Tower Of Dawn – Sarah J Maas LTTP

LTTP - Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J Maas
LTTP – Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

I did not want to read this. Full disclosure, I was never a fan of Chaol which is probably putting it lightly. I didn’t enjoy his romance with Celaena. I didn’t enjoy his P.O.V’s and in the books leading up to Tower of Dawn I was disliking him more and more. Yet for some maddening reason this was not set as a side story novella type, this was considered part of the main series for Throne of Glass. So, begrudgingly, the completionist in me was obligated to read it before I started Kingdom of Ash. And the thought of reading about a Chaol centered story sounded so painfully uninteresting to me that I avoided it for months – simultaneously putting off reading the series finale, which I had been looking forward to, in the process. To only add to my procrastination was the fact that the second P.O.V character was Nesryn who at that point I felt equally uninterested in.

So, I finally got around to it and then I finally got to that series finale (review later). Did I end up enjoying it? Yes. Did I enjoy having the knowledge from TOD while reading KOA? Yes. Did I find Chaol a redeemed and less dislikable character in the end? Surprisingly, yes. Was TOD necessary for the series reading itself? Not really. It really should have been a novella rather than part of the series.

But here’s what made the read worth it in the end for me:

Yrene Towers. A new culture and parts of the world of Throne of Glass which filled in a lot of gaps and made, in my opinion, a good addition to enrich the world and history. Yrene Towers and Chaol as a couple and the building of their relationship. And the way everything was tied together in the end and with the series story at large.

I thought reading this would be a chore that would add little to the series but I was gladly proven wrong. Sarah J Maas seems to have this uncanny ability to weave some magically addictive stories that apparently I can’t get enough of.

(I won’t get into everything people find offensive about Maas’s writing as I often find these opinions overly sensitive or the importance of which I feel is overly exaggerated. It’s a YA fantasy that is going to focus heavily on lusty, angsty, romance. So, forewarning, in case 5 books in you hadn’t picked up on these things; if certain representations, characterisations or descriptive sex scenes that focus heavily on “manhood” offend you to the point of rage – this is probably not your cup of tea.)

Highlights:

  • I miraculously stopped disliking Chaol’s character. A great showcase towards Maas’s character building ability. I even have a bit of a soft spot for him after this book.
  • Yrene and Chaol’s relationship and romance building was so good for me. I definitely got Celaena and Rowan vibes. The slow, hard building of a relationship and all the tension and the dynamics that make the characters likable together.
  • The new culture, new part of the world and the new revelations were the main things driving me to push through the boring (other than the romance between Yrene and Chaol).
  • Yrene Towers whose perspective and backstory I really enjoyed.

Lowlights:

  • Some characters were just not interesting for me (Nesryn) so I found myself annoyed at the sight of a chapter with those P.O.V’s. There were some exceptions toward the end where that P.O.V story line goes into finding out some very interesting details about the series plot – but did I care about her family and romantic life and very slow but extremely obvious dwindle of her romantic relationship with Chaol? No. In short – A lot of boring chapters that were ineffective at making me care.
  • Overwhelming amount of information dump at first.
  • The length of Chaol’s healing process and the length of the entire story when the main goals are to heal Chaol and get the Khagan and 6 heirs to lend their armies to war against Erawan.
  • I am so charactered out by this point in the series that I really don’t care about the Khagan and the 6 heirs, whose names I can no longer recall. Honestly a lot of the characters in TOG as a whole can feel a bit interchangeable once those characters start dropping onto the page from all directions.

3/5 – A totally unnecessary “part of the series” that was surprisingly good at redeeming Chaol and making me fall in love with another character but so, so long.

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Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer LTTP

Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer LTTP
Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer LTTP

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation is intriguing and vivid and unique. The details and pacing are eerie and suspenseful. At a glance it’s the exact kind of thing I could imagine myself being really into. At 195 pages this book should make for a quick and easy read but it trudges along, less fast paced action and more ambiance description and inner monologue. The writing tends to get droning and heavy and I had to be in a very persistent frame of mind to get through a chapter in one sitting. Ultimately it took me months of putting off and picking it back up before I finished the book out of sheer, ‘I don’t like to DNF’, determination.

The problem for me was that while there are grabbing and interesting moments, it often felt like nothing happened except description for far too long between actual events. Or the things that did happen were so small and so spaced out, not a whole lot seemed significant or exciting.

It probably doesn’t help that I watched the movie first which is the exact worst set up for this book. I thought, of course, I have to read the book in order to get more depth and insight from the original work that would be missing in the movie… I mean, it did but there’s also less of the qualities that made the movie so interesting.

If you, like me, are hoping for a read that resembles the movie – this is not really that.

And it probably shouldn’t be compared but I couldn’t help comparing it, so it will be.

It doesn’t help that you don’t get much of a sense of any of the characters, other than the biologist. They start to disappear so quickly into the book without much inkling of personality or desire or anything really but shells of characters that are there and gone with a blink. I preferred the movie in that regard. The building up of the characters, investing more time in them before they are taken, one way or another.

The fact that they’re essentially puppets from the beginning of the book only adds to the frustration of this. And with the way that the story plays out you start to feel like you probably aren’t getting the best sense of the biologist’s full character either. Don’t get me wrong, her characterization is full and believable – I think it’s why the writing style can feel so monotonous and report like at times, sterile and cold (which does not help you feel for or particularly like the character). But it’s also unreliable. She is so quickly in the influence of the psychologist and then Area X that it feels as though we can’t be sure we really ever got to know the main protagonist either, despite hearing everything from her perspective.

In the movie we are less close, and that separation allows us to physically see her before and after entering Area X. We see and get a sense of who she is in a way that feels solid, less open to interpretation. In the book she recalls herself but in a situation where you can’t really be sure how much of herself is already under the influence of Area X and how much of her version of events and herself is intact. How much is truth and how much is unreliable? Sure, we get more in some ways, the details of her past life; relationships and childhood, but we get it with far less certainty.

Without connection to any character I don’t find I can hold interest in a book. Relying on description, mystery and vagueness without those character intricacies and connections, just doesn’t work for me.

The ending in the book I actually found more satisfying than in the movie. You don’t get answers and we seemed to be set up for that from the beginning. I actually enjoyed that aspect in the book where I found it frustrating in the movie. The biologist doesn’t seem to return home. She ventures instead to a place where she might find some remnant of her husband. And it’s those last moments of the book, oddly, where I feel like she is the most understandable and emotional, humanized. It’s almost hopeful.

– 2/5 An undeniably full, unique, eerie and atmospheric experience but lacking in the kind of character connection and understanding I typically like. Good where some parts of the movie is bad. Bad where some parts of the movie is good.

Buy it – Annihilation