Review: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasThe Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll say it. I read it because my favorite music group (BTS) released a music video referencing this book. (Everyone, go watch this profound, aesthetic MV: BTS ‘봄날 (Spring Day)’) To be honest, I just love it when art, music, and literature make cross-overs because it is so fun to explore the connections made between them. This story was fairly short but difficult for me to read because the idea of happiness in Omelas is so genuine when I considered that one piece of misery left in the midst. I think the theme has evaded many readers but to me, the notion that the people of Omelas derive happiness from the one root of sadness is actually possible. Without awareness of someone’s pain and suffering, we ourselves cannot seek happiness because it is only through the existence of misery that we can truly understand what happiness is. This way, citizens of Omelas choose to use this misery as a reason to be kind and live happy lives. Essentially, this is a story about the necessity of evil in order to bring about immense good. I personally cannot reconcile this despite knowing it, and that is why I understand fully why Guin writes about those who walk away from Omelas. Ultimately, it does not matter where they walk towards but only that they walk away from Omelas.

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Review: End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days, #3)End of Days by Susan Ee

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Ahhh, Penryn and her gang of unlikely saviors. We have her young sister Paige who is devastatingly altered that she can only consume human flesh and Raffe, her archangel who’s pretty high in demand in angel society. And her psychotic mother.

With these types of characters, it churned out a beautiful mixture of a book called Angelfall. The sequel World After was just as scrumptious but somewhere along the way, I think it was too much  to handle and that is why this book came out messily. The root of the problem lies in the lack of characters that connected to the central conflict. This did not allow easy access for Penryn to finally rally a last battle against the angel because let’s face it, it’s hard for a teenager to do that. Penryn was up close and personal with the angels due to Raffe, her beloved one, but she is distant from Obi who is the leader of the military camp.

Regardless, I’m going to be lenient because the last book is the most important in the series and angel books also tend to be a difficult sub-genre to break into. It limits the imagination and creative license due to the theology/mythology behind it so that it has to be firmly rooted in reality. The angel politics that drives the whole plot ends up becoming the gist of the storyline in this book and I think it’s part of the reason why readers were turned off. Spoiler: The whole point of the apocalypse was a master plan devised by Uriel for him to become the Messenger. This ultimately leads to a whole lot of drivel on questioning where Raffe’s loyalties lie in the aftermath; will he stay with Penryn or nah? There was too much time spent dwelling on that when the other more important problems were unsolved. It came up multiple times that Penryn needed to treat Raffe coldly “because he was going to leave anyways and their relationship was impossible”. It’s corny, stressful and just irrelevant in the grand scheme of things because angels are planning to annihilate the human race! In fact, I never felt their connection and the romance was Angelfall’s weakest point. There was a lot of discordance in what they wanted and their actions that continued to contradict their voices.
I want to suspend my belief for some of the conveniences that easily come into play. Especially for the somewhat happy ending. But in all honesty, it was still clever to usher in some interesting characters; I only wished more pages were spent on fully forming them. End of Days overall comes across as underwhelming because parts of it require more explanation or writing. It just means that the end came sooner than I expected.

There’s already many reviews on End of Days so mine really makes no difference. The response so far has been on polar ends of the spectrum as far as I can see. If you’re a Penryn fanatic who hasn’t read this last book yet, I’d say venture forth if you need closure. If you haven’t even remotely read Angelfall, PLEASE DO. The sequels may or may not generate favorable reactions but ANGELFALL IS A MUST.

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ARC Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This is the second book of the trilogy Red Rising and the release date is 1/3/2015. Here are the blurbs for the first and second book:

Red Rising: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Golden Son: As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.
A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.
He must live for more.

This review includes some quotes from the book:

This monstrous book tore out my heart multiple times and caused me so much anxiety that I had to finish it no matter that it was 3 in the morning. I’m having the greatest difficulty expressing my torrential outrage and the shock that accompanies the epic cliffhanger.
Please, if you truly consider reading/starting this series, make sure you do not get too attached to anyone because bad things WILL happen to them. Unlike the other cliché dystopians out there, this book does not skimp out on the violence and injustice dealt against my heart the characters.

“They have white rose petals for him. Red rose petals are reserved for Triumphs, true victories where Gold blood is shed. The blood of eight hundred thirty-three lowColors doesn’t count. That’s a clerical issue.”

No Spoilers: The book begins two years after the events in Red Rising and it updates us on the rising fame and glory pitched upon Darrow au Andromedus, our hero…which all quickly goes downhill. His quick ascent to popularity just means a deeper drop when he has his own identity at stake and so many reasons to fight for. It’s infinitely difficult for Darrow to claw his way up because all his life, he’s instilled with ideals of loyalty, chivalry, and doing hard honest work. He’s never had to play at people manipulation and it is something he is severely unprepared for in the society of Golds where the mouth is power alongside strength. These all equate to establishing a high hierarchical position and it’s a dangerous game to play among professionals. However, he is exceedingly clever and it’s exciting to see how he struggles and eventually triumphs in gaining back his renown and power.

“‘Monsters,’ the Jackal whispers, sending chills up my spine, because his actin is so damn good. He couldn’t give a piss.

Children. Would Eo have sung if she’d known this was the chorus? We all carry burdens. And as the killers slip away from the murdered family, I know my burden will crush me under its weight one day. Just not today.”

There is romance but it takes a seat on the back-burner because remember, this is about subterfuge and war against the Golds. This is one of the plot’s strongest points; the blurb does not lie and the focus of action is what you will get plenty of. Darrow knows what’s important and he adamantly refuses to compromise his mission. However, he loses his purposes time and again throughout the novel and it’s just frightful seeing how easily the cruel society can drive him to commit disreputable actions. His characterization continues to flourish spectacularly and his tremendous improvements navigating the shark-infested waters of the élite is subtly shown through every action, no matter how minuscule it is.

Characters: I’m ashamed to say I forgot many of the characters and their defining aspects (Come on, I read the first book nearly a year ago…) but GOLDEN SON brings it all back with even more development. There’s a vibrant cast filled with individualistic features and discrete qualities that set them apart. It was terribly frightening for me because I was wary of almost every single character since they all had brilliant, crafty minds. For those who miss those vicious, eccentric characters from the Institute, do not fear because Sevro, Roque, Victra, Tactus, Mustang, Jackal, etc. are here! I wasn’t initially emotionally invested in them because Darrow wasn’t but then he started to trust them more and become better friends. I reluctantly warmed up to them despite knowing terrible things they’ve done and good deeds they’ve committed for Darrow. No one was completely good and that just meant that a lot of people will not even hesitate to switch sides. Darrow is so set against letting anyone in or even trusting his closest friends. He is more of an anti-hero than a righteous rebel and he knows he’s not omnipotent despite how far his stellar intelligence and superior body training has carried him. He learns that by distancing himself, it in fact creates more likelihood for people to leave him. I hate it because he never wins in the internal conflict of relationships. It’s either forsaking love or receiving harm because he trusted too much or too little.

“‘My twin,’ she whispers as though he sits in the corner of the room. ‘He’s not a man like you. He’s something else. When he looks at us, when he looks at people, he sees sacks of bone and meat. We don’t really exist to him.’ I frown as she clutches my hand. ‘Darrow, listen to me. He is the monster they don’t know how to write stories about. You cannot trust him.'”

Betrayals, oh so many, conspiracies, and assassination plans were much abound. I actually felt my heart beating fast…faster during most of the book because everything got super intense and IT JUST KEPT GETTING MORE INTENSE. I died a little inside every time something bad happens to Darrow and things end in tragedy and loss. I fluctuated between hating the characters to loving them for that one triumphant moment when they shone so bright. However, everyone deep down has made terrible life choices, caused so much pain and suffering, and in turn are rotten full of mistakes. It takes talent, a superb talent, for me to care for them regardless because of their faults. I empathize especially so for Tactus because he is lost and weighed down by his family legacy.

“‘Pfah. Agrippina’s a wicked bitch,” Kavax grumbles. ‘Always has been.’

‘Careful, large one,’ Victra warns. ‘She’s still my mother.’

Kavax crosses his burly arms. ‘Apologies. That she is your mother.'”

The characters revolve so heavily on family and its beliefs. It’s the reason Darrow makes so many enemies because he allied himself with a not-so-clean bloodline. He also receives so much hate with every important person that he cuts down. There’s also the obsession with pride where Darrow cannot get away with killing a specific someone. So many consequences and collateral damage rose from that inevitable choice. Pride and family traditions are what these Golds feed on and they gorge themselves upon pride. I see pride manipulated countless times against others so that they have to fight a battle even if the outcome is predetermined unfavorably towards the enemies.

“I was born in a home smaller than the cargo bay of this ship. I made my life at the end of a clawDrill that makes this tube look like a child’s toy, all while sweating and pissing my soul away in a frysuit cobbled together from scrap.”

Storyline: Deep down, I knew there was no way everyone was going to survive without casualties. I just didn’t expect the price to be so high and my emotions went on the craziest roller coaster along with Darrow. His emotions do get the best of him, it’s endearing that he cares so deeply for everyone, but it’s folly sometimes how little or how much he trusts in them. There is war in this book, and who else but Darrow to lead the frontier and direct the battles? He may have the began the war and be the current mastermind but there are those who are just as efficient and some who are more experienced in this than him. That’s correct, he gets outmaneuvered but he also wins a lot but at what cost? His allies often change and his enemy shifts but his aim is true. I learned a large extent of how cunning Golds can be but I know they have aces up their sleeves that have not been revealed yet. It keeps Darrow on the tip of his toes and he’d do well to remember that. Shame that he’s only human.

The world-building is meticulously outlined and the purpose of each technology and battle warfare weapons are specific and essential to the plot. This is science fiction and dystopia done well because I can see how the Golds so easily conquered and ruled them all.The battle scenes are tremendously fierce and it gets me so animated because I actually don’t know the outcome. The plot twists just keep coming. And some of them are so unpredictable and insanely skillful.  I usually find many books predictable but GOLDEN SON is a master twists and turns. There were so many that I sat agape at the madness and ingenuity when again, Darrow (and co.) manages to evade death. There was no deus ex machina, all the pieces fit into place, and man, did it look great!

More than half of the book deals with raging war so the reader might have to adjust if they came in looking for political intrigue and less action. That, my friend, is my cue to recommend you The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner instead. I wish to discuss those humiliating moments that knocked Darrow off his pedestal. Also those death scenes (internally crying). And that DAMN CLIFFHANGER AT THE END.

“I look into the box and my heart shatters.

All that has been, all that was to be, crashes down. Eo’s dream falls into darkness. Wherever you are Sevro, Mustang, Ragnar, do not come back to this world. There’s too much pain. Too much sorrow to ever mend it.”

But I don’t wish to spoil the pleasure of anyone uncovering these things by themselves because where would the joy be without the surprise element? This way, I hope GS can deliver a greater impact and I feel sorry for you readers out there who found out Tris died without reading Allegiant. Since I’m doing you all a favor, please reciprocate by reading this book!