Friday, 2 April 2010

Review: The Sweet Far Thing

Dear Blog,
well then. The conclusion to the Gemma Doyle trilogy. The Sweet Far Thing.
This epic tome is 820 pages long and if ever I wanted to take it anywhere with me I had to use my mother's old Fat Face shoulder bag, which is smallish on the outside but within is like a TARDIS and fits about 5 or 6 books/journals/notepads in it. Carrying so many books no doubt does untold damage to my spine, but it's worth it to have a novel or three at hand.

Summary (which I pinched from Amazon. No copyright infringement intended, bla bla bla, but I'm going to town in an hour and time is of the essence):
It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy. Having bound the wild, dark magic of the realms to her, Gemma has forged unlikely and unsuspected new alliances both with the headstrong Felicity and timid Ann, Kartik, the exotic young man whose companionship is forbidden, and the fearsome creatures of the realms. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test those bonds. As her friendship with Felicity and Ann faces its gravest trial, and with the Order grappling for control of the realms, Gemma is compelled to decide once and for all which path she is meant to take. Pulled forward by fate, the destiny Gemma faces threatens to set chaos loose, not only in the realms, but also upon the rigid Victorian society whose rules Gemma has both defied and followed. Where does Gemma really belong? And will she, can she, survive?

Review: First things first-it is a brilliant (albeit tragic) (though I knew what happened already because somebody wrote a major spoiler in their review on Goodreads and didn't mark it as a spoiler post) ending to a brilliant trilogy. Every plot thread is neatly tied up.
There are a couple of flaws, alas. But many good things to balance it out. To every, "hmmph" there is a "yay!" So here they are.
Hmmph It doesn't need to be 800 pages long. Very little happens for the first 700 pages or so. Which is tricky because those 700 pages are important in a way. You find out more about the Order, the Rakshana, discover sinister secrets, etc. etc. But despite these important things, it could be at least 200 pages shorter.
Yay! When it does get going, it's so gripping your fingers hurt from, well, gripping the page so tight. And the edges of the pages are damp from your sweating hands. I stayed up til gone midnight many many nights reading it.
Hmmph it is a little predictable what happens to Pippa. We all knew she was going to turn into an evil power-crazy demonic creature. She reminds me of Cate Blanchett in the latest Indiana Jones (but minus the cringingly bad Russian accent): "It is me! I am the chosen one! The power is mine! Mwahaha!"
Yay! this isn't really a "yay!", but it is the balance to the previous "hmmph": I suppose if she had been brought back or at least hadn't turned into a creepy demon, it would have been a bit, "oh." But interestingly enough **SLIGHT SPOILER**, being a demon wasn't actually her ultimate demise.
Hmmph It's set in 1896. But the main characters all talk like they were from a much more modern era. Not the 21st century perhaps...but still, more recent than the time.
Yay! the few references to high society in the day were quite interesting and added the period backdrop, to remind you what century you were in after lesbianism, drug addictions, rebellious attitudes to religion and other such issues. Scandal, debutantes, balls, exclusive gentlemen's clubs, etc. remind you where you are. If you want any more, I suggest you seek out The Luxe sequence. 400 pages of, as all the critics say, The OC but with bigger frocks and more dashing boys. There are 4 books so far. That's 1,160 pages of gossip in 1899! Personally I'm not fussed on all this but it added some era detail.
Hmmph The ending was a bit sudden and "oh. Ok then." Though I accepted it, it seemed sort of rushed.
Yay! What characters survived the climax met their futures and everything was resolved. As I said at the start, everything was perfectly tied up without it seemingly overly easy.

Additional thoughts: a prequel. yes! yes! yes! Set 25 years before, perhaps alternating point of views between Gemma's mother, Sarah Rees Toome, Mrs Nightwing & all others concerned. What a sock-rocking fanfic that'd make. Bagsy me! Either way, Libba Bray ought to write it. If she isn't already.
Another Additional Thought: despite the many "hmmphs" I have mentioned, perhaps I've only thought these over because I'm writing a review. As you're reading, you throw all these "hmmph" moments aside and follow the plot like Alice follows the white rabbit down his hole. You're too sucked in to stand back and think, "hmm, that's a little annoying." Why complain about the modern dialogue and stuff when Gemma is facing her most dangerous trial yet, the Order and the Rakshana are closing in around her trying to steal the magic, and she needs to uncover the truth about the Tree of All Souls?!

Rating: 4. Not as good I suppose as the first two, but still AN ABSOLUTE MUST for everybody who enjoyed aforementioned first two.

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