I’m Alive!

Hullo!! Whew. It’s been a while. WordPress editing has really upped its game! I had to take a break last exam season and never got around to reworking the writing bits in my brain (which have atrophied by now) till my mandatory gap year ended last week. Not that the Internet is particularly concerned, but this was what I’ve been up to over the past twelve months!

For the fall semester I was lucky enough to snag a spot at the University of Pennsylvania, where I took classes in British and Russian Literature and French. Highlights include seeing Terry Crews live, New York Comic Con (and meeting Tomi Adeyemi!), freezing my ass off in Montréal and being able to read books for my degree. Had multiple existential crises and am still questioning whether I’m suited to / still sufficiently passionate about medicine, but that’s a post for another day. 🙃

Halfway through the fall semester I was bored out of my mind by the East Coast so I applied to a couple schools in London. Thank God because travelling in Europe is much more reasonably priced. Also, stacking all my classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays meant that I always had long weekends to travel on. Highlights include Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, being told [je suis] magnifique! in Paris, trying white chocolate foie gras in Barcelona, climbing over five barriers and under two barbed fences and scaling a hill for an ill-advised photo of Neuschwanstein Castle, all the while wearing three-inch heels, seeing the legendary Natalia Osipova as Kitri, singing songs that make white people turnt in the Temple Bar Pub, bottomless brunching on a boat in London and the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

So yup, that’s what I’ve been doing. For more juicy juicy deets (excuse the shameless self-promotion), check out my Gap Yah: EU highlight on Instagram (@cloudninekid)!

A Conjuring of Light

In truth, Schwab’s matter-of-fact prose plunged too far into the unfortunate ‘telling’ territory. And her miscalculated attempts to throw in some final paradigm shifts cast an amateurish tone over the characters’ voices. But lacing up the loose ends well (and leaving all the right ones free) is half the battle when it comes to concluding instalments, so I must give Schwab well-deserved credit for doing such a masterful job. I stand by my four stars.

While Schwab’s penchant for s p e l l i n g  o u t her characters’ emotions was already noticeable in the first two novels, the passages were far less frequent and drawn-out (and hence less glaringly obtrusive). Even more exasperatingly, many of the passages in A Conjuring of Light simply repeated the same tiresome internal ‘dilemmas’ in the preceding books. (If I drank every time I read yet another paragraph on Lila’s instinct to run or kill Alucard or otherwise sever relationships, I would have been too intoxicated to read past the first few sections.) Continue reading “A Conjuring of Light”

A Darker Shade of Magic

It is not often that you come across a well-written fantasy novel with a genuinely unique universe (and not another superficial rehashing of witches and werewolves), so I was immediately impressed by the opening chapters of this book. The richly constructed worlds (plural) and teasing mysteries will keep fans of The Night Circus engrossed. V.E. Schwab exercises a perfect balance between dropping hints and illuminating answers. By the end of the book, I had even felt a fleeting sense of worry that she would run out of sufficiently surprising twists for the next two novels in her trilogy. Assuringly, there are still some larger questions left unanswered, though not in the glaringly frustrating way as a cliffhanger would, or a story with too many loose ends. As I had said, Schwab has a knack for balance. Priste ir Essen. Essen ir Priste.

Contrary to some reviewers’ criticisms that the ‘superficial’ characters were difficult to connect with, I instead found layers to their pasts and personalities that I still cannot clearly grasp, which simply added to my excitement for the sequels. I do admit that Lila irritated me considerably during her first encounters with Kell, reminding me of a petulant child determined to meddle in matters she had no understanding of. But she won me over by the middle of the book. Certainly, she spoke and acted infuriatingly recklessly multiple times, and her moral compass was not exactly admirable (she did admit to enjoying killing, after all) but her wit and guile and just the right amount of bravado ultimately tipped the scales towards Badass and away from Hubristic Fool. And retrospectively, it gave her desperation to accompany Kell at the probable expense of her life (if not her soul) much more credibility than a more reasonable temperance would have done; suppose she was not as imprudent, would she have managed to force one of the most powerful magicians to let her follow him? All in all, I surprisingly ended up enjoying her subtle development the most.

As the sections and chapters had a habit of shifting between the events unfolding across the three Londons (some of which were obviously less gripping than others), the pace did slacken occasionally. A few diversions unnecessarily dragged out the time between each return to the main narrative, building suspense that frustrated more than it drove up anticipation. But in all fairness, Schwab’s talent for dropping a well-timed shadow of a hint kept me tearing through the pages. Whilst A Darker Shade of Magic does not present the sublime prose of The Night Circus or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, Schwab’s vibrant creativity stands out. In fact, for those who found Erin Morgenstern’s lengthy descriptions tedious, Schwab may offer a better balance between depth and pace.

Potential readers may be hesitant because A Darker Shade has been shelved as Young Adult by various sources. First, the overgeneralisation that YA is always insubstantial is already terribly presumptive. And ‘adult’ books are not necessarily complex or beautifully articulated either. But that is a topic for another essay. In any case, this book straddles the line between the two audiences (for YA and adult are audiences, not genres), with fantastical elements that will draw readers of all ages, but a writing style more commonly found in a so-called adult book. In that respect, it is similar to The Night Circus. So do not be put off – you will not regret it!

Favourite quote: “The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea.”
Rating: 4/5

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