Divine By Blood

I finished P.C. Cast’s Divine By Blood this weekend, and I can honestly say I have no intention of ever reading these books again. It wasn’t terrible, truly, I know a lot of people who would probably enjoy it. They’re casual readers, who enjoy light reads and don’t have the same high standards for their books that I do.

If you’ve read my other posts on Divine By Mistake and  Divine By Choice, then you’ll know that I’ve had my reservations throughout this entire trilogy (and, even though it is a trilogy, I’ve had a hard time finding an exact name for it). Even though I was hesitant, I was still a little excited about the third book because it was the only one I hadn’t read before. Once I started, though, I had a bit of a hard time getting into it. I made it halfway through and had to stop for the night, and it took about a day for me to convince myself to pick it back up again.

Overall, my concerns with this one mirror my concerns with the others. The main character, Morrigan (grown-up daughter of Rhiannon), experiences extreme changes in a matter of days and has reactions that I don’t think are believable. She was raised in Oklahoma, and found out about Partholon only hours before she gets drug through a cave and into the other world. Despite this, she is perfectly content to stay in Partholon and take up a new role as priestess to a goddess she didn’t even know existed.

She meets Kegan (a centaur High Shaman who is the mirror of her crush, Kyle, from Oklahoma), and in less than 2 days they’re pledging their love for each other and deciding to get married. Seriously. Nobody falls in love in less than 2 days. Lust, yes. Love, no.

These faults aside, my main issue is with the overall structure of the book. It doesn’t simply tell Morrigan’s story. As the last book in the trilogy, it spends time wrapping up Rhiannon’s story, Shannon’s story, introduces and tells part of Shannon’s daughter, Myrna’s, story, in addition to telling a complete story about Morrigan. It’s a lot to juggle, and it’s a bit messy. I feel like these pieces were simply thrown in to wrap everything up in a neat little bow without giving the stories due diligence or attention.

Morrigan’s story also mirrors Shannon’s, almost exactly. Little details are different, but the basic arc is the same. As I already mentioned, Morrigan is pulled through to Partholon to find herself priestess to a goddess she didn’t know existed. She decides to stay and take up this role with no desire or attempt to find her way back home. There’s one character who knows the truth about where she came from (Alanna for Shannon, Birkita for Morrigan), and coaches her through her responsibilities so she can “fake it till she makes it”. She falls almost instantly in love with a centaur High Shaman, seamlessly adjusting to the fact that centaurs exist.

During her whirlwind relationship with Kegan, they share conversations that are nearly identical to conversations had by Shannon and ClanFintan in Divine By Mistake: Centaurs are real. As a High Shaman, they can shape shift into human form, so they’re perfectly capable of mating with human females. Centaurs run hotter and have more stamina than either a man or a regular horse. Shannon/Morrigan is hesitant about touching the centaur, but is won over by their boundless lust. The act of riding the centaur (like a horse) is an act of extreme intimacy, and is used to draw Shannon/Morrigan in close. It makes sense that new characters would need to learn these things, but it’s painful for the reader, who already knows them, to have to reread everything again.

It’s obvious that I’m not impressed with these books, and my opinion of them has steadily gone downhill with each subsequent one. I will still carry fond memories of Divine By Mistake, since it is quite a unique story and I have good memories of my first time reading it. I’m glad to have read all of them, if only to broaden my reading experiences and have books in this category that I actually have negative opinions of. It was a good learning experience.

Divine By Choice

This weekend I finished Divine By Choice, the sequel to P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (see my thoughts about this one here). I had trepidation about reading this book, because I remembered not liking it very much the first time. Come to find out, I didn’t like it much this time, either.

Once again, Shannon is yanked out of her world (only this time she is yanked out of Partholon and returned to Oklahoma), and has to deal with the mess Rhiannon is leaving in her wake.  There are a lot of things I could point to as reasons why I didn’t much care for it: This book introduces quite a few new characters that we’re supposed to care about, but it doesn’t give us reasons why we should. Shannon falls in love with a man who is the mirror image of her husband within days of knowing him and has a very cavalier attitude about her marriage. She fights the same evil she did in the first book, only pulled through between worlds, which I find lacking imagination. Shannon also suddenly has new magic powers that she conveniently uses once she’s back in Oklahoma to talk to the trees in the forest.

But the main problem I have with it is the weakness of the heroine. Now, I don’t consider myself a modern feminist. But I do enjoy a strong female lead, and I think women as a whole are strong characters who should be written like the well-rounded people they are. Shannon is not a strong female lead in this book. She wasn’t overly strong in the first book, but that can be mostly excused. She’s in a world she doesn’t know and has to learn the rules, so it makes sense that she would lean on other characters who are more experienced. She often showed her compassionate side, and truly desired what was best for her people, which is a more subtle type of strength. In the end, she joined her people in battle, and put herself in harm’s way to save them. While she wasn’t overtly strong, she showed growth, which is what readers need in a protagonist.

In Divine By Choice, though, I saw very little strength from her. To be fair, she begins the story sick from her pregnancy, and her body is physically weak. But even once the sickness abates, she is still helped in and out of the car and is helped to the door by the big strong man. There’s deep snow outside, but instead of walking in it like a big girl, she is either carried (again by the big strong man) or is clutching his arm for assistance. Even though she is back on her home turf, she relies on him to make plans and get her where she needs to go. She asks him to take care of her, to feed her (meaning to swing through the Arby’s drive-through), and to love her.

As I also noted in Divine By Mistake, Shannon doesn’t put a whole lot of effort into discovering how she was brought back into her own world. Clint (her husband’s mirror image) tells her what he thinks happened on his end, but she doesn’t bother to verify his information or figure out exactly what happened. She even waits several days to contact Rhiannon (who she knows is still in the same world), even though Rhiannon would be the perfect person to get information from.

In the final battle, Shannon doesn’t even fight. She gets snatched and stabbed, and watches while Clint saves the day. He summons Native American warriors to kill the evil creature, then sacrifices himself to send Shannon back to Partholon. She literally does nothing.

Overall, Shannon drove me nuts in this book. I have a policy about not putting a book down before it’s finished, and I’ve only rarely broken it. My main goal in reading this book was to bridge the gap before reading the next one, Divine By Blood, which is the only one I haven’t read before. It’s new to me, which makes it exciting, and I’m hoping I truly enjoy it instead of it just being something for me to finish and move on.

Divine By Mistake

This week I’m reading P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (spoilers). I read this book for the first time in college, over the summer while working as a camp counselor. It wasn’t something I would’ve picked out for myself at the time, but one of the other counselors had a copy and I had nothing else to read, so I asked to borrow it.

Reading this book the first time made me blush. It’s officially a fantasy, but carries some definite romance themes. The actual sex scenes are muted, but the lead-ups are graphic and intense. I remember thinking that I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading that kind of trash. My opinion on this has changed. I’m significantly wider read these days, and some of my favorite authors (looking at you, Kelley Armstrong) frequently write sex scenes so much more detailed than Divine By Mistake has. I’m desensitized, so they really don’t bother me anymore.

What struck me this time around was the complete unbelievability of the main character, Shannon Parker. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, here’s a basic overview: Shannon Parker is a run-of-the-mill English teacher from Oklahoma. One day she finds herself sucked through a portal into a fantasy world. The people there mirror people from her own world, and she herself is a mirror image of High Priestess and Goddess Incarnate, Rhiannon. Rhiannon, having discovered the mirrored world, traded places with Shannon to escape her own responsibilities.

Shannon awakes to find herself in this new world and everyone believes she is the real Rhiannon. This is where I find her reactions hard to believe. She has a few hours of “holy crap, this is all really weird”, then just kind of decides to go with it. For the next several days as the story unfolds she has fleeting thoughts of “I wonder what’s happening back in my own world” and “Rhiannon is probably destroying my life” but she seems perfectly content to just throw away everything she’s ever known without any notice. There’s no grieving for the relationships she left behind (she just replaces them with the mirrored people in the new world), there’s no crying over the life she lost, and there’s no freaking out over the strange new things she’s thrown into. On her first day, she’s told she’s been exchanged and then marries a centaur. Seriously? I think I would barricade myself in my room, convince myself I’d gone crazy and was locked away in an institution somewhere, or maybe just faint when the troop of centaurs walked into the room. Something more than “well this is my life now, it’s a little weird but I guess I’ll get used to it”.

What also strikes me as strange (and is definitely related), is she never tries to go home. There’s one or two places where she mentions that it’s impossible, but she never even tries to research how the switch happened in the first place. Her maid, Alanna, tells her about the experimentation and ritual Rhiannon performed, but she never seeks to understand it further. She never tries to determine if it can be replicated. She never even expresses a desire to go home. All of which is very unbelievable to me. In time, yes, maybe she could adjust to her new circumstances and come to accept that she can’t go home, but not immediately and not without fighting against it first.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. I’m looking forward to reading the next two, Divine By Choice and Divine By Blood. Once you get past the believability issue, it’s a beautiful story and a lot of fun to read. Shannon’s secret is shared among her close friends, she falls deeply in love with her centaur husband, and she saves her people from both disease and a deadly invasion. Rhiannon’s actions were steeped in selfishness and arrogance, but Shannon is able to turn the situation into something good and wholesome and find her true purpose in life.

Assassin’s Fate

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. Assassin’s Fate  by Robin Hobb (spoilers).  It’s the last book in The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. If you’re familiar with Robin Hobb’s work, then you know this isn’t a stand-alone trilogy, either. It is in fact the third trilogy set in the Six Duchies and featuring FitzChivalry Farseer as the narrator and protagonist, the first being The Farseer Trilogy, followed by The Tawny Man Trilogy. Other series belong in this world as well, though they tell other stories, in The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Rain Wild Chronicles.

I first began reading Robin Hobb a couple of years ago, and I immediately devoured the stories of the bastard prince turned assassin’s apprentice. The world of the Six Duchies captured and enthralled me. It was a surprise to discover the new series out, and endlessly frustrating to not be able to read it. See, I have a problem. I don’t like beginning a series if  I can’tread the entire thing straight through (I made that mistake with Game of Thrones, now I’m chomping at the bit for the next book). I vowed to wait until the trilogy was completed before I started it. Assassin’s Fate was released in May of this year, so I put it on hold and checked out the first two books, Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest. I waited to hear that Assassin’s Fate was ready for me to pick up, but the email never came. That was when I learned something important about my new library system in the middle of nowhere. Our town library doesn’t carry Robin Hobb, so the request had to be sent to outside libraries for a loan. However, none of those libraries lend their books for the first six months after release. So there I was, two books down, dying to know what happens, and unable to secure book three.

Fast forward to now, when I finally have my hands on a copy. I’ve done little else for the past three days (I haven’t even been writing, it’s so hard to tear my mind away). I’m nearly 3/4 done, and I want to share my thoughts with you.

It’s difficult for me to see Fitz portrayed as an older man. We’re first introduced to him as a child, and we watch him grow into a man capable of anything. He’s trained by the king’s assassin, and develops skills and abilities that allow him to pass unnoticed, bend others to his will, and physically conquer any task. As this series begins, Fitz is living a comfortable life in the country with his family, and has lost his assassin’s edge. It’s a different Fitz than the one I fell in love with. He’s working hard to recover those lost skills, but it’s been an adjustment for me. The Fool is also not the man he used to be. His changes are not due to age, but rather the cruelty and the torture he has endured. The changes in both men strain their relationship, and it hurts me to see them at odds with each other.

This series also does something unique. The book isn’t told entirely from Fitz’s perspective. His little daughter, Bee, is added as a narrator. There’s value in this, and her story is important and fascinating, but it takes time away from telling Fitz’s tale. Fitz is the one I want to follow, and I miss him when I reading about Bee.

There’s significantly less magic used in this series. The Skill and The Wit, both inherited magics, play a huge role in developing Fitz’s character, and are thoroughly explored in The Farseer Trilogy. They were somewhat diminished in The Tawny Man Trilogy, and have nearly disappeared altogether. The characters talk about them some, but they are rarely used by Fitz anymore. I miss these as well. His use of the magics was an interesting aspect of his character, and their absence lessens him. Makes him more normal, but he has never been a normal man, and I don’t like the effort put into making him normal.

Many things about this series confuse me, and I believe that’s because Fitz and The Fool leave the Six Duchies and travel far. They interact with the liveship traders from Bingtown, the Pirate Isles, and the dragons in the Rain Wilds. I haven’t read these books, but I assume the people they meet and the tales they tell are contained in these books. The characters know (or at least know of) these new additions, but I’m left feeling lost. It’s my fault for not reading the other books, but I didn’t expect them to intersect in quite this way.

I also miss Nighteyes. He’s been gone since the beginning of The Tawny Man Trilogy, and with him any desire for Fitz to use his Wit. The wolf completed Fitz in ways that are now gaping, and his insights helped to hone Fitz’s skills. He was wise, and gentle, and fully embraced living in the moment. He saved Fitz’s life on multiple occasions and only enhanced the story. After building up Fitz’s Wit and bring Nighteyes into his life, I don’t understand why Robin Hobb would leave such a position unfilled. I get Nighteyes dying, logically. These books span decades, and a single wolf just cannot live through that. But why she allow Fitz to remain unpaired and his Wit to wither I just don’t know.

There are more things I could write. As I said, I love these books, and they’re so complicated and involved that I could never attempt to fully dissect them. If you’ve read them let me know your thoughts in the comments.