Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reviews: "Inspired By" Stories

Two more reviews for you! Both of these titles are descendants of previous works, but one is vastly more successful than the other.

In the category of paranormal romance, we have Firelight by Sophie Jordan. The tale revolves around a girl who can turn into a dragon, a mortal boy whose destiny is hunting dragons, and their forbidden love. Jacinda is a beautiful flame-haired draki, the first fire-breather in her clan for generations, and she has no interest in socializing with humans or fitting in. Will’s whole family hunts dragons and he’s a talented hunter, but he’s never really liked it. The pair meet cute in a cave as Jacinda (in draki form) is being hunted by Will’s family. He hides her presence from his family, sparing her life, and the two share an electrifying cross-species touch. Later, they end up at the same school and are irresistibly drawn to each other. Other stuff happens. A love triangle. Some family drama. An evil dragon hunter with Jacinda in his sights. It’s not important.

So, a powerful non-human being falls in love with someone whose basic nature is to kill their kind but doesn’t. Switch around a few words and…Remind you of anything? Twi—I mean, Firelight. The similarities don’t end there. In Twilight, it is Edward’s impossible good looks being described ad nauseum. In Firelight, it is Jacinda’s transformation into a draki. The mythology is such that draki revert to their dragon form when scared or excited. (It’s a survival mechanism, apparently, though that seems silly if the point is to remain hidden.) Basically, every time Jacinda sees or touches Will in any capacity, her throat gets hot, her skin glimmers, and she starts BREATHING STEAM. No one notices. No one. Also, sometimes her face starts shifting when she’s kissing Will, but what ultimately gives her away is her purple blood. Yeah, OK.

In the dystopian corner, we have an updated Handmaiden’s Tale in Lauren DeStefano’s Wither. When people in the future started messing around with their genes, they introduced a condition that kills all female offspring at age 20 and all males at 25. Of course, this illness led to human trafficking, particularly so wealthy young men can procure young wives and procreate. Our heroine Rhine, along with two other girls intended to be her sister wives, ends up in the home of Linden. She resents the kidnapping, though her new situation is extremely comfortable, and plots escape to return to her twin brother Rowan. While getting to know her new surroundings, Rhine is wary of Linden’s genetically healthy father Housemaster Vaughn and intrigued by a servant boy named Gabriel.

Each girl (ages 13, 16, and 18) comes to the estate with their own story and personality. The relationships forged in the captivity of the mansion blossom organically and are complicated by a whole mess of conflicting feelings. Cecily, Jenna, Gabriel, and other household members keep the setting from feeling claustrophobic. Villains Linden and Vaughn are respectively sad and terrifying. The plot may be a bit derivative, but this book still feels like Rhine’s story. Her world is fairly thought out, even if the illness makes very little sense. Take it on faith though, and just enjoy the characters. There are even some fun outfit descriptions! Very much looking forward to the next in the Chemical Garden trilogy.

Ultimately, the characters and their evolving relationships elevate Wither and make its source material seem fresher. The dilemmas are internal and external, but both carry a weight. Firelight’s characters seem flimsy and petty in comparison, and so I couldn’t muster up enough worry over “will they or won’t they?”(I could make some crack about the quality of the source materials, but I’ll restrain myself.)

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