Thursday, May 16, 2013

2-for-1 Review: POISON STUDY and FURIOUS

Furious by Jill Wolfson 
Three high school girls become the avenging Furies of Greek legend.

We were only three angry girls, to begin with. Alix, the hot-tempered surfer chick; Stephanie, the tree-hugging activist; and me, Meg, the quiet foster kid, the one who never quite fit in. We hardly knew each other, but each of us nurtured a burning anger: at the jerks in our class, at our disappointing parents, at the whole flawed, unjust world.

We were only three angry girls, simmering uselessly in our ocean-side California town, until one day a mysterious, beautiful classmate named Ambrosia taught us what else we could be: Powerful. Deadly. Furious.
With its unnecessary prologue and stereotypical evil foster mom, Furious almost lost me in the very beginning. Fortunately, I did stick around and finish the book. Objectively, what I found was an interesting philosophical study. Subjectively... well, I'll get to that in a second.

What is true justice? Is it the eye-for-an-eye practice of ancient times? Is it the more benevolent justice refined by acts of forgiveness and mercy? How is justice enacted? Who enacts it? It's an interesting puzzle, if a bit muddled in the climax. Ms. Wolfson does a fabulous job of showing the seductive nature of vengeance. At first, vengeance feels right. It might even create something good. Attractive and addictive, the desire for revenge makes the justice-seeker feel powerful and in control. But instead, those who hunger for revenge are no more in charge than a junkie seeking her next fix.

So yes, from a philosophical standpoint, Furious was interesting. However, despite Ms. Wolfson's best efforts, I found I didn't care about the fates of the girls or their victims. I never connected with Meg, and I certainly had nothing in common with vindictive tree-hugger Stephanie or pugilistic surfer Alix. It is for this reason that I have very little to say in this review. However, I urge you all to try it for yourself, for I suspect the story and the characters will connect with you much better than they did with me.

Note: I received a physical ARC of Furious from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...
Another short review, this time for a story with wasted potential that made me so very angry. The synopsis sounded incredibly promising, and I know many people across the blogosphere who adore Yelena's story. I was not one of them.

It's so sad. I wanted to join in the magic with everyone else, and at the beginning, I thought I would be able to. The opening of Poison Study was very reminiscent of that of The Thief, one of my favorite books. I also thought the world presented was fascinating. Though a fantasy kingdom, Ixia reads more like a dystopian regime. It is split into numbered military districts and ruled by the all-powerful Commander. However, unlike most dystopian realms, the Commander instills values that we as readers know we should applaud. In Ixia, laws are unbending no matter the circumstances involved, but that also means that bribes and nepotism are unheard of. Gender equality is also strongly encouraged.

My issues, I think, boil down to three main problems. First, I did not connect with Yelena as well as I would have liked. I found her to be inconsistent and almost colorless in places. I also found myself unmoved by the romance presented (though, to be honest, I'm hoping a reread very far in the future may help with that.)

Second, while there were unique aspects within the story, they did not combine to form a story that was unique overall. I was bored. I knew where everything was headed. And even when something did surprise me (hello, Commander tidbit), the surprise lasted only a moment before I was bored again. The stilted dialogue peppered throughout certainly didn't help matters.

Third, and this is the biggie, I was shocked and bothered by the amount of sexual violence present. While I understand that sexual violence must sometimes be tolerated in a book, especially when used as social commentary, that was not the case in Poison Study. It felt like Yelena was being cornered, attacked, assaulted, or otherwise threatened at every turn, past the point of usefulness and well into gratuitousness. I was disgusted and bored.

Once again, many readers disagree with me, so go ahead and check it out for yourself. However, I doubt this one will ever worm its way into my heart.

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