You ever hear about a book and think, “Ooh, boy! Want, want, want! I’ll totally love it!” and then buy/read it and…well, it just didn’t do it for you? Yeah. I’ve been there. Twice lately.
Genre: YA Dystopian
Blurb: In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina – the first six-inch-tall winged girl – as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six ‘Toms’ were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.
Um. No thanks. Lina’s already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.
When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the ‘Toms’, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?
Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible.
She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.
My Thoughts: With the premise of a tiny winged girl and a romantic reality show, I went in expecting something a little more like a lighthearted fairytale. Instead, the novel was more a tangled web of cover-ups, manipulation, and both the main character’s and my inability to be sure of what was going on and who to trust. Outside my preferences as it was, I can’t judge whether it was poorly done, but it certainly wasn’t pulled off in such a way that could overcome my inclination toward anxiety and disengagement when presented with that kind of plot.
What frustrated me most about the situation, I think, is that it felt like very little of what Lina did mattered; whether she cooperated or rebelled, powers outside of her held too much control for her decisions to make much of an impact. And while, for these reasons, I did sympathize with Lina, her voice didn’t particularly grab me and induce me to feel any special affection for her as a character.
HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): All told, it wasn’t the reading experience I’d hoped for. I expect, though, that it is largely a matter of personal taste, and other readers may enjoy it more.
Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy
Blurb: By day, Vivienne is Guinevere’s lady-in-waiting. By night, she’s Merlin’s secret apprentice, indulging in the new mechanical arts and science of alchemy. It’s a preferred distraction from Camelot’s gossipy nobility, roguish knights, and Lancelot’s athletic new squire, Marcus, who will follow in all knights’ footsteps by taking a rather inconvenient vow of chastity.
More than anything, Vivienne longs to escape Camelot for a future that wouldn’t include needlework or marriage to a boorish lord or dandy. But when King Arthur’s sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens Camelot, Vivienne must stay to help Merlin build a steam-powered weapon to defeat the dark magic machine Morgan will set upon the castle. Because if Camelot falls, Morgan would be that much closer to finding the elusive Holy Grail. Time is running out and Morgan draws near, and if Vivienne doesn’t have Merlin’s weapon ready soon, lives would pay the price, including that of Marcus, the only one fast enough to activate it on the battlefield.
My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this one, guys, but we just didn’t click.
As if often the case in the steampunk genre, the story relied heavily on creative visuals – goggles and corsets and gizmos like animatronic creatures and gun-sword hybrids. For those whose minds can easily envision such things, I expect it would have been a richer experience (despite the fact that, apart from the shiny trimmings and trappings, very little about this Camelot got described at all). Alas for me, visualization, particularly of unfamiliar concepts, is not my strong suit, leaving me to go through the story half-blind. And without the aesthetic to charm me, that story unfortunately fell flat.
I didn’t connect with the characters and their voices; didn’t feel I really got to know them as I’d like. Perhaps with my allergy to anything veering toward the technological, the mechanically-minded Vivienne was ill-suited to narrate the tale in the way that would best speak to me; I had a hard time following her stream of thought, and was generally confused to the point of boredom. I wonder if the story wouldn’t have been better told in 3rd person rather than 1st.
(Skimming the reviews on Goodreads marked with 2 or 3 stars – many of which, I note, also begin with various versions of “I really wanted to like this one, guys” – will further elaborate on a lot of problems I had with the storytelling. I am somewhat comforted to know it wasn’t all just me.)
All told, then, while I can’t help but be intrigued by the idea of a steampunk Arthurian tale, “Camelot Burning” and I weren’t a good match.
HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): I’d like nothing better than for someone else to read this and love it the way I’d hoped I would. If you think that someone could be you, give it a go.
Have any of you read either of these books and felt differently? Or perhaps you’ve had an experience similar to mine with another book lately? The comment section is open; do share.
And tell you what, friends: If you haven’t yet read these books but think you’d like to give them a try for free, tell me which one you want, and I’ll select one or two of you (depending on what kind of response I get) to win the copies I don’t feel the need to hang onto. You’ve got ‘til Saturday, September 6th. Battle it out!