Tag Archives: storytelling

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

12 Mar

SorrowsKnotCoverTitle: Sorrow’s Knot
Author: Erin Bow
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 368

The girl who remade the world was born in winter.

Otter is one of the Shadowed People. The free women of the forest live without men, for men are powerless against the ever restless dead. Every bit of shadow could conceal one of the three kinds of dead: slip, ghasts, and White Hands. Slip and ghasts are the little dead – unidentifiable spirits of some living form or another, they cannot kill you on their own, just give you a permanent chill, or unmake the flesh that they touch. White Hands, however, were human once, and to be touched by a White Hand means that over the course of nine days the afflicted will gradually go mad, until another Hand eats its way out, leaving the human body nothing but an empty husk. Otter’s mother is a binder, one of the powerful women whose job it is to contain the dead, and it has always been assumed that she would follow in her mother’s footprints to become a binder herself. However, when the death of the eldest binder in the Pinch unleashes a horrific chain of events, Otter’s entire world is turned upside down and everything she thought she knew about the world begins to unravel.

So, first thing first: this book is FREAKING AMAZING. As in, the best book I’ve read so far this year. It’s dark and lyrical and heavy and just so good I can’t stop thinking about it. Erin Bow is nothing short of intimidating – her writing is so achingly beautiful and fresh that there were times when I actually got goosebumps. Just for flavor, here is the first passage in which we meet one of the little dead:

Something was resting in the nest of shadows under a cornstalk, something stirring as Cricket’s hand came near. Something gawk-stretched and ugly as a new-hatched bird with no feathers and skin over its eyes. Something that moved subtly, like the earth moving above something buried. Something struggling and starving.

Gawk-stretched. GAWK-STRETCHED. That pairing of words is so perfect it makes my heart clench a little, and this entire book is full of the same evocative, lyrical language. Erin Bow is the kind of brilliant wordsmith that makes me feel like I should just give up, because I will never, ever be this good. There is a rhythm to her writing that is reminiscent of telling a story around a fire that keeps the shadows back; the repetition of certain phrases (Ware the dead!) and specific stories adds to the feeling that you aren’t reading a book, but sitting at Bow’s feet and being told a story that’s been handed down time untold.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

23 Aug

When he grabs Mama’s wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a naive library school student doing my practicum in New York Public Library’s amazeballs Teen Central. During a discussion of what to recommend to teen girls to get them reading about strong female leads rather than dippy, self-loathing Bella, the lovely librarians of Teen Central introduced me Kristin Cashore‘s Graceling Realm.

For the uninitiated, and because this is the third book in the sequence (though the second book, Fire, takes place before Graceling or Bitterblue), let me try to do a brief summation: gracelings are people born with preternatural abilities.  Leck, who features in all three novels and is one of the most terrifying literary figures I have ever encountered, ruled the kingdom of Monsea for decades without anyone knowing he was graced. You see, Leck had the ability to control minds, to make people believe everything he said to them. He manipulated their memories and their free will just to please his psychotic whims until Katsa, the heroine of Graceling (graced super power: survival and general badassery) threw a dagger through his open mouth and killed him (holler!), thereby rescuing his young daughter, Bitterblue, and liberating Monsea from a sadistic tyrant.

Bitterblue is the story of the eponymous young queen, now eighteen, who inherited her psychopathic father’s throne after Katsa assassinated him. Stifled by her four overprotective advisers (who are all suffering from varying degrees of PTSD, I should add) and wanting desperately to help her kingdom move forward from its collective trauma but feeling woefully out of touch with the reality of her city,  Bitterblue makes like a teenager, disguises herself as a commoner, and sneaks out at night. She spends evening after evening in her city’s storyhouses, listening to tales of her father’s tyranny and her friends’ heroism. She meets two young men, Teddy and Saf, a printer and a thief,  and as their friendship develops a conspiracy begins to unfold that threatens her life, her kingdom, and the healing it so desperately needs.

Continue reading