This past month I finished two books with characters that have special abilities: Six of Crows and A Darker Shade of Magic. And even though both books have characters that can control the elements, the books could not be more different.
While I was reading Six I was constantly on the edge, and I don’t mean on the edge of my seat from anticipation. No, I was on the edge from annoyance. Let’s start with the most confusing thing that my Russian friend Anna helped me with. I was confused because the people who are able to control things are called Grisha. I had a feeling I knew this name from somewhere, so I asked Anna and she said that it is a form of the name Grigorij in Russian. Really? Why use a personal name to call an entire sub-species of humans?
The second thing that annoyed me here was that EVERY FREAKIN GOOD CHARACTER IS UNDERAGE. Only the bad ones are grown ups. Come on! Really?
And the final thing that almost made me stop reading this book is the fact that plot twists in this book have plot twists that are consorting with other plot twists to plot further plot twists. GIVE ME A BREAK! ooo he is not really only a thief… oooh the boat exploded but there’s noone on it… oooh we planned to trick you and take away the money… oooh we saw that coming so we disguised your son… oooh your son is illiterate but smart… ooooh your mother is your father. I half expected Darth Vader to show up and tell everyone he’s made cookies.
The characters are kids with special skills, that is true, but the author gives us their back stories in order to make us connect with them. But even with those back stories, I never connected with them. Their behaviour is much like the plot of the novel – filled with inconsistencies and arbitrary actions that are never thought through.
And now onto the other book – Darker Shade. Here things are different. Throughout the book you have one plot line that is fairly simple when you look at it at first. Then you actually see that there’s a deeper underlying story and within that story all the things happening make sense. And there’s one major plot twist that serves the purpose of driving the action forward.
The main character is young, that is true, but he’s not pre-pubescent. And the sidekick is actually unaware of her skills and powers and she is slowly discovering them. Despite the fact that the action takes place in parallel Londons, and the closest one to us is the Victorian London, you actually connect to the characters. They are flawed human beings but they still think about their actions, they think about consequences and they have normal human connections. They are somehow real.
And the plot is really interesting. (you can read about that anywhere) The thing that really impressed me were the strategies, the thinking of the characters. Really really interesting.
“You know so little of war. Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.”
“But the thing about people, Kell had discovered, is that they didn’t really want to know. They thought they did, but knowing only made them miserable.”
P.S. the book is really funny at times 🙂
Now, I will probably read at least one more novel by Bardugo, I really want to see how she explains the Grisha thing. But I will definitely continue with the Shades of Magic trilogy.
And now a few points of comparison
Bardugo’s failed attempt at angst:
“He needed to tell her…what? That she was lovely and brave and better than anything he deserved. That he was twisted, crooked, wrong, but not so broken that he couldn’t pull himself together into some semblance of a man for her. That without meaning to, he’d begun to lean on her, to look for her, to need her near. He needed to thank her for his new hat.”
Now this is how you do angst, you don’t spell it out, you need only hint at it and it is there:
“Do you know what makes you weak?” said Holland. “You’ve never had to be strong. You’ve never had to try. You’ve never had to fight. And you’ve certainly never had to fight for your life.”