Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gates of Thread and Stone

The city of Ninurta heavily relies on an extreme class system where the affluent people live in the beautiful White Court while the poor are forced to live where they can in the Labyrinth. The ruler and his army are the only ones allowed to have magic, but Kai, with the ability to manipulate time, hides in fear of punishment. Kai was abandoned as a child and adopted by Reev. Her adopted brother is her whole world and they make sure to tell each other their whereabouts and make sure the other is safe. One day, Reev disappears with no trace and Kai vows to save her only family. It seems that the Black Rider, the only opposition to their magical ruler, has kidnapped him taken him to the Void, a very dangerous place, surrounded by gargoyles and wilderness. Kai and her friend Avan venture there and find that their whole way of life is a lie. Will they ever find Reev?

Gates of Thread and Stone is richly imagined and vividly rendered. I could easily visualize all the parts of Ninurta: the Void, the Labyrinth, the White Court, the Districts, and the Outlands. Kai's hero's journey takes her into each place and it felt like I was there. Ninurta is a typical fantasy world with magic and without technology, but there are small signs that it used to be our world. The people used to worship gods before their ruler showed himself to have magical powers. They have defunct artifacts from the past that are our every day appliances. I wish this aspect was explored more, but it may be in future books.

Kai is a cool character because she is fiercely loyal and fights to the death for her loved ones. However, her personality is a little hard to relate to. It just took me a while to connect with her, especially when she seemed selfish and much too reliant on other people. I also wish her powers were explored a little more, but she spent most of the book hiding them to avoid detection. Avan is also a fine character and he spend much of the book hiding his motives, so he was also hard to get a read on. The most significant thing about him was that he is pretty. Their romance was cute and felt like an organic part of the story. For me, the most fully realized characters were the minor ones. Irra, the Black Rider, in particular had a unique speech pattern and I could see his character easily.

I especially enjoyed the ending even though revelation after revelation is just dropped on the reader. It left the story hugely open for more books and I can't wait to see what happens next.

My rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Don't Touch

Caddie doesn't like to touch people and gets very anxious at even the prospect of people touching her. It started out as a game to play to cope with the turmoil in her family. Now that her parents have split up, it's an all consuming mantra. Maybe if she can keep from touching another person skin to skin, her dad will come back. She knows it sounds crazy and it probably doesn't effect anything, but she can't help it all the same. Despite the heat of the summer and the humidity, Caddie covers her whole body in clothing, even wearing evening gloves to school. Then things get tricky. She makes new friends and reconnects with an old friend that notice her weird quirks. Being cast as Ophelia in the school play won't make it any easier when she will be expected to interact and touch other actors, including Peter, her crush and the one cast as Hamlet. She wants to have a real relationship, but can't get the mantra out of her head.

Caddie has obsessive compulsive disorder, which is an anxiety disorder marked by fear or worry and repetitive behaviors aimed at lessening the anxiety. Her thoughts and fears may seem ridiculous to the reader and one might wonder why she doesn't just stop, but it's not that easy. I was very pleased with how the condition is treated in the book. Caddie does understandably work to keep it from everyone. She recognizes the behavior and thoughts are out of the ordinary and doesn't want her friends to think she's a freak. The condition affects everything in her life: her friendships, her crush, her school work, and her family. When it's revealed that she has this, her friends and family are accepting. They understandably feel a little sad that she hid it from them. I'm glad she wasn't demonized or mocked for having this disorder that she can't control and I'm glad she sought help from a professional in the end. The only unrealistic aspect was how fast the OCD was gotten over and her behavior returned to normal. It would have actually taken years in therapy and probably at least a few tries to get the correct kind and amount of medication.

The plot was fine and moved well. Her friends were an interesting group that didn't always get along, which I found realistic. I really hated Oscar because he would push people's boundaries and make them uncomfortable for fun. The romance was cute and a little frustrating. Whenever something wouln't go as planned, Peter would make random assumptions and the couple wouldn't communicate well. Other than that, I had no problems with the book. I felt it accurately portrayed the mental illness and wasn't judgmental or condemning. It's nice to see books like this because people can better understand and empathize with people who have mental illnesses.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins