When I started out this year, I promised myself that I would try to read more young adult novels. As I have explained elsewhere, a lot of recent YA novels have disappointed me in terms of their quality, which has led me to feel disillusioned about the genre as a whole.
However, others have pointed out to me that that might only be the case because I haven’t really tried looking – and I suppose that is true. I have dismissed the genre offhand based on examples that may not have really appealed to me in the first place. Therefore, it behooves me to take better care in my selection process, and see if that does not filter the gold from the dross. After all, I should know better than to trust a list I found on the Internet – especially not when my own sense of taste regarding books has rarely conformed to the NYT bestseller list.
This review is based on an ARC given to me for free by the publisher; it is slated for release on October 3, 2017. This does not in any way affect my review.
Trigger warnings for this book can be found at the very bottom of this review.
Some time ago, there was an article on Lithub titled “The Greatest Goths in Literary History”: something fun and light that poked gentle fun at some notable writers. Since I have some friends who are fascinated by goth culture and even participate in it, I posted the link on my Facebook and tagged the friends in question. One of them pointed out that Arthur Conan Doyle’s belief in fairies is actually very much goth – especially if one believes in “old-school” fairies: by which she means the Fae of European folklore.
That is an idea I very much agree with. After all, if “gothic” can be broadly defined as “dark, eerie, and slightly macabre”, then the Fae very much fit into that definition. It takes some digging, since so much of the older stories has been obscured by more recent interpretations of fairies, but a quick reading of the older stories shows that the Fae are not the bright, happy, cherubic creatures so often portrayed in children’s literature and media. They are harbingers of death, or givers of blessings. They are impish pranksters who mean little to no harm, or wilful deceivers who lead mortals into harm’s way. They steal men, women, and babies; sometimes they return them, but always with caveats. Oftentimes, they are all those things, all at once. The Fae occupy a space in the imagination that seems limned with light, but if the reader looks close enough, looks hard enough, he or she realises that all that light actually hides – or creates – some very deep, very dark shadows.
Trigger warnings for this novel can be found at the very bottom of this review.
Most people, as a rule, don’t want to deliberately harm others. When they wish to do so, there is usually some reason behind it: some slight or sin that one person cannot overlook, and thus they require retribution in the form of hurting someone else. In such cases, the pain caused by the deliberate act of hurting someone, physically or otherwise, can be very grievous indeed.
But more often than not, the most common source of hurts are hurts that are not deliberately caused. Whether it is a careless word spoken or actions taken under the belief that those actions will do good for someone else, there is a lot of truth to the old adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” – because, after all, pain is a kind of hell, and sometimes good intentions can cause a great deal of pain for a lot more people than initially thought.
Sherlock Holmes is a hot-ticket item in the world of popular culture. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest literary creation has pretty much taken a life of his own in the years since he first appeared in The Strand Magazine in the 1800s, and remains popular to this day. Most recently, he has appeared in films (played by Robert Downey Jr.), television shows (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the United Kingdom and Jonny Lee Miller in the United States), and video games. And of course, there are the many pastiches and derivative works in book format that continue to feed readers’ love affair with the quintessential detective.
However, times are rapidly changing, and while the appeal of certain aspects of Holmes – his unerring logic, his ability to unearth the truth from a series of seemingly-unrelated events and items, and so on – will never really stop being popular, certain aspects of him do need to be updated for changing times, and changing concerns. For instance: Holmes’ Victorian sensibilities have long since been set aside, especially in contemporary adaptations of him such as in the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’ Elementary. His gender has also changed: for example, in Sherry Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women (a clear homage to Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet”), everything is still the same, except “Sherlock” Holmes becomes “Charlotte” Holmes. And then there are the many, many “Holmes-esque” characters that are not directly Sherlock Holmes, but who are nods to him anyway. Those characters can be found in practically single genre of media, and enumerating them all would likely require several years’ worth of research.
Here is Part 2 of the 2017 Mid-Year Grab Bag – a list I had to split into two parts because there were so many books I did not sit down to write a long review for. Still, in the spirit of honesty and completion, here they are.