on events and experiences, and think about what makes them so different from each other.

NOCTE BY COURTNEY COLE

My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole. My other half—my twin brother, my Finn—is crazy. I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me. I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline. Dare DuBray. He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me. He has the power to destroy me. Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt. Why? Because of a secret. A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming. You won’t either.

Yeah, you definitely won’t. Because this trilogy is a complete rollercoaster to read: it’s full of suspense and secrets, and the mystery keeps you on edge the whole time you’re reading. It is definitely a very interesting series, because Courtney Cole leaves it open-ended; you can choose to believe that this was a fantasy series, or you can choose to believe that it was all set in real life. The protagonist of the story suffers from depression as well as PTSD, and Cole creates a heartbreaking story revolving around a girl’s journey to recovery – it’s a plot that seems straightforward, but there are so many Easter eggs that by the end of the series, you as a reader are expected to choose to believe whether or not the loose ends have been tied up (both options are equally plausible). It’s certainly a story that draws a lot of its value from detailed ambiguity and involves the reader to a high degree; in fact, Cole’s prose and writing style is so planned and impactful that this is probably the most complex, layered book mentioned in this edition.

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