The Secret History Review

Hello everyone! This review may get rather flowery in terms of prose, so apologies in advance if that isn’t your style, my review next week will be of The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead, which won’t be as ridiculous! You can always check out my shorter review on YouTube.

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, published in 1992, has rightly earned its status as a modern classic. A rich, tightly woven neo-romantic tale of Bacchanalian passion and academic obscurity, it’s detailed plot descends into the raw nature of man when veils are removed. I gave it 4 stars – I truly enjoyed this book and will certainly be reading it again in the future.

Characters:

  • Richard Papen – The protagonist and eyes through which we experience the story. Having given up on studying medicine in California, he begins to attend Hampton College in Vermont, and is eventually accepted into the highly prestigious and mysterious Classics course. Thrown completely out of his depth, he struggles to make sense of the giant forces at play around him.
  • Charles and Camilla Macauley – Fraternal twins on the Classics course. Kind yet beautiful orphans, they are nearly inseparable, and sometimes bring a sense of foreboding particular to twins.
  • Francis Abernathy – Another student on the Classics course. At times nervous, and at others sure of himself, he begins to crack under the pressure around him in true dramatic fashion.
  • Henry Winter – The star of the Classics course. A brilliant mind with a calm and even temper, he reads an astounding array of languages and always seems to be one step ahead of everything else.
  • Bunny Corcoran – The final Classics member. Snobbish, boorish, and accustomed to a rich lifestyle but without the means to support it, he leeches off his friends and tests their patience regularly.
  • Julian Morrow – The Classics tutor. An old-fashioned and personable to his select group, he prefers to view the world as beautiful above everything else. Think Professor Slughorn with a keen interest in Homer.

 

Brief Plot Overview:

  • Within the first few pages, it becomes clear that Bunny has been killed by the others, seemingly by him falling off a cliff. The story builds up to this central point, with the reasons for the act, and then deals with the aftermath and everything begins to unravel.
  • Richard gets onto the mysterious and elitist Classics course, and gets involved with their clique of academia, privilege, beauty, and by turns mystique and raw humanity.

 

Enjoyable Elements:

  • The writing is absolutely beautiful. There aren’t huge passages describing the scenery, yet Tartt still manages to paint the landscape so beautifully, that I felt I could have been standing there with them.
  • There are a lot of nerdy references to Classics and Greek/Latin. These will be particularly exciting to any scholars, and the descriptions of Classics as an academic subject are accurate and knowledgeable.
  • The structure gives nothing away, and I felt that I had been left in a constant sense of anticipation and mystery. No clues or cliches were left within the mix, and the writing at times became genuinely surprising, especially concerning the ending!

 

Less Enjoyable Elements:

  • Although I did not purposefully feel like this, I am aware that some people find the book to be elitist and full of intellectual snobbery. This is primarily because Classics is predominantly a very privileged field, and although Tartt’s writing doesn’t come across as snobbish, some of the characters do.
  • From a socialist perspective, I found it very annoying that Richard wanted to constantly wanted to hide his working class roots and pretend to be a rich snob like everyone else. I wanted him to show them all that he could do whatever they could, without their expensive educations.
  • I did find it quite slow-going, and felt I was not able to sit down and read huge amounts in one sitting. However, I did feel that the slow journey was ultimately rewarding.

 

Final Overview:

An amazing piece of writing and a stunning debut novel, this is a book I shall certainly be holding onto and reading again. I felt that it really connected with my life right now (as I am about to leave university), and I think that anyone who is in university, or anyone going to university soon, particularly to study an area such as Classics, would really get a lot out of it.

What did you think of the book? Did you find it snobbish, or interesting? Do you think it was worth the accolade of modern classic? Let me know in the comments below! Come back next Thursday to see my review of The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead.

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A Darker Shade of Magic Review

A Darker Shade of Magic Review

You’re just here for the rating? Well, it’s 3.5 stars, but why not read on to find out why?

As anyone who has seen my Youtube channel will know, I posted my first review on Thursday, and I am aware that it is rather long and rambling >< I promise that I am working on my editing and format, so hopefully the next one (which is of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and will be posted either on Thursday or Friday) will be more enjoyable. However, I still want to talk about the novel I discussed, namely A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab.

For those of you interested in YA fiction, you may already be aware of/have read her Archived series, or her Everyday Angel series, or one of her standalone works. I was a complete Schwab virgin (crikey, that’s a sentence I never thought I would write), but I read a Buzzfeed article which listed it, and it immediately pricked my interest. My mum bought it for me for Christmas, but I didn’t get around to reading it until last week, and I pretty much inhaled it! I really, really wanted to talk about this book.

Main characters:

  • Kell – A 21 year old man who is Antari (i.e. can use blood magic), and can traverse from one world to another, delivering messages as well as illicit trinkets. Hails from Red London.
  • Lila Bard – A 19 year old woman from Grey London. A cut-purse and aspiring pirate, she is drawn into aiding Kell through her lust for adventure.
  • Rhy – The 20 year old prince of Red London. Dashing and charming, he thinks of Kell as his brother.
  • Athos and Astrid Dane – Twins, and king and queen of White London. They are a force to be reckoned with, and nurture a yearning for power.
  • Holland – The Dane’s messenger, and the only other known Antari. Something about him always seems a bit off to Kell, but maybe that’s just White Londoners?

 

Plot Overview:

  • There are four Londons which exist in parallel universes: Grey, Red, White, and Black. Grey is our own London in 1819, during the reign of Mad King George III, and is a place of little magic. Red is rich in magic in resources, and is ruled by a just and good king and queen. White is a place starving for magic (which equals power), and seeks to dominate it rather than work with it. And Black has been destroyed, having been eaten up by magic running wild, and leading to the sealing off of the other world from each other by Red London.
  • The story centres on Kell, who delivers messages from the royal family in Red London to the ones in Grey and White, and illegally smuggles artifacts between worlds for his own collection, and for those interested in such trinkets.
  • He mistakenly acquires an artifact from Black London and brings it to Red, where he is attacked and is forced to escape to Grey. With Lila’s help, he must return it to Black London, while being pursued by enemy forces.

 

Elements that Furrowed my Field:

  • I felt that the concept, which drew me to it initially, was unique. The role of rare, dangerous blood magic has been seen in fantasy literature, and parallel worlds is a key feature in sci fi novels, but bringing them together worked so well, and with such effective simplicity.
  • The structure of the book is logical and works well. The first third or so builds up the world itself and introduces all the characters, so we know where we are before all the action kicks off, and we can then sit back and enjoy the ride.
  • The flipping of the narrative (standard third person format) between Kell and Lila (and occasionally other characters) works well, mostly because both of the characters are compelling and very different, and Schwab really manages to find the most gripping moments to switch.

 

Elements that Furrowed my Brow:

  • The plot is very fast-moving, and in some cases, it would have been nice to linger in places. At one point, a masquerade is held to celebrate Prince Rhy’s birthday, and Lila manages to land herself in a swanky male costume (as she is want to do). Instead of her immediately getting on with furthering the plot, it would have been nice to see her interacting in her usual sassy manner with all the posh guests.
  • While the book wraps the plot up very neatly at the end, it would have been nice to see elements of what will come in the next book, although this might just be how I like to read a series.

 

Summation:

  • Nice world(s), and great characters who I definitely want to meet again. I will definitely be purchasing the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, sometime soon.

 

I hoped you liked my review! Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? Do you agree with what I’ve said, or not? If you haven’t read it, does it sound like something that might butter your crumpet? Let me know!

Check back next week for my review of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, thank you for reading 🙂

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Rating Systems Schmating Systems

I perfectly understand that not everyone who visits my site wants to trawl all the way through my review, but have no fear, for I have a fool-proof rating system! Like all good socialists/pro-EU members, I love a good star, and obviously, the more the better, but I am rather fastidious in using them. So to show my workings, I’ve written a breakdown of them below.

  1. Such disappoint. I read every book hoping to love it, or at least like it, so these are a rarity, but sometimes I read a book that I find very dull, or in the worst cases, hateful. An example of a one star book for me would be Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. Ill-written and justifying rape culture? Please give Bella some self-respect.
  2. I didn’t hate this, but I really didn’t like it either. Maybe there were elements I did like, but these were ultimately outweighed by other factors which either bored me to tears, or just made me dislike it. The Magicians by Lev Grossman falls into this category: it was beautifully written, had an amazing world and magic system, but a cast of characters I found absolutely horrible. No finishing this series for me.
  3. I liked this book, and would read the next in the series/another work by the author. Perhaps there were some areas that I thought could have been improved upon, but ultimately this is a positive rating. I rated A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab as 3.5 stars, as I very much enjoyed it, but I wasn’t absolutely smitten.
  4. Ooh yeah book, you push my beans! If I love a book, I will give it four stars, usually because I can’t find much I dislike about it. A gripping plot, complex characters, and lovely prose guarantee a four star rating. An example would be The Secret History by Donna Tartt – neo-romanticism with mystery and secrecy? Yes please.
  5. The Holy Grail. It is very, very rare for me to give a book five stars, so when I do, I think it’s perfect. For the massive influence it has made to my life, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling all get 5 stars (yes, even CoS), and for a more adult book, an example would be The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Sometimes I will gush unapologetically about them, and at others, I’m simply overcome by the joy they give me.

In conclusion, my rating system can seem initially harsh, but the majority of books I read get either 3 or 4 stars, as I like to be positive. As I branch out a bit more, this might change, but I’m hoping to find new favourites along the way!

Feels free to check out my links:

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My Adventure into Booktube and Book Reviewing

My Adventure into Booktube and Book Reviewing

Hello everyone! My name is Kathy, I am 24 years old, a third year Theology undergraduate in London, and I have a problem… I spend a ridiculous amount of time and money on books, specifically novels. However, this issue is definitely a positive one, and I hope to deepen my love for literature, and connect with other like-minded people, particularly through Goodreads and YouTube.

So, what sort of novels do I like? In all honesty, I can be something of a literature harlot; any novel with an interesting and slightly unique plot is usually enough to draw me in. I predominantly read slightly fantastical or historical fiction, and also have a keen interest in post-apocalyptic, speculative, and alternate history literature. Although I do not read as much of it, I do read a little YA as well, as well as sci-fi novels. I am not particularly keen on romance or mystery novels, but I will read them on occasion, and I am slowly falling in love with horror fiction too, particularly through the work of Stephen King.

I intend to use this blog in correlation with my YouTube channel (Much Ado About Novels) to give longer and more in-depth looks at the books I review. While I really do want to talk on and on about the books I read, I think it would be best to do so here, so that anyone who sees any of my reviews on YouTube and wants to know some of my views/analysis in more detail can do so, and hopefully bring about some discussion.

I will be posting a more in-depth review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab either today or tomorrow, as well a post about how I’ll be reviewing books (i.e. my rating system), so stay posted. In the meantime, thank you for looking at my blog, hopefully I seem like an intriguing little book ferret, and I hope you like my reviews!

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