|WAIT WAIT WAIT - I'M NOT DONE|
|Sure, why not? Laugh at my misery.|
|SOMEONE SEND HAAALP PLEASE|
|WAIT WAIT WAIT - I'M NOT DONE|
|Sure, why not? Laugh at my misery.|
|SOMEONE SEND HAAALP PLEASE|
Melina Marchetta was born in Sydney Australia. Her first novel, Looking For Alibrandi was awarded the Children's Book Council of Australia award in 1993 and her second novel, Saving Francesca won the same award in 2004. Looking For Alibrandi was made into a major film in 2000 and won the Australian Film Institute Award for best Film and best adapted screen play, also written by the author. On the Jellicoe Road was released in 2006 and won the WAYRBA voted by teenagers in Western Australia in 2008. It also won the US Printz Medal in 2009 for excellence in YA literature. This was followed up by Finnikin of the Rock in 2008 which won the Aurealis Award for YA fantasy, The Piper's Son in 2010 which was shortlisted for the Qld Premier's Lit Award, NSW Premier's Lit Award, Prime Minister's Literary Awards, CBC awards and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Her follow up to Finnikin, Froi of the Exiles will be released in Australia in October and the US in March 2012.
Oh yes. Surprise, surprise – this blog is showing symptoms of life again. I really have no idea how this blog went on an unprecedented hiatus– one week there I was, happily making a list of future posts most likely to show up in this space and then two months later I find myself, sitting desolately in front of a blinking cursor thirsting for words. Since we have found ourselves in this situation more often than we would have liked, I think it is time to officially place this blog in a state of eternal excusal on the grounds of academic workload that borders on intellectual slavery.
But I digress. Let us read that formidably long but enticing enough blog post title again and get right down to business.
Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Po Tse, Stacy King
*COURTESY OF NETGALLEY*
I won’t be able to guarantee the exact number of Austenites who will like this book (and the hard-core ones probably won’t), but any estimation made would be done by taking those who love manga into consideration. And those who haven’t read the original classic either. And broadly speaking, those who give less importance to how faithful an illustrated character is to the biblio-characters and have an eye for beautiful graphics.
The reason I wanted to read this book in spite of my being a professional Jane Austen fangirl, was my manga-tastic literary and artistic senses tingled when I saw the title. Ergo, not a minute was wasted after being approved for a copy in cracking open the book.
This book succeeds in fulfilling its objective. It’s an enjoyably light read; one that you can quickly read through, especially if you, like me, know the novel well enough to quote lines by heart. Any time actually spent, is because you spent too much of it admiring the artistic details (watch out for a bare-chested Darcy in the highly charged climax – OOPS Spoiler Alert! Sorry, not sorry.)
But the Austenite in me couldn’t help but bristle at the manga version of Lizzy. I didn’t care much for the others’ but Lizzy’s killed me. Manga-Lizzy is blessed with luscious locks, venerable beauty and heavy boobs whereas the Classic-Lizzy is “tolerable” with a “pair of fine eyes”. And poor Manga-Collins is relegated to the level of comic relief while Manga-Charlotte appears only when necessary. Of course when considering the depth of the novel to be adapted and the required product, the effort expended is commendable.
I highly recommend picking up this book if you catch sight of it in an airport bookstore or packing it if you’re the kind of person (like me) who enjoys light reading material on road trips.
VERDICT: 3 stars
Manga Classics: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, SunNeko Lee, Crystal Silvermoon, Stacy King
*COURTESY OF NETGALLEY*
The title of this book awed me into stupefaction. I personally consider it an achievement to even contemplate adapting a thousand-plus paged tome into manga. That book has always intimidated me due to its sheer volume despite my love for the movie and the – ahem – abridged novel we had to read for English in school. Of course, then it was only a matter of time before I got the manga version in my hands – I would love Les Miserables in any attire, although the mammoth classic still remains buried in my TBR pile. (I am yet to gain access to the Broadway musical and the TV series though.)
Let me take a moment to appreciate the panelling and the overall layout of the book. They enclosed a chunk of the factual portion of the actual novel in floating boxes, thus crunching down critical page space. As the story progresses we find a lot of flashback scenes and they’re almost never rendered in the same style, thus eliminating the annoying nag of repetition. And there were some scenes that you wanted to frame and hang on your wall – the emotion in the faces portrayed were too poignant. There were a limited number of extremely dramatic close-ups, instead the enormity of it all was brought to perspective by zooming out a character against an artistic backdrop. Then there were panels drawn that felt like snapshots from a thespian-grade movie. I loved the abrupt geometrical shapes of the panels used when a memorably jarring scene took place and the angle from which it was drawn. I could go on, actually.
I resent the necessity to cut down on the plot because of the page limit. Like Silvermoon, the screenwriter, says in the bonus material (which you should totally read, just to get an idea of the work involved behind the pages) many backstories and character-intensive sub-plots were omitted. But I liked the general structure of the plot and how they were divided into time-based, character-focused parts.
I actually read the book a while back so I don’t remember the exact places where I noticed some inconsistencies, but they were there. However, if you aren’t a reviewer, but a person with an insatiable appetite for art and words, please do yourself a favour and read this book.
VERDICT: 4 stars
My cheeks are pink and raw. My hand stings from all the slapping my cheeks endured. I catch sight of my roommates as they exchange worried glances at my increased tendencies to inflict harm upon self while reading this book.
I have not learnt my lesson and never will. A book’s ranking in my TBR list is still highly influenced by the book’s performance evaluated using standards defined by the mass. Which is why I picked up this book when I found space to breathe in between my exams, since everyone can’t stop flailing about it. And once I started reading it, promptly started faulting with it.
I avoid hate-reading as much as I can. But if everyone is swooning around the book, and I’m not, I stick around till the very end to see if the book redeems itself and if magically I’ll love the book too.
That didn’t happen here.
WARNING: Proceed with caution. I won’t spoil the potential reader; but once I start, it is difficult to contain my vehemence and fury at being scammed. Also, this is a 1000+ words review, sorry.
I am a sucker for the writing style. Disappoint me and the poor book will have incurred my wrath. I started out by liking the way the story was writing itself. About a chapter in, I quickly revised my assessment. The writing is annoyingly repetitive. The reader is kept entertained with regular weather reports and the menu cards for every meal. I go weak in the knees for books that employ a cinematic approach to the story which was why I laboured under the delusion I will like this one as well, since it has a similar objective but tragically fails at fulfilling it. The book didn’t have a cinematic writing mood – it was over-the-top dramatic and too pretentious for my taste. I felt like I was watching a fucking Bollywood movie; one in which everything happens in slow-motion, moral dilemmas are stretched on for hours, doors (both physical and emotional) are slammed when the central character wants a theatrical exit and lovers quarrel. In addition, no one is allowed to question the soundness of the plot, you just go along with the ebb and tide of it.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that.
Humour me and engage in a little method-acting. Imagine your inseparable friend of many years is the last victim after so many girls have been killed with no explanation by a guy you know nothing about. After wading through denial and recurring nightmares, the justifiable anger compels you to take revenge.
You decide to destroy him.
What do you do? Probably start with collecting as much information as possible about your mark. If your mark is the Caliph of a country, you will have to extend your research to the people he is around with. Draft plans A, B and C. Decide to get close to him and then hit him at his weakest.
You want to hear Shahrzad’s A Thousand and One Nights - inspired plan? Volunteer herself as the next bride to be killed, wait for the Caliph to come to her at night, charm him with her wit and storytelling prowess and then if he lets her live, then research him and when the opportunity presents itself, kill him.
Notice any flaws?
This book would not have happened if Khalid hadn’t come to meet her on the night of her wedding, because she didn’t have Plan B. And somehow the notion that cliff-hangers can postpone a scheduled execution is a bit ludicrous. But then, miracle of miracles, the Caliph decides she’s the one to break the cycle. (I distinctly remember muffling a scream with my pillow at that point.) Then she gets a tour of the palace, courtesy of a snarky handmaiden, and she gets shocked at the security and wonders at the strength of her “plan”.
No seriously, Shazi, what did you expect to see? The King of kings living alone in a gilded palace, waiting to present his head to you on a platter?
That’s not all she’s shocked by.
“He’s the second-best swordsman in all of Khorasan? Well, damn, I didn’t cover that in my background check of him. Oh wait. I didn’t do one.”
Shahrzad is infuriating. She pretends to want archery tuitions and then promptly shoots an arrow like a pro. The next second she starts cursing herself for her “stupidity” and I’m left agape. When a particularly life-threatening episode happened, she rants against the Caliph and throws quite a tantrum. I mean, she’s literally outstaying her welcome and her life was a gift and she acted like it was a breach of trust that warranted Khalid the Where-Were-You-When-I-Was Dying interrogation. He’s still your best friend’s killer, isn’t he?
Which brings me to my next point. We are supposed to love Shiva, the best friend mentioned above – no questions asked. No interspersed flashbacks. No nightmares. Just a lot of “Shiva, I will kill this man for you” and “Shiva, what do I do” and “Shiva, give me strength to withstand this inexplicable attraction to your killer” and other timed Shiva-tagged self-reminders that she should hate Khalid. She keeps obsessing about her “plan” for revenge half the time, and the other half is spent asking herself not to end up kissing the murderer. No actual murder attempts take place.
That’s just it. How do you fall in love with your best friend’s murderer? I’d expected answers to this question, not be left more flabbergasted than ever. This is where I admire Marie Lu with her Legend series. There, a similar quandary of a reverse nature was engineered. Boy and Girl fall in love. Boy later finds out that Girl (indirectly) was responsible for his mother’s death. He still loves her, but both realize they can’t be together. Now, that was a book.
Well, obviously Shazi is battling with the Stockholm Syndrome – a condition worsened by the fact that the Beast is not a beast (physically or otherwise) and handsome as hell to boot. With a tragic past that is often hinted at. With so many secrets. Our Shazi, pleads him to open his door so that she may see what it is that makes him a monster. “I know nothing because you fight me every step of the way”, she says. Again, dead best friend issues are kept on hold. Not even that matters when you realize all killers aren’t the heartless monsters they are generally portrayed as – that have a story too.
Khalid is no better off – being the poor, tortured soul that he is. The book has a third person narration and Khalid gets a solitary paragraph written from his perspective, just in time to venerate “the plague of a girl” that is destroying him. I also hate him for deciding to come see Shazi that night and never before for another bride. Had he done this earlier, who knows, he may have fallen in love with another girl and the murders could have stopped way back.
The one thing that nagged at me was the frequency with which Shahrzad’s skills at seduction came into use. I personally despise characters that use sex as a weapon to wound and open up the enemy – I find that weak and underhanded. Not to mention how that strategy would fail would for us poor unglamorous mortals. Although she immediately regrets it afterwards, the fact that she did it was the last straw for me.
The plot of this book is a love story. How Inexplicable Attraction To A Murderer With A Tragic Past can change everything. I don’t mind love being a deux ex machina element in the story – I do believe love has its own magic – but this was a bit too much.
Oh and wait, did I mention a tragic love triangle involved for the sake of?
I would be doing an injustice if I didn’t commend the research that went into the world building, especially the Persian/Urdu words that cropped up like a pleasant surprise. Khorasan is a Persian land and I’ve always had a special fascination for that place ever since I became a fan of Arabian tales. I also do like the other characters – Despina’s sassiness, Jalal’s protectiveness, and another character who I started to really like and had so much scope for development and then gets killed. Three cheers to me.
I am glad though that my resolution to keep calm and carry on reading till the end of the book paid off marginally. I feel like the main plot of the series is just beginning and I like that plot. Not this soppy, messy love story that I had to endure. Usually, in the kind of series that I binge-read, people run for their lives and they fall in love sometime in between. In this one though, they fall in love first and then run for their lives.
VERDICT: 2 stars.