Madame Bovary

Gustave Flauberts roman Madame Bovary är en bok jag läst i en litteraturkurs som jag läser just nu och det är egentligen inte en roman jag vanligtvis skulle valt att läsa. Den är ett par hundra år gammal och språket är högtravande trots nyutgåvan jag har, vilket gör att jag tappade fokus flera gånger. Flaubert beskriver allting in i minsta detalj, tills det att jag själv nästan blev galen av irritation för måste jag veta exakt hur den där karaktärens hatt såg ut när han var femton? Det, i sig, tyckte jag var det stora problemet med den här boken och anledningen till att jag hade svårt för den.

Historian i sig var intressant, om än, naturligtvis, gammalmodig. Flaubert berättar om Charles Bovary, en fransk läkare som guidas in i ett giftermål av sin mamma som han inte riktigt vill ha, men som han ändå går med på . Det tar inte överdrivet lång tid innan Charles fru avlider, ett litet tag efter det att Charles träffat en ung kvinna vid namn Emma, som senare blir hans nya hustru. Charles avgudar Emma och tycker livet är perfekt, men Emma inser att livet som gift inte är riktigt så som hon väntat sig. Hon älskar inte sin man och tycker att hennes nya tillvaro är trist och tråkig. Efter att hon fått ett mindre nervsammanbrott bestämmer sig Charles för att det bästa för Emmas hälsa är en ny miljö och de flyttar till en liten by där Emma träffar Léon, en man som senare kommer att bli hennes älskare, i hennes jakt på lycka och ett försök att fylla upp tomrummet inom henne.

I sig är det en lite annorlunda historia, speciellt med tanke på när den skrevs och publicerades. Emma är otrogen mot sin man och försummar även förhållandet med sitt barn samtidigt som hon köper mycket materiella ting som hon verkar tro kan fylla upp tomheten hon känner. Emma går emot normen, vilket säkert är anledningen till att Madame Bovary blivit en välkänd, och väl omdiskuterad, roman. Flaubert berättar om en vanlig fransk by och vad som borde vara ett vanligt äktenskap men som istället har en ovanlig kvinnlig huvudkaraktär. Madame Bovary är i sig en speciell berättelse och en intressant bok, jag önskar bara att Flaubert kunnat skruva ner lite på de onödiga och alltför ingående beskrivningarna och detaljerna. Det hade, i mina ögon, gjort läsningen enklare och historian mer underhållande och medryckande.

The Wrath and the Dawn

Lately I’ve been reading quite a few retellings and The Wrath and the Dawn is a novel that has been on my to-read list for some time now. It’s inspired by A Thousand and One Nights and it has taken the young adult genre by storm as of late. You can imagine my expectations was high, but I was yet again to be disappointed.

Shahrzad is a sixteen year old girl living in Khorasan, more specifically in the city of Rey. Also living in the city is the young caliph, the King of Kings, and a true monster. Every night he marries a new girl and every morning that girl is killed by him. No one knows why, but monsters doesn’t need a reason to be monsters. All Shahrzad knows is this: her best friend was chosen and married to the young boy-king then promptly killed, like all the other girls. The caliph, Khalid, has to pay for what he’s done and Shahrzad knows exactly how to go about.

After volunteering to marry the boy-king, Shahrzad spends the night with Khalid, telling him a story. A story that, when dawn arrives, still isn’t finished, which allows Shahrzad another day to live, so that she can finish the story. While she tries to put off being killed, Shahrzad seeks a weakness in Khalid so she can use it against him and kill the boy-king. But when the days pass and Shahrzad slowly gets to know Khalid, she sees that he’s not quite the monster she thought him to be. And that she, against all odds, starts falling in love with him.

I found this to be an interesting story and I liked it, but I never felt anything stronger for it. It was missing something, some spark that made the novel go from “this could be great” to “this was okay”. Author Renée Ahdieh spins a sweet love story, but I had a hard time connecting to it. I think the biggest problem was that I had difficulty getting close to the characters and see them as something real. They felt made-up, in every sense, which they are, but I don’t want to feel it. I want to be so invested in their story and their lives that it feels like I truly am a part of the story myself. The Wrath and the Dawn did not make me feel that way.

When it came to the characters, Shahrzad was the one I had the biggest problem with, which isn’t a good thing since she’s the protagonist. She’s sixteen as I mentioned, but acts at times like she’s thirty-five and at other times like she’s fourteen. I realize that Ahdieh wanted to make her fearless, but I only found her to be arrogant and too-much. She acts like she commands everything and that everyone needs to obey her, even though she’s only been a queen for a few days and everyone knows it’s just a matter of time before she dies. She has a love she left to pursue her revenge for her best friend but soon exchanges the love she feels for him, to the love she feels for Khalid. The boy-king gets under her skin fast, but what’s more amazing is how fast Shahrzad gets under his skin. It doesn’t take long before they fall for each other, even though they try to fight it and turn away from it at times, but the feelings are still there. Why, I’m not sure. Shahrzad reminds Khalid of his mother, she’s honest and almost too straight-forward, and she’s beautiful. That’s all Khalid knows about her. Shahrzad has a hard time getting to know Khalid and has to beg him, late in the novel, to reveal things about him, yet she still has feelings for him early on. I can’t really see why they fell in love, other than that the author wanted them too. That’s not enough for me.

The rest of the characters, Khalid, his cousin Jalal, Shahrzad’s first love Tariq and her handmaiden Despina, all felt alike. They all lacked that thing which is supposed to make them feel real. They were shells with no depth in their personalities and it annoyed me greatly. That said, I did like the background story in Khalid’s life and Jalal’s bickering, and Despina’s way of telling Shahrzad that she was arrogant and annoying. I just wanted more.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of female characters and the fact that every male character seemed to trip over his own feet when he saw Shahrzad. She was beautiful and sharp, brave and silver-tongued. Every guy she met instantly liked her, whether it was Khalid and Tariq loving her or Jalal and Shahrzad’s friend Rahim, instantly treating her as a sister. The only female characters we meet besides Shahrzad and Despina is Shahrzad’s sister, who only appears briefly in the beginning of the novel, and Yasmine, who also only appears briefly and is said to be so gorgeous that men drool when they see her, and, of course, that she’s in love with Khalid. Shahrzad’s best friend who is killed by Khalid is only mentioned, as is Khalid’s late mother and his first wife. The rest of the characters are men and most of them adores Shahrzad, even when they try to hate her they end up liking her. This is not something I enjoyed.

This story is built on revenge and with that comes hurt, grief and death. Everyone tries to get revenge on everyone, pretty much, and it only ends up in one big mess with a war brewing outside of Rey. The only good thing here is that Shahrzad saw how wrong it was to get revenge on someone, because it will always only turn into a dark downward-moving spiral that will never end, only bring more hurt, more grief and more death. It gave me hope and it was actually something I really liked about Shahrzad. I just hope that more characters will see this, too, in the sequel.

I don’t think The Wrath and the Dawn lived up to its expectations, but it wasn’t a bad book. I liked it, but I didn’t found it to be amazing. However, I do have a soft spot for Khalid despite everything and I want to believe that Shahrzad has potential. For me there was nothing in the story making me crave to read it, it felt predictable and I wasn’t surprised even once throughout the entire story. I have, however, decided to give Ahdieh another chance and will pick up the sequel, in the hope that it’s better. I think it can be. I hope so.

Glass Sword

Last year lightning struck and with it came a new, heavy blockbuster, namely Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. A year has passed and you might still not be over the interesting turn the first part of this new series took, but the sequel is here regardless, in the shape of Glass Sword. A new, thrilling story that takes Mare deeper into the darkness and the depths of her world, and her soul.

Red Queen
left us hanging in horror after the awful murder of the king by his oldest son’s hand and the rise of his youngest, with Mare and Cal barely escaping the Bowl of Bones with their lives still intact. Mare spent the biggest portion of Red Queen as Mareena, a lost Silver noble and engaged to Maven, the youngest of the two princes. But after a lethal mistake, were Cal’s mind was manipulated by the queen to kill his own father and Mare realized the hard way were Maven’s true loyalties lie, Mare and Cal has to fight in an arena filled with powerful Silvers acting as their executioners, but they manages to escape in the end. Now they’re trying to find their feet again, while living at a camp alongside the Scarlet Guard. Mare desperately wants to go out and find every person on the precious list she holds so close, the one that list name after name of people who are just like herself. Common people with red blood, who wields powers that belong to the noble silver-blooded residents of Norta. Mare believes that these people, the newbloods, will be the saviors of the Reds and the end of the reign of Norta’s new, cruel King Maven.

Glass Sword
is much like Red Queen but even more. The stakes are higher and everything seems bigger, with Mare’s world expanding throughout the story. The Scarlet Guard, the Red soldiers rising up against their Silver oppressors, is much more than Mare ever could’ve dreamed of and the knowledge that she’s not the only person out there with special abilities makes her question everything she’s ever known. She sets out to save them from Maven’s grasp and does her best to make sure everyone has a choice and everyone is kept safe, but despite that Mare travels down a dark path in Glass Sword, one that I’m not entirely sure she can ever get back from, or even get off at this point. She makes choices that dooms people and she has to live with the consequences, slowly alienating every one of her loved ones in her pursuit of Maven’s end. While Glass Sword was an action packed story about Mare roaming around Norta trying to find people like her, it was also the stepping stone of a dark turn in her character.

I really enjoyed reading about Mare chasing the newbloods with Kilorn and Cal, Farley and her brother Shade, alongside new additions that appears in the shape of more Red people with Silver abilities, like both Mare and Shade. It was fun, and usually followed by more than a few close calls and interactions with Silver soldiers hunting for Mare and Cal, both being the most wanted fugitives in all of Norta. The last part of the book turned instead to a big coup which brought even more action, until it all ended in a big bang, Aveyard-style, once again leaving readers hanging on the edge of the pages wondering what will happen in the next installment.

The first book saw a love story between Mare and Cal, impossible to really happen since Mare was engaged to Maven, whom she also had somewhat tender feelings for. But after Maven’s betrayal in Red Queen, Mare is left with the possibility of being with whoever she wants. While a boyfriend is the last thing on Mare’s mind, Cal still holds a part of her heart which brings a few sweet moments between the two throughout the story. But if you’re worried that this is a story all about the romance, I am here to tell you otherwise. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Glass Sword is action. Action, action, action. So much action, with a side of action. Brawls, fights, all-out war. There are so many fighting scenes, so much blood, so many people who dies you won’t be able to remember them all at the end. This is not about Mare and whoever she’ll end up with, this is about a young woman trying to take down a monster and the ruins and smoke she leaves in her wake.

Mare is no longer the Mare from the beginning of Red Queen, but neither is she Mareena, the girl engaged to Maven. She is a new person, fighting not only the Silver soldiers and the vindictive king, but also herself. She turns dark and ugly in this book and some parts really made me fear what’s in store for the next one. People are afraid of Mare, something she dislikes at the beginning of Glass Sword, but by the end relishes. She’s a force to be reckoned with and definitely not your average female main character from a Young Adult novel. If anything she reminded me of Adelina in The Young Elites, with the same hunger for revenge. I am both frightened and intrigued by this turn in Mare’s personality, but I do still feel it to be an interesting move from Aveyard's side. It’ll be fun to see wherever this will bring the third book, and Mare herself.

I felt like both Cal and Kilorn felt detached in this story, but then again, so did mostly everyone that wasn’t Mare herself. Maybe because Mare feels very alone and makes a lot of choices that sets her apart from everyone else and this is just a way to underline her loneliness. If that’s the case, then hats off for Aveyard because she really pulled that of – if not then I’m disappointed that Mare was the only one that felt real. I did like the new characters that appeared, however, most of them newbloods with curious abilities and interesting personalities.

There wasn’t really anything that made this book bad, apart from Aveyard repeating certain parts and moments a bit too much, but I still felt like something was missing. I want Aveyard to step up another notch in the next installment, maybe not action wise – because there was quite enough of that – but there’s something still lacking in her story. I can’t even put my finger on it but I know this could be even better (which is saying something since this is a good story to begin with). Despite this I can’t wait to see what the third novel will bring to the table and I definitely think anyone who hasn’t read this should give it a go. Make sure to buckle down when you pick it up though, because this story is going to take you on the ride of your life.