Tower of Dawn, Chaol, and a Mini Essay on What Characters are to Us

It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean the schools going back, (though, thank god, because I can go shopping without having children EVERYWHERE) I mean its september, which means  A NEW THRONE OF GLASS NOVEL.

I know, originally, by this point in time, we had all hoped to have the last book in the series and were all expecting to be lying down, quietly sobbing in denial because face it, Sarah isn’t going to let all our favourites survive, but I’m actually glad that Chaol got a full novel and a year to himself, rather than the novella and three months from June to now.

When it was announced he was getting a huge book for himself, I seemed to be one of the few that was overjoyed; many people hate hated Chaol since book two. Many more have hated him since book four. But Chaol… I just wanted to know that he would be alright, because out of every character in the series, he is the one I understand and love the most.

I first picked up Throne of Glass because of Celaena. She was the character I needed back then- at eighteen, I had only just ‘escaped’ from a place that had done me a lot of damage. I was, pretty much, the way they had hoped Celaena would be locked up in the camp; broken down and lost myself. I read her story and I vowed to myself that if she could make it, then I could (I mean, technically I failed, I unlike her, do not have a kingdom of my own and am not a missing loved princess, but hey, we can’t all have crowns, and a lot of beautiful guys and girls around us). But while Celaena was the one character that saved me, it was Chaol, that from the beginning, I understood and identified with most.

Chaol’s most important trait has always been his loyalty. From the very beginning, it was loyalty to the crown and his best friend, and that was always going to be his downfall. Because he was so blindly loyal that he didn’t want to see the bad in his kingdom – despite the fact that the king he worked for was evil, and he knew it. That loyalty was the thing that ripped him apart- the thing that many readers decided was ‘out of character’ for him in previous books (see: when he and Dorian fought. When he had Aelin fought). But loyalty isn’t this black and white concept that you can turn off when you realise someone was evil.

Chaol tried. He turned away from his king and threw his sword into the river and that was a massive turning point in his story arc. That was him realising that his entire time as a captain was wrong, but that didn’t stop him being loyal. That’s why he fought so much with Aelin. Some of it was because he did love Celaena and given her his loyalty – only to find out who she was. But the rest of it was because he had built his whole life on being captain to the king and thrown it away. That sword was symbolic – to Chaol, he was throwing his life away. Like no wonder he was so angry at everyone in QoS. He had lost all he knew and he assumed the girl he loved was his enemy (and to be fair, she did kinda act it).

(Sorry I have a lot of thoughts on Chaol)

Anyway, back onto the new book; I knew that I would love Tower of Dawn no matter the outcome. Of course, I wanted Chaol to be happy, but I knew he had a longggg way to go before that; because not only did he have the war raging inside himself for who he was, and an injury he hated, he had seen too much to even know he could be happy again.

I also knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster. Every Maas book is, but this one was meant to be Chaol’s own Heir of Fire, and that book destroyed me enough. And it proved to be just that. In HoF, Celaena went into it hurt and hating herself, refusing to accept who she was and what she had become. In ToD, it was an identical journey, minus the whole finding his own magic storyline. Chaol went into it unable to find who he was anymore, and came out with not only new friends, but new love and himself.

I may have cried like, at least five times. (If I could pluck Chaol from the book and protect him forever, I so would)

One of my favourite things about this book, though, has been the reactions from other people. Chaol has never been a favourite of the fandom, and when people heard about this book, many spent months saying they were not going to bother reading it as it would be a waste (which like, is totally wrong since MASSIVE PLOT POINT AND TWIST) or was planning to read it to take the piss out of it. However, many of the people who went into it hating Chaol have come out, maybe not loving him, but at least understanding him.

Many who went in shipping him with Aelin or Nesryn came out shipping him with someone else (I don’t really understand shipping, not in this fandom I honestly just want them all to be happy).

I think that shows how brilliant a writer Maas is; that she can make so many people care about a character they thought they would always hate, and make them fall in love with his journey.

Out of all of the books in the ToG series, ToD has been one of my favourites, because Chaol has always been nearest to who I am than anyone else, and to see him grow over the book was amazing.

And really, there are people out there that don’t understand how some people have coped through fiction or even survived through it – I think this is the book I would hand them to make them understand. Because fiction, and characters, are not just on the page. I’ve spent five years loving these characters, I’ve been on their journeys through pages, and they have seen me through many of mine.

… and I’m slightly terrified to see what will happen in the last book…

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Friday Thoughts: On the Power of Words

I’m reading a book at the moment (*gasp*), called Letters to the Lost – which, in all honestly, will most likely have a review on here far sooner than this post does (since I write Friday posts weeks in advance) – all about a girl who has lost her mother and a boy who lost his sister years ago and has pretty much lost himself.

The book, to me, is pretty hard hitting. I didn’t think, when starting it, that it would be so bad. After all, I’ve read a lot of books about mental health and self harm and even the terrifying Only Ever Yours, which to this day, creeps me out. And compared to many of them, this book is easy. 

Except this; grief is not an easy thing. Its often pushed away, ignored and underestimated, as shown by the main characters friends, who six months after her mothers death, don’t understand why she still struggles.

And while you know the characters in the book are not real, when you’ve struggled through your own grief and the characters coping mechanism mirror your own… its extraordinarily hard to read. Only a few chapters in, I had to pause and put the book down, because it made me feel like I could barely breath.

And just like the power of grief, the power of words is also often underestimated. Every piece of writing ever read has the power to change us. Look at Harry Potter, for example. A series that shaped an entire generation, and changed the way people look at childrens books forever.

In 1996 – a year before the first Potter book came out – the average childrens book was around 140 pages long. Ten years later, it had increased to 170, and ten years after that (2016) it had gone up to an amazing 290 pages. (information from here)

The theory is that well before Harry Potter, people believed that children would never be able to sit down for that long and just read. So they never bothered publishing long childrens books – since they were apparently less likely to sell. Then along came Harry Potter (whose first few books were relatively  short, but still far longer than the average for the time. The first book was 223 pages- about 75000 words), and suddenly they were seeing that children were sitting down and reading it, and enjoying it! And of course, the series got longer and longer- the height of it being book 5 with a whopping 257,045 words (or 766 pages). And guess what? Children were still reading it. 

Publishers suddenly saw that if the story was good and engaging, then any child would read it, without being too intimidated by the size of it.

Of course, not every long childrens book is good. Its still about quality rather than quantity, but it gave longer stories a way to finally shine.

Staying on Harry Potter for a bit longer (I mean, I am of the Potter generation, can you blame me), there was also research done that showed by reading books such as Harry Potter, it helped you become a ‘better person’ more open minded to things, less judgmental… (here) Because Potter is a story of friendship, love, good VS evil and a whole lot more. Sure, there are the the downright despicable characters (I’ve never seen a fandom like Potter, where you say Umbridge’s name and everyone hates her), but they teach you how not to be, and the lesson learnt is that if you act like Umbridge, you too could be carted off by magical creatures into a giant forest. There are the characters that bring out the arguments. Draco Malfoy, the bully of the story. We all know he was a terrible child, but, as seen in Cursed Child, forgiveness is always important. Snape – who I won’t stay on because I refuse to accept he was ever a good character, because really, a teacher should never ever bully a child. But then there are the characters we all adore. The Weasleys, who show that you should always help others and have your arms wide no matter who you are. Hermione, who for a while was seen as awful, who turned out to be loyal and smart. And Harry – a boy who had lost everything, grew up in an abusive home and still became a wonderful, lovely person.

And talking about characters – did you know that you pick up the traits of characters you identify with? (That explains so much about me, since the Weasley twins and Lila Bard are my bookish siblings…) So next time someone judges you for reading something, find them a book with a really lovely, non judgmental character and it might change their minds! (read stuff about it here)

The thing is… so many people assume that books and words are just that; pieces of dead tree inked with symbols we somehow perceive as letters.

But books well and truly shape us. Think back to your childhood favourites; to this day, I can name many of them, and I still have a whole bookshelf dedicated to most of them. And books more recent; I have another bookcase where I store all my favourites, ones I go back to time and time again, or just the ones I read that caught my heart so much I knew I would never let them go.

Sometimes we read books at the right time; Celaena, from Throne of Glass, came into my life at a time I needed her. I was tired and frightened and lost, and I remember thinking, as I read it, if she can survive then so can I. Books, and their characters and their meanings can make more of a difference to someone than most people will ever imagine.

And then there are the words that maybe the world do not see. Your own words. People say that every person has a book inside them. I disagree. I think people have their own universes inside them, ever expanding and creating and dreaming, and with every book read or written, that universe grows more and more.

But we are taught to push those worlds away. Our childhoods and teenage years are all about education. It’s reading for the sake of dissecting, rather than reading for the sake of enjoyment. Its writing for essays rather than writing for joy.

At school, many of my books would have real school work in the front, then plots and mini stories in the back. I remember having countless arguments with my English teachers, because according to them, I didn’t write correctly. Even at 14, I knew for a fact there wasn’t a correct way. Writing is personal, even fiction, and every one of us has our own style. School batters that out of you. They tell you that even creative writing has it’s own form. That your characters must be identical and your writing all the same, and they grade you on how near to their own you can write. How- how can you grade something like imagination and voice?!

My English teacher from year 10 actually told me never to bother being a writer because I couldnt write. I mean, I dont know if I can, but you can look for yourself if you want. But because I refused to conform to what school taught as ‘creative’ (eg, fitting into the box and not being creative) I was punished and put down.

Her words could have had power over me. If I wasn’t stubborn, I might have believed her and stopped writing. But while education tried to box my universe down to size, I wouldn’t let them, and I let it flourish.

It’s why you should always be careful with those words you wield; often, they have more power and punch than, well, a real punch does, because words – spoken or written – can burrow under the skin and stay there and shape people long long after they were said or the book was closed.

In Letters to the Lost, the main character writes letters to her mother even after she had died. By chance, someone else read a letter and was effected by the words. They resonated in them and he understood the pain the girl felt, even without knowing her.

Sometimes, that is why we write. Even a published author can write for themselves, not knowing who would read their words and who would understand them. Sometimes we don’t write to be heard or seen; we write because our own words can change us too. Everything we read, everything we write, it shapes all of us more than we will never know.

A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J Maas

I warn you now, this is not a review. More of a thought on the series as a whole and the last book. Also, spoilers abound, so read at your own risk!

So. After many many years, we finally have a ‘series’ ending to a Maas series. I can’t remember ever reading a series in which people were so scared to read the last book – because we all know the glee Sarah has in inflicting pain and oh my god who will she kill.

And as I expected, it was just as full of pain and emotion as the rest of her books, and just like the name it has, very full of WAR. 

Not just battle-y war, but war with words and war waging inside people to find out who they are and to accept it.

It was amazing to read, because all the characters made mistakes, did things wrong, tried to put their friends before themselves (Rhys, you fool). Those characters we thought were good did bad things and the ones we thought were bad did good.

Which is awesome. I’ve lost count of the amount of books I’ve read where good stays good and bad stays bad no matter what. Where everything is black or white. Sarah has shown it in her previous books, but in this one it is really clear; every character is shades of grey. She shows how messy we all are, how messy living is, and is one of the few authors I’ve seen actually do that.

And wow, those characters. We get more of Feyres sisters, more Az (yay) more of the High Lords (who are mostly brilliant) and characters like the Bone Carver. We get more of their stories and hints of who they are and so many questions for later books.  (I still want a book about the Summer Court, so much)

And we get more of our lovely mains. Feyre, Tamlin and Rhys. And more Lucien (though still not enough!).

Don’t get me wrong – this is not my favourite of the series. That would be book two, because of the amount of growth in it and everything. This one has stepped up in the game of Smuttiest Section, with there seeming to be something in every few pages at some points and flirting at wildly inappropriate moments (aka in the library). It was still amazing though – I just felt there was less story in it than there was in the other two.

But it was still incredible.

Still as tear jerking. More so, since I think I cried twice and had tears in my eyes on at least three other occasions. The wonderful thing about Sarah’s writing is you really feel for the characters. You grow to love them and their relationships with each other, so you really feel for them when they are in danger… and thats pretty much the whole book.

All in all, it was a perfect end to the series, though I’m seriously thankful that it’s not the of the books from that world, because there are so many courts and characters to explore.

Friday Thoughts: Fangirling and Embarrassing Moments in front of Authors.

No matter who you are, there’s always that one (or two, or three…) author that you know you will completely panic about meeting. You try desperately to act ‘normal’ around them…. but you fail.

I’ve met a far few authors in the last couple of years. Thanks to working in a bookshop and events like YALC, it’s become a regular thing. So you would have thought that I would have been used to it- I mean, these people… they are just people, who happen to be really good with words (mostly).

But, yeah, my brain doesnt listen to logic like that (thankfully, authors themselves are just as bad, and fangirl over each other too) which means that I’ve embarrassed myself or been an idiot in my excitement more than once.

My most memorable one was actually the best day of my life as well, though I still internally cringe at myself for it, despite it actually being like, two years later.

I had won a competition to have afternoon tea with Sarah J Maas in London. The comp was as follows- all you had to do was be a bookseller, and email Bloomsbury with reasons why you and not someone else, should meet our Dear Queen of Fantasy.

My email read like this:

1) It’s because of Sarah and the utterly amazing character that is Celaena that I started doing archery and found something I loved
2) she had given me many sleepless nights because of the amount I read Throne of Glass, and has stolen enough of my tears to make another ocean, and she ought to have a chance to redeem herself (Or not, I mean, I am half dreading reading Queen of Shadows at the end of the year because of the TORTURE to my emotions.)
3) She is my favourite author and if it was acceptable to chase strangers down the road screaming ‘READ THESE BOOKS’ at them, I would, and I think she should know that.
4) I was on my hands and knees begging Bloomsbury for a proof copy of A Court of Thorns and Roses, and it became an instant favourite when I was on the first page (I then read it twice and almost cried when I had to give it to my colleague so she could read it)
5)I would trade anything for a chance to meet Sarah. My soul, my first born child (on pre-order) and maybe even my plans for world domination (reading. Taking over the world by reading.) Of course, what I won’t trade is Sarah’s books.

Now, what they failed to say to me before I met Sarah and her Bloomsbury Rep was that they found the email so entertaining (since most other people just wrote things like ‘I sell a lot of her books’) that the entire department of Bloomsbury had read it.

*cue embarrassment*

So when a comment came up about it (mainly, where was Sarah’s promised child)… well I’m never going to forget it.

On the actual day, though, I was so excited that when I saw Sarah walking into the place we were eating in, I stood up, held out my hand and just squeaked “You’re Sarah J Maas” as if, somehow, this bestselling author would really forget her name. I didn’t even introduce myself.

I think I was in a sheer state of bliss (mixed with lots of champagne since it was free) that day I kinda just constantly made a fool of  myself. Thankfully, at Sarah’s real event that evening, she walked into the room, spotted me and went ‘Look! These people are already my friends!’ so my idiotic didn’t seem to make that much of an impact.

Between then and july last year, there were many other author meetings, including Leigh Bardugo, but the other main one that sticks in my head is that of Non Pratt, at YALC last year.

Now, for those of you that don’t know, once a year in july, the YA book lovers of the world attempt to converge on London, to a floor above comic con that month. Along with them go many many authors, publishers, agents and anyone attempting to be bookish.

Last year, Non Pratt was among those authors. Each day she dressed as different characters (I think one of which was Kaz from Six of Crows and it was amazing). One day, she was dressed as Harry Potter, and I, dressed as Draco (from AVPM) was dared to go up to the first Potter I saw and reenact the ‘Moonshoes Potter’ scene from it.

Guess who the first Potter was I saw? Guess who also had never seen AVPM, and thus ended up looking like the most terrified author in the world? You’ve got it, the wonderful Non Pratt.

Yeah, well, I’m never showing my face around them again. Ever. Forget secondhand embarrassment, every time I remember it, it’s like I’m back there, just slowly drowning in a pool of humiliation.

It’s a good thing I gave up with dignity years ago, isn’t it?

So I may love authors and love meeting them, but it seems to go hand in hand with making a fool of yourself.

Have you ever met an author- have you ever said something to them you instantly regretted?

2016 in Books

According to Goodreads, I have read 83 books this year. But that doesn’t count rereads, and I’ve read all the Sarah J Maas books once (some of them twice. One of them maybe three times), the SoC books once, the entire Psy-Changeling series once (yes, all like, 15 of them.) and a few other of favourite series, so in total, I’ve probably read about 150 this year.

And then theres all the picture books I never put down that I’ve read (and I read a lot of the, thanks to working in a bookshop)…so lets make that more like….over 200 books? Who knows.

Maybe I ought to keep better track somehow.

The longest book I read this year was Empire of Storms- which I am still reeling from.

I also rated 16 books with 5 stars this year- EoS being one, along with ACoMaF (that’s the three times read one, if you were wondering), Blue Lily Lily Blue, Heartless, Crooked Kingdom, the V E Schwab books and The Princess Bride.

Only one book got one star from me- Low Red Moon- which was so bad I didn’t review, but did do a live blogging reading of which you can find here (along with some other entertaining reads).

Four books were marked two stars- two of which were in the same series, Snow Like Ashes. (I hoped it would getter better. It didn’t)

There have also been a few DNF this year (I should keep better track of these too) including The Book Thief, which I attemped twice, and gave up twice.

There are still a few books that I am reading- Nevernight (which is brilliant), A Monster Calls (which I am not enjoying as much as people said I would) and American Gods (which is very strange but I think I like- being only 50 pages in, I haven’t made up my mind yet)

But over all, this has been a better year for books than not- some brilliant new releases, a return to some older favourites (Even though I’m still going to pretend Cursed Child is nothing to do with Potter)  and some wonderful new authors appearing on the scene.

Here’s to next year- a year where at least three series I am reading finish (anyone else terrified for ACoWaR?) and some new beautiful editions come out (hello, nice looking Beauty and the Beast) and some interesting new books coming out.

Happy reading, everyone, and happy new year!

On spoilers, reactions and Empire of Storms

The internet. It can be a wonderful place for bookish related things- from reviews to fan art to merchandise. But it can also be awful- when spoilers are leaked, or authors are attacked for writing their own book.

Sarah J Maas is one of my favourite writers. It’s not exactly hard to see that- I’m always trying to get people to read her books, always counting down til her next book, or writing about her characters. But the downside, I have found, to being a fan of Maas…is a lot of her other ‘fans.’

Before Queen of Shadows came out last year, someone leaked spoilers- and the last chapter- online, leading to outrage and complaints. People vowing to never read the books, people insulting others who were still reading the books, people telling people the end while they were still reading to get a reaction.

The book came out, and it was amazing. Because guess what? Spoilers tell you an outcome (sometimes not even that) not the lead up and the understanding.

I really really hoped that the fandom would have learnt from last year, but in the weeks leading up to Empire of Storms, the exact same thing happened. Spoilers were leaked, people started insulting the books- and the author. Whenever the series was mentioned, it was always with a cloud of anger or doubt or hate.

I’m not saying you can’t hate books or series, or authors. Hell, there are plenty of books in the world I have hated, and there are a few authors who I do not agree with. But there is a difference between hating something, and bullying.

Hate a series, yes. Do not spoil it for those that like it. Do not ruin it for those that are reading it, do not insult those that read it. Hate an author- but do not send them death threats!

Authors are human beings, just like you and me. They have feelings. The only difference is that they have put their imagination, some of their heart and soul into the book you hold. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Insulting them, sending them hate, its all out of order.

I never saw any spoilers of EoS. I managed to avoid them- by staying off websites like Goodreads in the run up to the book. So while I could see the backlash to what was happening- people getting upset and worried, people getting hate over defending Maas, I was cheerfully innocent to why people were so angry. Which is why, when the book arrived a few days early, I was still excited and dived into it at once.

Oh my god, it was amazing- just as I had expected.

Maas has a wonderful way of telling a story, and with every book, she just gets better. She draws you in, makes you fall in love then destroys your heart leaving you in a sobbing mess at the end.

I can understand why some people were a bit disappointed. (slight spoilers ahead?) After all, one of my favourite characters (and the one I want to steal and protect with my life) was not in this book. Darling Chaol was absent- and people were getting worked up about it.

However Take into account what Chaol’s storyline in this would have been like, and compare it to the giant arc that did happen, and even I can understand why he is missing. His chapters would have slowed things down, would not have been as important or interesting as what was in the book….and he is getting his own Novella, so…

And (personally) for me, there were a few to many make-out style scenes- but then I have always read this series for the fantasy, and the world, and the magic- and the individual characters- not for who gets with who.

And therein, I think, we find the problem.

Many readers- and mostly younger readers- read these books for the ‘ships’ more than the story. They want ‘this character’ to end with ‘that one’, they don’t like ‘this character’ and ‘that one’ together. There has always been a problem with the shippers- I remember, back with Heir of Fire, when I said that Chaol was my favourite, I was sent hate by many people because they assumed that by me liking him, I wanted him and Celaena to be together and according to them THIS WAS WRONG.

I was told that people who liked Chaol were ‘the problem’ and ‘children’ and ‘didn’t understand what a bad character was.’ I was told that ‘chaol lovers were the ones that kicked off and sent hate out’ (huh, funny that. Almost ironic)

But…a book is more than its relationship arcs. The relationships in the ToG books have been important- because they have shown how the characters have changed and grown throughout. But they are also not the end of everything. The ToG series is about a girl trying to find her place in a world that has been ruined, trying to get past what she has done to survive. It’s about a Prince trying to become a King, and a Captain learning where his loyalties should really lie.

Yes, some people do not like this series- and that is their right. But you should not hate a series based on spoilers, without reading the book yourself. And you should not ruin that book for others.

The series is incredibly well written. And even if it wasn’t- no author deserves to be sent hate for what they write, no reader should be sent hate for what they love. Every series ever written has had problems with them- because, like people, books are not perfect. But the lack of perfection- while should be noted- should not be throw in to the faces of the people that enjoy them.

Reading. Its meant to be fun, not stressful.

(and lastly, if you have’t read this series yet, please, please go and read it.)

 

Currently Reading: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

The_Reptile_Room_(UK)

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. the story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.
In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible smell, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the re-appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.
I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

I used to own all these books, and loved them all. They were strange and amusing and adventurous, and I would reread them all the time. Then my sister gave them away, and I think my heart broke.

Until I found a boxset of 10 of them for £20. And started rereading them again.
I may have grown up, but these books take you straight back to being a child again, and I love them just as much as before.