Les Miserables novel and movie Reviews: ‘I have brought your soul…and I give it to God’

Hi readers,

Whilst gathering the images for this post I was busy thinking about how big and packed with information this review might get. I do have a lot to get through and thought that it might be best to break it into three sections and then decided if it really needs two blog posts. I’m not even sure if I’ll get it written in one go either and with it being 10:40pm now, I guess the answer would be no, but we’ll see. This post might end up with a follow up one anyways and the reason for that is because I’ve only read part one in the novel. So, why am I bothering to write a review of it now if I’ve read that bit? Because the Penguin version is 1,200 pages long of smallish, but still very readable font. Part one is 275 pages and I was slightly worried that if I finished the novel I might have forgotten what I wanted to say about the first lot of chapters/parts! So I’m making a start now.

Lots of people know about Les Miserables (LM) and came to it through the musical production, (which I’ll get on to later) as I did through my mum wanting a dvd of it for mother’s day one year. We watched it and I fell in love with the songs and the story. I hope that most people also know that its a novel. A long, heavy tomb of one at that! I think after watching the musical and listening to the cd, I was interesting to know more about the story and so brought the novel LM whilst in my 3rd year of uni with some spare money from buying my uni books. All though, its taken me two years to get around to reading it, which sadly is what happens with most of my books because I can never find the time or the right mood for them all. However, I’m mega glad I’ve finally picked LM up!

The first time you see the novel it can be very draughting. I have the complete thing with an introduction and appendixes in one book. I’ve seen it spilt into two or three books as well. I guess some publishers decided to make it easier to read, but really I don’t think it should be in this format as that isn’t the way its meant to be read. The format of the novel is split up like this; There are 5 volumes divided into 8-15 chapters which are further divided into sub-chapters which are only a few pages in length. In the first part there are 8 chapters divided into 15, 14, 9, 3, 13, 2, 11 and 5 sub-chapters. In the original French the book is 1,900 pages long and some English editions go up to 1,500! The formatting does help make the novel easier to read as every part is clearly titled and you don’t get that lost feeling that can some times happen with long novels. Also LM is considered on the longest novels ever written. I wanted to see where abouts it falls in the list of the longest novels. Wiki counts by page number and there its the 3rd from the bottom out of 16. The word count is the best way to do this though and looking at few different websites as shown me that LM is still ranked near the bottom 3/4 place at of 15/16 books, with a word count of 530,982.

LM was written by Victor Hugo (1802-1885), who also wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was a prolific French writer, a royalist, later a social Democrat, he was exiled from France because he declared Napoleon III a traitor and went to live in the Channel Islands where wrote Les Mis. He returned to France in 1870, made a national hero because he had helped to shape Frances democracy and then died aged 83. He is a very interesting figure and achieved so much in his lifetime. Also his political and religious views can be seen in his writing and doing more research into this can help understand the works better.

LM was published in France in 1862, it was also translated into English and published in Britain that year. It has a French historical novel which spans the time period of 1815-1832. The French have always had a very interesting history and if you remove the plot and story from this novel, you would be left with a detailed account of that era. The historical content does digress a lot and often completely removes the reader from the story. It’s important and good to have a strong historical background in such novels, but LM does take it to the extreme. Saying that though I actually enjoyed reading those parts as it then give greater depth and understanding to the actions and behaviour of the characters. The front cover illustration on my edition is of a painting by Hippolyte Lecomie, Detail from Battle at the St Denis Gate, 1830. The gate was used by the Parisian Republicans as part of the barricade during the June Rebellion of 1832 and this features in the last volumes of LM. The gate is still there today.

The novel opens on the life history of Monseigneur Myriel, Bishop of Digne, 1815 and covers 70 pages. It first it seems a bit pointless to have to read this history and even the second paragraph states ‘it has no direct bearing on the tale we have to tell.’1 Actually though this isn’t true. The chapter sets up historical France and the main theme of religion. The Bishop has an important part to play as well because it is through his years of experience dealing with the poor and lost of society, that he helps the main character. The reader can see some importance in this set up, even if it isn’t clear at first. The Bishop symbolises God, but it could also be said that he represents God in this novel. Also that the Bishop becomes a role model or a father figure for the main character as well.

The main character and the novel’s focus is Jean Valjean. He is an escaped convict and the reader learns that he was imprisoned for five years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her children. He tried to escape from prison a few times and had time added to his sentence for that. The sub-chapter about him gives lots more information to his background, though not as deep as the Bishop. Valjean is treated like an outcast by everyone he meets and people act like he’s a murder instead of the petty thief he really is. The reader can see in his chapters how poverty and society has shaped his character and why he ends up acting like he does. Valjean is also an intelligent man and has had some education whilst in jail. When he steals the Bishop’s silver it reflects the stealing of the bread. He doesn’t want to do it but feels that society has left him with no choice. He only wants the needs to survive, but knows he can’t ask anyone for help. However, he finds compassion in the Bishop, who allows him to take the silver, but only on this promise; ‘use the money to make yourself an honest man,’ for ‘I have brought your soul….and I give it to God.’2 and surprisingly, Valjean does do that.

Fantine is the next main character to appear, though she doesn’t last very long. Once again there’s a lot about her background and her character is well grounded. She’s a factory worker, who falls in love for a student, who then abandons her not knowing they have a child together. She has to go and look for work and whilst moving from town to town, finds an inn keeper and his wife who agree to take care of her child. Though really they are just using her to get money and ill treat her child. Fantine gets a place in one of Valjean’s- now the mayor a town- factories. One of the rules is that the women have to stay pure and when Fantine is accused for ‘sleeping around’ to earn money for her child, she is dismissed. We see her fall from grace then, as she has nothing and must sell off her things and live on the street. Desperate for money she sales her hair and teeth before becoming a lady of the night. She ends up being rescued by Valjean after being attacked on the street. He cares for her and agrees to take care of her child. I’ve always liked the character of Fantine and the novel really puts across what the musical sometimes can’t. Though she is only trying to do the right thing, she ends up becoming an outcast because of a situation she can’t explain and when she finally gets help it comes too late. Her character also reflects Valjean’s as they both end up shoved out of society and poverty changes their views on the world. She also helps Valjean escape prison once more and free her child from ill-treatment. I do get why she has to die too and its because she is giving her life up for Valjean and her daughter. I couldn’t see her become a part of their lives either, because her symbolism wouldn’t work any more.

There are a lot of other characters in LM, but only one more I want to talk about here and that’s Javert. He’s the antagonist and his only goal is to see Valjean back in prison. He has an interesting character description; ‘Javert unsmiling was a bulldog; when he laughed he was a tiger.’3 He was also born in prison and saw himself an outsider to society because of that,believing he only had two options to become an outlaw or to become the law. The other characters fear him and he sympathises with none of them. When he rediscovers Valjean he can’t let it go, though he can see how much the man has changed. Javert could symbolise a number of things; from a man who’s pulled himself up through poverty, to being the symbol of the french authorities or perhaps the Devil to balance out the Bishop being God. He doesn’t change throughout the novel until the final chapter about him.

Another theme of the novel is identity, because Valjean changes so he can start a new life being good, but then he struggles to completely let go of being Valjean and at different points in the novel claims himself to still be that man. Fantine too losing her identity because she ends up falling into such poverty that she losses herself. Her daughter is then given a new identity when she is rescued. Javert knows his identity right up until his exist from the novel because it is at that point he suddenly can’t find himself any more as his only goal in life is now gone.

And that brings us the end of the first part. There’s a lot more to say about the novel, but I think I will save it for another time now as I’ve written so much already and I’ve still got a few more things to add. My overall impression of the novel is that I am really enjoying reading it and though it’s length is challenging, the actual content is easy to read and understand- well beside from the French history!- The characters are very well written and are interesting. They can be engaged with too and their stories symbolism with. There are a lot of themes and symbolism, but this just adds to the greater whole of the novel. As for recommended reading? I’d advise most people to give it ago. It can be brought free on kindle and with the movie now out it seems a good time to learn more about the characters and the plot.

The musical theatre production (a note)

I’ve only seen one version of the LM musical and that has been the one above. I’d love to go and see it live in London (or if that cast ever came to my city). Of course there’s lots of depend about which is the best musical version and I guess that depends on your own liking of the singers/actors. It was adapted from the novel in 1980 and appeared on the French stage. It came to Britain in 1985 after some more changes. Unlike most stage plays and musicals, you feel more at a gig when watching LM as there is hardly any acting taking place. Though some of the more dramatic scenes are played out. However, like the novel you get swept up in all the action, emotion and story going on. In some ways the musical does do the book’s message justice and I know like a movie, things have to be left out, but I felt that more religion symbolism and mentioning could have been put in.

The Movie

Elephant

Lastly, I wanted to write about the elephant statue which appears in the movie and also later on in the book. I wanted to know more about it because I was unsure if Hugo or the scriptwriter(s) had just come up with it. But no, the Elephant of the Bastille as it was know stood from 1813-1846 and on the site of the Bastille. (Which was a fortress, then a prison and was destroyed in the French Revolution, 1789) The statue was a full scale model made out of plaster over a wooden frame and it was then going to be made into a bronze, but that was never achieved.

Hugo describes it in Les Mis very negatively and shows the disrepair the statue had fallen into before it was removed. (QUOTE!) He also uses it as a house/den/safe place for Gavroche the street urchin.

I was impressed with them showing the elephant in the film because it came to symbolises a number of things for me Firstly, the power and the strength of the people in the June Rebellion as they knew what they wanted and were willing to fight. Secondly, that France was in a disrepaired state after the Revoluation. Thirdly, the lost hopes of the France people, because they couldn’t achieve what they dreamed of. Fouthly, Napoleon 1’s victories and military prowess, which the elephant was orginally meant to represent.

This is the statue they used in the movie.

Images from;

http://www.booksplease.org/tag/les-miserables/

http://athinkersblog.com/2011/08/20/les-miserables-and-america-today-a-review-of-the-25th-anniversary-concert/

http://filminsider.blog.de/2012/09/24/les-miserables-neues-poster-musical-drama-hugh-jackman-anne-hathaway-russell-crowe-14871556/

http://bytesdaily.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/les-mis-update-and-elephant.html

Qutoes from;

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (Penguin Group, London, 1982)

1. pg: 19.

2. pg: 111.

3. pg: 165.

Volunteering with the Factory Youth Zone

Hey, I thought I’d switch from writing my Les Mis post to doing this one because I can get it out faster. Also because this is becoming important to me as well.

I started doing voluntry work at my nearest youth centre at the end of Nov/beginning of Dec. I saw a banner calling for volunteers on the side of the building and thought it might be a good opportunity for me. Not only to break up my struggle to find a job-which is still going down hill-but also for me to learn some new skills and maybe pass on my love for books and writing. Well, that hasn’t happened it! But the skills have and there’ll be more on that later. First though what really drew me to the The Factory and volunteering? The answer lays in the fact that I didn’t fancy any more time at the Charity shop. Yeah, I know I was doing a good thing there and I was in a comfit zone with it, but I just got bored of doing the same things and tried of the people, who could sometimes be unfriendly. I wanted a complete change of environment and to be doing something new that would actually make me want to do it. I’ve always been good with kids and thought that it would be another great thing on my CV.

That saying; you won’t know until you try, comes into mind. I guess because I was so unsure when I applied and went for an interview that I was the kind of person they were looking for. Most people they take on my age are either doing a related course and need the experience or have completed the course and either have a paid job or are gaining more experience. So it was odd I guess for someone coming out of a masters to want to volunteer at a job they had no qualifications or experience doing. I think it was my skills that I could bring to the centre though and my eagerness to try my hand at something different that saw me through. I did well in the training too and manged to take everything on board. There was a lot about the law and safe guarding children, as well as looking for signs of neglect etc. There was other stuff like how to deal with different and difficult situations that can happen. I took it all in and found it an easy day. I then choice to do Mondays and Tuesdays afternoons and work with the 8-12 year olds coming after school.

The factory itself has only been open a year or two now. It’s purpose is a designed space for all young people aged 8-21 to have fun, gain new skills, make new friends and be able to talk to someone about any issues. The building is divided into a number of areas across two floors and has; a gym, a rec hall, a craft area, a music room, a dancing/performing arts space, a climbing wall, a football field, a sports hall with things like netball, trampolining and other indoor sports and cafe/chill out area. They run different time slots for age groups as well so that people can make the best use of the time and activities on offer. There’s normally so many different activities running too, mostly these are sports or music, but the arts and crafts have a number of things running and there is also tables to play boardgames on.

My first afternoon though was a little scary, though nothing bad as the first day at school. I was unsure what to do or who to speak too, so it took me a few to speak to a guy in a blue t-shirt about what I should do. I was then meet by the senior/leader youth worker and I got put on the crafts table. I love getting creative and making stuff. Though I’ve to admit that since starting I’ve not done as much sewing in my life! That day does seem a blur now and I can remember what it was we were making. It changes every day or every week, though normally it has to do with sewing and creating things. I get a chance to make my own thing and let my creativity out, but mostly I focus on helping the kids and passing on my skills to them. Which is what it should always be about.

I’m still helping out on the craft table now and I’m pleased to say that I’ve taught a few kids to sew and helped many other things create things. So far I’ve also helped to make a xmas banner and xmas gifts. I’ve made these items for my self; a xmas hat, a xmas socking, a xmas card, a badge for my jacket and a poster about all the things I want to do this year. I’m currently helped two boys make superhero costumes for their secret club and I’ve been helping other kids with similar projects to the things I’ve made. I’ve also played a few games of badminton, table tennis and boardgames. I’ve gained a number of skills, like in teaching and leadership and looking after kids and being more in control and patient. Things that only come when in the world of work. These skills are pretty transferable to other things though and I’m hoping that they will aid me.

So, I am really loving my time at the Factory. I need to think about setting up a writing club though and also seeing if there’s a chance they can help me get into paid work as that would be much better for me. All my to do list and now I can get back to the Les Mis review too!

You can check out the Factory here;

http://www.thefactoryyz.org/

The Legend of Drizzt Book 1: Homeland Review; This is the Underdark

I’ve had a craving for a little while to read a fantasy novel. Maybe playing Dungeons and Dragons had reawakened my fantasy side and I wanted to indulge in it more. Only I didn’t want to read LOTR again or Warhammer books, I wanted something slightly different but just as good. My search was a little in vain, so I give up and re-read The Hobbit in prep for going to see the movie. But I wasn’t satisfied afterwards and wanted more….but not Tolkien or Prattchet. My boyfriend suggested a new author; R A Salvatore and has it turned out he was just what I was looking for because he writers fantasy novels set in the DD world.

Though he has written a number of other books and series, it’s to the character he’s most famous for that has been my introduction to Salvatore and DD novels; Drizzt Do’Urden.

Drizzt, a drow (dark elf) is born into Menzoberranzan; an underground matriarchal world of betrayal, war, magic and monsters. Almost scarified at birth, but saved due to his older brother’s death, Drizzt must learn the way of Loth, the Spider Queen and also the skills of a warrior. However, he is no normal drow and keeps hold of his humanity, which all drow loose as they are taught the ways of Loth and to despise the world above. Though he is part of a society which would be considered evil to the above world, Drizzt stands out by his questions on killing and drow history. Somehow though his words are overlooked by other drow and he is able to keep his feelings hidden.

The plot of the story is all about Drizzt growing up and coming to realise that everything he knows is possibly wrong and he no longer wants to be a part of it. Through events he can be seen to arise to challenges and fully develop as a character. In a way the reader grows with him. We are with him in the moments before his birth when the plot twists are being set up and then as he grows up and becomes an adult. There is a lot of fighting in the plot, but it is kept fresh by the different monsters and different reasons. We also get to see Drizzt improve his fighting skills and he becomes very impressive with his swords. I was gripped straight a way into the plot and the setting, finding the 3rd person narrative working well and giving the reader an eye over anything. The cuts to different characters and their plotting, helped move the story along and created a much bigger picture throughout the novel.

The other characters are just as intriguing as Drizzt. There are his sisters and brother fitting the bill as fighting siblings and trying to outdo each other in order to impress their mother. She is a great character being all power hungry and desperate to improve her family’s status in Menzoberranzan. Zak, the master swords man, who trains Drizzt his deeper connects to him than first seems, but during the cuts to his thoughts, the reader can see how similar in nature the two of them are. The antagonists are other drow, who use magic, which is a nice contrast to the use of weapons, but they are just as power hungry as Drizzt’s mother and want the same thing. Lastly, there is Guenhwyvar, who I liked straight a way, he is a magic panther and Drizzt’s only friend. The similarities can be seen in their fighting styles and they complement each other well too. It was nice to have an animal companion for a change!

I really like Salvatore’s writing style, because it is fast pace, gripping and full of information that just sinks into your head. You learn a lot about drow society, but you don’t realize it from the way it is written. The vocabulary is a bit simple in some places, but this just helps the speed of the story telling. Like the Warhammer books, Salvatore makes his fantasy writing as simplified as possible, leaving out long descriptions of settings, battles and other events. This allows the reader to imagine more things and that is something I like doing. Also you don’t want to be bogged down by needless details when reading a world that many would be familiar through playing the game. Which is what I found having played the DD drow trilogy, because that is set in the same area. It’s the little details and drops of humour that add to the greatness of this novel. It is very easy to read over these or not take them fully in because of how they are placed within the story. However, I didn’t find myself flicking back to re-read, because I was just able to take the whole thing in. The dialogue of the characters is great and a lot of raw emotions come through the words. Which is great because the reader should always be able to see the emotion that way and not through the writer stating it. There was nothing heavily accented or old fashioned and the use of the drow language wasn’t over used. It really is an easy book to read and I shall be picking up the second on soon.

Ps. As an added note, I thought I’d say that the character of Drizzt’s reminded me of Malus Darkblade by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee, set in the Warhammer world. Malus is also a dark elf who though evil must fight things more evil then himself. I did think that this was interesting and though it has been awhile since I read him, the books have enough differences between them.

Write! Write!

It’s been ages since I last posted and there is many reasons why. Firstly, as just shown once again I’ve been having some trouble with my Internet, maybe its the bad weather or the fact that my broadband just can’t support the number of wifi connects currently being used in my house. Whatever the case, it really hasn’t helped and I’ve not been on line much. (A good thing maybe!) I’ve been really ill too and have spend sometime in hospital over the last 2/3 months. No point moaning about it though, getting ill happens to us all and I’m thankful that I’m not as seriously ill as some people are out there. I’ve still been fighting my writer’s block as well, but hopefully that’s becoming a distant memory now, though I still haven’t got started on my new novel as I said for my new year’s resolution! But soon, once I get the ideas flowing again. I guess being involved in a new relationship has also been a bit distracting…but he’s still been getting things done and so should I’ve been! So, I can’t blame anything on that….I guess playing games on line hasn’t helped and the job hunting has really slowed down. I’ve been trying to pick it up though….but I guess it’s like sticking feathers back into a dead duck. Things are just not going my way there and it’s getting to me. Luckily, I still have the support and love of my family and friends, which does make things easier to deal with. My hopes for the new year are to do lots of writing, reading, reviewing, get better, build stronger relationships with people and find a job.

 

Seeing this year as a kind of gap year has helped. I thought it would give me the chance to experience a bit more of outside life that can’t always be found at uni. However, I wasn’t ready to deal with the cruel and crushing world sitting on the doorstep and things have been a lot harder then I first thought. Saying that I am happy at the minute. I’ve a lot in my life right now and the future is still ahead of me. I’m just having problems finding my feet on the right pathway, but since the summer, I’ve learnt a lot more about myself. For example; the darker side of relationships, how trying is important but knowing when to give up even more so, that there’ll always be help and hope when it’s asked for and that officially giving up on something can sometimes mean finding it again in a different light. Finding yourself is all part of a gap year right? I’m just doing it without the travelling or the work experience….currently.

 

Actually, this quote from the manga/anime Vampire Knight has got me through the hardest times of last year.

Vampire-Knight-vampire-knight-22659024-1600-1200[1]

 

 

Since writing the review of Rowling’s new book, I’ve not actually finished reading another. I can’t read when I am ill and the escapism that I normally find in reading hasn’t been a big draw to me of late. I think I did start reading something else afterwards, but I can’t remember it and didn’t finish it. I read The Hobbit by Tolkien then in time for the movie, so I might write something about that too. The book I am reading now is worth writing a review on, so I shall make that my next post. Hopefully, I can get back into reading now I’m not as ill. I got a kindle for Christmas, so I have even more books to read and I half fancy writing a review about that. Might be interesting to do. I still have a stack of books to get through though!

 

I also started working as a volunteer at a youth centre. I can’t remember saying that before as I’d just started in late November. That could do with a post of it’s own though. So that’ll be number 4 now. Well, at least I’ll have a lot to write about this month now and hopefully it’ll give me something to focus on and give my brain the excise that it’s missed writing all those essays….never thought I’d miss that!

 

 

Image from: www. fanpop.com

The Casual Vacancy Review- A Town At Poltical War

 

Hey readers, It’s another book review this post, but don’t worry I am working on the second DD chapter and should hopefully have it up soon. So, for the last few days I’ve been reading J.K Rowling’s latest book The Casual Vacancy. I’ve read about 150 pages now and have decided to stop reading it and maybe pick it up some time after Christmas. It’s not often that I put a book down after that many pages- especially when this novel is 503 pages long. But I’ve a number of problems with this book and that’s way I’ve stopped reading it for now. So in light of me not actually finishing the it, I’m not really going to talk about the plot much and I might have to do a follow up post on this later on. But here are my thoughts so far.

J .K. Rowling is known around the world as the creator and writer of Harry Potter and his series of seven novels. HP became a phenomenon across the different age groups and has a massive fan base. So, whilst everyone begged for there to be another HP book or even one that connected with it though background characters, Rowling decided to write a novel for the adult readership. That in itself is fair enough, writers like to experiment with different genres, age groups and themes. It helps give a freshness to their writing and allows them to be more creative. I’ve heard though-once again not read any reviews, that most of the HP fans are not so taken with The Casual Vacancy and I can understand why.

When I picked it up I told myself not to think about HP and not to compare it, for it was going to be completely different and yes it is. The front cover of the book is very bold with it’s red and yellow colours and the white lettering. The black x cross in the centre does draw the eye and it does look very attractive. The book itself-the hardback cover version-is large and heavy. Rowling wrote this book for adults, but it doesn’t look very adulty to me. The adult version covers they did for HP looked a lot better then this! I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but there’s just something about this ones that seems out of place. Yes, it is eye catching enough, but it seems to be aimed at a teenager/young adult readership.

The synopsis of the book begins with ‘A big novel about a small town…’ and that in itself sounds very interesting. We then learn that the novel is about the sudden death of Barry, who was on the Parish Council and that his now empty seat is about to start a big war in the town. Mixed into this are the sub-wars of rich/poor, teenager/parents, wives/husbands, teachers/pupils and neighbours/friends. So it does sound very exciting. But within the first 50 or so pages of this I still couldn’t get into it and was finding it hard to follow. Maybe that’s just me and believing that this book would be an ‘easy, light read.’ Also the main theme is politics and that really doesn’t interest me. The other themes are family, friendship, relationships, death and bullying. (Maybe there some more later on in the book.) There are also lots of characters, but I’ll get on to them in a minute.

So, first the plot, well there’s not really a plot, it’s more a story. The narrative is written in third person and switches points of view so many times; it makes you feel dizzy and lost. There’s just too many characters appearing in a short space and some of the switching does seem pointless. There’s also a number of different settings in and around the village. The first is the house of Barry and his family, followed by the golf club where he suddenly drops dead. There’s no time for the reader to connect with Barry and we are left in the hands of the other characters to view his life style. This does create some mystery, but also bias stories and I was left with a lot of different views about Barry. (Maybe this will become clearer later on.) The setting then moves through different characters’ houses, a shop, a school and other places. There’s really no centre setting to this novel, unless you count Barry’s house, but we don’t spend enough time there. So for pages that follow his death, we get all the other characters telling each other about what’s happen and spreading gossip. We get to see a whole range of reactions to this news, but also to the now vacant seat on the council. For me there’s just too much happening at once and too much repetitive. The plot really doesn’t feel like an adult novel, but more like a collision of different ideas and characters. I guess it would be better if there was less characters and more concentration of creating an actual plot line at the very start.

I had a problem with the chapter layout. It’s not really divided into normal chapters, but instead uses roman numerals to show the switching to a different character, the days of the week show the passing of time and there are pages with titles on them showing more movement of characters and time. I get the idea of having a fresher look to chapters, but this just doesn’t work. Well, at least not for me. It causes there to be too many breaks in the story, which means that it does flow and the pace is mixed from fast to slow. I guess that the passing of time is important, but as of yet I’ve not discovered why. Maybe it has political connections which I’m not aware of.

As for the characters, which I’ve been touching upon, I’m not taken by any of them. There are some interesting ones almost them like; Parminder, Krystal, Colin and Simon. Most of the others just seem to fall into the stereotypes of the people you’d find in a village; the gossipy shop keeper, the nosy women, the abusive father, the trapped teenagers, the stressed head teacher. The range is really covered by the characters as if Rowling wanted to allow everyone to have a character they could connect with. But I don’t think it’s possible, because there’s far too many. I struggled with the relationships between them too and often found myself wonder who’s wife, child, dog this was. Maybe it’s just me, but I found being stuck in the middle of all these families at once was hard to handle.

The writing style is meant to be for an adult readership. It hardly comes across as this though and a long/difficult word will often pop up as if Rowling suddenly realized she needed one. This just throws the flow off the narrative though and is really not needed. For the most part the writing is simple and seems very teenage/young adult like. There is also a lot of swearing and sex references, but these do work because the age and nature of the characters. For me and I knew I wasn’t going to compare them, but this writing is far from HP. and I know some people said that was badly written, but this just doesn’t have the style and I wasn’t very taken with it.

So, is this going to be the next biggest seller? I don’t think so…it’s riding on the back of HP in some ways, because nearly all the readership for this book will have read HP and seeing Rowling’s name on the cover will get them to buy it. For me this book is too big, confusing and the theme of politics just doesn’t interest me and does seem to be the focus of the novel. I’ve problems with the chapter layout, the language used and also the characters. I’ve read books with lots of characters before, which does switch pov and there’s no problem with this, but Rowling just doesn’t pull it off and I was left feeling lost in a sea of characters. I’d like to say that in the near future I’ll pick this book up and finish it, but I doubt it. I’ve so many other interesting novels to get through, that it’ll take me awhile, before I decided to give it another go and see if it does improve.

Images from: ratedreads.com

Lords of the Underworld: The Darkest Passion Review – ‘Can Aeron -Immortal Keeper of Wrath- sacrifice himself for love?’

 

Hey everyone, the next chapter of DD is taken sometime to get written mostly because of my writer’s block and my struggles to get motivated to write it. So, I thought I’d keep myself, the blog and the readership going by putting up a book review. (I was going to do this anyway, but the second DD chapter was meant to come first, but anyways.) So I’ve literal just finished reading and thought I’d get start straight away whilst its’ still all in my head. So here we go!

 

The Darkest Passion is book five in Gena Showalter’s supernatural romance series Lords of the Underworld. Now, like my last book review, I’ll have to do some backtracking but that shouldn’t take long and anyway there’s a lot of similarities between the LOTU and BDB books. I got into both series through my best friend and though I do prefer the BDB books, I get the same level of enjoyment out of the LOTU. They say book covers play a massive part in getting people to buy the book and LOTU have some very attractive covers! Topless men-very hot looking men-posing around showing off their butterfly tattoos with a range of colourful backgrounds. It makes it hard to pick a favourite….No, I’m not going to say!

 

The first book is The Darkest Night in which we are introduced to the Lords and learn some of their history. Now like with BDB- and no I’m not going to stop comparing them!- the books can be read as stand alone because Showalter has this great habit of filling the reader in with what has happened before. This can get annoying in series books, especially when the writer knows that the reader will have read the first one, but these supernatural romance books are designed so that they can easily be read by anyone. Of course like BDB the second plot is very liner and you do need to read the books to full understand this, but if you are only interested in love and sex, then I guess that’s not important.

 

Okay, so love and sex do interest me, but that’s not 100% why I read this genre. I like the second plot and I get very drawn to the characters. I also get caught up in the whole mystery of how the main characters will get together, how they’ll get over the first bumps in their relationship and how it all turns out. I also like the writing style of this genre and I’m finding that it mostly stays the same, no matter the writer-granted some are better written-I like the fast pace, the tension created between the lovers and their current situation relating to the second plot. I love the action scenes of fights and arguments and plans going well or wrong. I like the slowing down of the love scenes too, though these can be just as fast, but most times the books do get the balance right and its not all fast tense action.

 

The structure of the books is just the same as BDB. Each book tells the story of one Lord and how he finds his soul mate. The second plot story tells of the Lords’ war against their enemies the Hunters. Unlike the Lessers in BDB though, the Hunters are all human and they are against the Lords because they believe that the demons are to blame for all the worlds’ problems. This we learn is only true in parts though. The third plot is the Lords’ search for Pandora’s box and four artefacts that will led them to it. This ties in with the war because the Hunters are also searching for the items to lock the demons back up again. The fourth plot is very in the background because it has to do with the focus switching to other characters and the current events in their lives. Mostly these plot lines are not important and are just led in to other books or hints at information that will be made clearer later. The books are told in the 3rd person point of view. The focus does stay on the main Lord and his lover, but it switches to other Lords, important Hunter characters and other characters who pop up. However, this switching doesn’t affect the main plot and most of the information we learn from the other characters is important and gives the reader some time away from the lovers. We also have the thoughts of the demons and conversations between them and the Lords. This works well and gives more depth to the novels, it also shows how much the demons effect the Lords and that they play a major part in their lives.

 

The Lords then? I’ll try and not give spoils to the books, but here’s the basic background. The story takes the Greek tale of Pandora and the box. Everyone knows this tale and its’ been retold in so many different ways and mediums. Showalter has a few twists to her retelling and we learn these across the series. The Greek Gods created a band of warriors-called Lords-to defend them. They created the box and put all the world’s evils inside it. Pandora was chosen to look after it. When the box was opened and all the evils escaped, the other Lords were responsible for opening the box and killing Pandora-because they were jealous she had been chosen over all of them- were punished by having a evil- which is called a demon in the series-placed inside of them. They were then cast out of Heaven on to Earth, where they’re demons took over and for years they destroyed anything. They do manage to find a level of control and can now balance their demon sides. Now the demons are really interesting and there’s so many of them! Here’s a few of them; Death, Violence, Wrath, Defeat, Lies, Doubt, Pain, Misery and Disease. They do as their name says and feed off it too, they become really unhappy if that can’t happen and are effected by the opposite talking place. Like Lies can’t tell the truth and for him to do so would equal in a lot pain happening to his body. Lots going on there then. A group of the Lords live in Budapest in a massive hidden house. However, they do go outside and when they are seen people believe them to be angels etc and are in awe of them.

 

That’s understandable from Showalter’s descriptions of her Lords. They all have this perfect man image to them, but because they are immortal that’s like times by ten. Of course this plays up to woman readers male fantasies, but that’s completely expected in this genre. To be honest if this was a group of ugly men it just wouldn’t work! So, Showalter creates these dream hunks and then gives them all a dark background, which they have to deal with and of course they all come to terms with their pasts in some way. All of these pasts link to the actions of their demons and the opening of the box. They regret the problems they have caused for humans, but there’s nothing they can do. They now try to behave though and only punish those who deserve it.

 

The women characters in this series work on the same level as they did in BDB. The women are strong-sometimes even stronger then the men!-fast thinking, know what they want and how to get it. There’s no damsels in distress here! We get to see their soft sides from the males’ pov though and this does work, because it reminds the readers of the difference between the sexes and also because Showalter still needs to show these characters as being women. They are really strong heroines though and this is reflected in their thoughts and actions away from the males. Most of these women are not normal humans, (in BDB we had a mix of human, vampire, half-vampire and ghost), whilst some of them are humans they have supernatural powers that they only become full aware of and can name when they meet their lovers. Others though are minor goddess, harpies, angels, female Lords and possible others -I’ve not read the rest of the books, only up the 6th now-. Having them all different works to a good story telling advantage as more back stories, settings, tension and mystery can be created.

 

The hunter characters are made out to be the opposite of the Lords. Which is a strange thing to realise, because you’d think that having a demon inside of you would make you evil and so the Hunters should be the good guys because they want to stop the evil, but no. The demons are portrayed in a different light, okay this doesn’t make them good as such, but it shows that they are different now and being controlled. The demons can’t be blamed for all the worlds’ evils as was once believed. Thus the Hunters are shown to be the evil ones because they want to unleash the demons back on the world-granted they understand that they need to put them into the box because that’s the only way humans can be safe again-but sometimes they are so determined to kill they forget. The hunters basically want someone else to blame for their problems and they pick on the Lords. The other characters in this are either Gods, angels, demons from hell and background humans. I really like the way that Showalter has done the Gods and Goddess. Her research into the Greeks come out here and there’s a realistic sense with these characters. These characters do play important parts across the books….but that would be spoilers! The other characters do work well and we get to see development across the board with everyone. Which works, because you can’t have a mix of 3D and 2/1D characters.

 

So what is book five, The Darkest Passion about? The main story is about Aeron, the keeper of the demon of Wrath and his relationship with Olivia a fallen angel Wrath likes to punish and kill people who’ve committed sins and Olivia being an angel is completely pure and so he is attracted to her. However, Olivia recently became a warrior angel was meant to kill Aeron as punishment for taking a small demon, Legion, out of hell. (Back story to this was that Aeron was asked to kill four woman, one of whom turned out to be something very special. He refused and ended up going crazy with killing lust. His friends decided to lock him up close to Hell to keep him safe- you know because that’s what you have to do when this kind of stuff happens! Trapped there, a demon hears him and comes to keep him company. When the killing lust fades, Aeron returns with the demon). But Olivia is in love with Aeron and can’t do it, so she is kicked out of Heaven and becomes fallen.

 

Aeron takes care of her though he is determined to get rid of her, because though he has feelings for her, he knows it can never be. Olivia wants him desperately and tried a number of things to get him to let her stay. Her angel mentor comes to them both at different times. He tells Aeron not to soil Olivia but to show her his world, so that she’d want to come back to Heaven. He then gives Olivia a few days to have her fun and then she must return to Heaven and kill Aeron. Of course they fall in love, though it is a very rocky road. Legion becomes really jealous because she wants Aeron too, but he sees her as a daughter, so she sets out to change that. Also she can’t be around when the angel is and that bugs her. When Legion returns, Aeron finds himself stuck in a dilemma and has to choice between her and Olivia to save his friends and his life. Of course, things don’t go to plan and in the end Aeron comes to see his only way out which is in the hands of Olivia’s mentor. And of course whilst this is going on the Lords are fighting the Hunters, looking for the third artefact and living their own lives.

 

About halfway through the book, when I knew I was going to be writing about it, I got my critical brain thinking about a number of things. Most of it was the literature stuff, but one side of it was actually about how readers could relate to the themes and plot. I thought it’d be interesting to write about the other side of this genre because it can sometimes be over looked. The themes of the novel are; romance, relationships, friendships, sacrifice, good vs evil, war, mythology and supernatural. I’m going to just look at the romance because otherwise we could be here forever! So, of course readers can connect with romance. There’ll prop ally only be a handful of people reading this books who’ve not experienced it all, but properly have done on some level, but everyone should be aware of the basics of it. Readers can understand the struggle to find love and also the rejection feelings of not finding it. Aeron has given up completely on it, yeah he’s had girlfriends but things haven’t worked out and he’d rather just be with his friends not have to face all those relationship issues. Something everyone can relate to there. Olivia on the other hand has only been able to witness love and now she’s fallen is very interested to experience it. The start of their relationship isn’t filled with going on dates and getting to know each other. It seems that none of the other relationships have this start to them either. I can understand why Showalter did this though. For the cogs to work in the plot, the lovers must have instant attraction and feelings for each other. So, the building blocks of their relationship, comes from some small talk and some sex. But imagine if the Lords did take their girlfriends on dates…..wonder what that would be like…..Trying to avoid the normality of dates here!

 

Readers can relate to this because the lovers have that whole does s/he actually like me? etc stuff and everyone has experience of that. Also something else I forgot to say before and I noticed in my BDB review too, I forgot the sex. Granted, I still have Fifty Shades of Grey lingering in my head…God is that ever going to leave? I think my soul is tinted now… and that’s why I’ve been half avoiding/forgetting to write about that. Let’s just say that the sex scenes are much better and yeah they might take place between supernatural beings, but they do it a hell of a lot better and feels a lot more realistic too! Maybe it works because its not porn? Anyways, the readers can also relate to that. Now it was actually the part about sacrificing (I don’t mean killing something to a God here! I mean giving something up for someone else.) that got me wanting to write all of this, because it plays a key part in the novel and in a way it plays key parts in all relationships. Both Aeron and Olivia want to sacrifice things to allow the other one to be happy even if this means that their relationship ends and they never see each other again. It really does seem throughout the book that this is what they both want. But then we learn that Aeron is like that anyways and always puts his friends before himself and he’s very happy to sacrifice things for them. Olivia only ever witnessing from Heaven, knows this and that’s part of the reason why she fell in love with him and we see her given up things to allow Aeron to carry on living and be happy. In relation to real relationships, sometimes this sacrificing of things can be forgotten or left out. Other times, it becomes so strong it can break a relationship or else make it last longer. I guess we do this in friendships too sometimes.

 

In my new relationship, I’ve not had to sacrifice anything as of yet, but in my last I had to sacrifice a part of myself. Sometimes reading romance novels and deep thinking can make these thoughts appear. But yeah, I just wanted to bring that up and show that it does cover all aspects of relationships and there is some depth to the novels. Now, there are nine books in the series and then some more that link in to it which are about other characters. Dark Beginnings is like this and contains three short stories about the begins of relationships of characters which are already set up in the series. You don’t need to really read these though to understand the series as a whole…reading them in the right order helps that!

 

So do Aeron and Olivia get together at the end? Well…you’ll just have to read and find out!

 

 

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