Tag Archives: Characters

M is for Mab (The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton)

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2015--MEarlier this month, I reviewed the incredible Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton. If you haven’t read Blood Magic, there may be some spoilers here. Be warned.

If you’re still reading, I’ll assume you’ve either already read the earlier book or don’t care about spoilers. The Blood Keeper is a companion to Blood Magic, not exactly a sequel, because it focuses on new characters, but it does take place about 5 years after the first book, and Silla and Nick make appearances. Reese’s crows are definitely present, now as familiars to the new Deacon, Mab. (For those who, like me, are big fans of Reese as a character, you can check out Crow Memory, Gratton’s short story from Reese’s perspective that bridges the gap between the two books. It’s available to read for free on her website.)

Mab is the daughter of Josephine Daly, and bears the burden of knowing her mother was the one who killed Silla and Nick’s parents, and caused Reese to become the flock of crows who watch over her now. When the old Deacon, Arthur, died, Mab took on the role. Some call her the Blood Keeper, as she is the one who watches over those with blood magic and provides safety and protection to those who need it. Arthur’s last words to Mab instructed her to destroy the rose bushes at their home. She knows the roses hold a curse, but instead of destroying them, she tries to understand the magic they hold. In doing so, she inadvertently releases the power that was bound within the roses. The curse causes her life to intersect with that of Will Sanger, a young man from a military family who doesn’t know what he wants in life–except that he doesn’t want what’s expected of him.

The pacing of this book is a bit slower than Blood Magic, which isn’t a bad thing. I loved Mab in all her wildness, loved getting to know her and what the Deacon’s role involves. Like the first book, this one alternates between the current story and journal entries–this time of “Evie”, who came to live on the blood land with Arthur and his longtime companion Gabriel. The journal entries reveal much about the magic, and about the former Deacon, which fans of the first book should be interested to learn. The curse of the roses itself is haunting. Mab’s need to protect those under her care as Deacon–especially her newest charge, a young boy named Lukas who has been the victim of magical abuse–makes fighting the curse a dangerous balance. Will’s relationship with his older brother Ben feels real, as does his family’s varied ways of coping with his other brother’s death.

The last half of the book definitely picks up pace, and I stayed up ridiculously late reading page after page. The stakes are high throughout, and the payout is worth reading to the end. I can pretty much guarantee that I will read absolutely anything Tessa Gratton writes. She has a knack for ripping my heart out and filling it up all at the same time. All of her characters have depth and conflicts and desires and flaws that are realistic and complex. The Blood Keeper allowed me to linger a bit in this darkly beautiful world she has created, and I sincerely hope she will revisit it somehow in the future.

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L is for Levana (Fairest by Marissa Meyer)

A-to-Z Blogging Challenge--LSince I’ve already mentioned my deep love of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, it should come as no surprise that I pre-ordered her latest installment and pretty much devoured it as soon as it was available. Fairest is a considered a novella, though the page count is actually pretty close to standard novel length for YA–222 pages for the hardcover–and tells the story of Queen Levana’s rise to power. Oh, and it has one of the best covers I’ve seen in ages, teasing at the fact that we’ll finally get to know who Levana is underneath her veils and glamours.

This is such a different book from the rest of the series that I felt it definitely merited a separate review. Fairest is really the story of descent into madness by someone who truly believes she is right and justified in her actions. Through the course of this book, we understand some of how Levana came to be the way she is, but she is NOT a sympathetic character. This isn’t the story of a misunderstood woman who we know will redeem herself in the end. Rather, it shows us just how a psychopath is developed. Yes, I felt some sympathy for her early on, but she makes conscious decisions throughout that show her lack of empathy for others, and her utter selfishness. It’s the story of a woman driven by obsession, desperate to be loved, but not understanding that love is not the same as desire or possession.

This is a dark venture into the mind of a villain. You won’t find the lighthearted humor of the other Lunar Chronicles books. But for me, it helped me understand the motivations of this mysterious woman, and I’m certainly even more eager to read Winter when it comes out this fall–especially since there were teaser chapters at the back. We got a lot of Winter’s backstory in Fairest as well, so it will be interesting to compare her more obvious insanity, caused by refusing to use her glamour, to that of Levana, who believes herself sane and the rest of the world to be villainous. I cannot wait for the conclusion to this series!

Do you have a favorite literary villain? Let me know in the comments!

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B is for Lord and Lady Blakeney (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

We seek him here, we seek him there,

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.

Is he in Heaven?–Is he in Hell?

That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.

BI’ve been wanting to read The Scarlet Pimpernel for a long time, especially after my 2013 NaNoWriMo project was set in an alternate history version of Revolutionary France. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t believe I waited so long!

This classic novel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy is part swashbuckling adventure, part court intrigue. Set in 1792 during France’s Reign of Terror, which sent thousands of aristocrats, sympathizers, and suspected enemies of the Republic to death under the blade of “Madame Guillotine”, The Scarlet Pimpernel tells the story of a hero who works to save those destined to death. The Pimpernel, named after the little red flower he leaves on anonymously-penned notes, works under cover of darkness and cunning disguises to thwart the efforts of the Republic’s officers. One in particular, Chauvelin, has made it his mission to see the Pimpernel unmasked and on his way to the guillotine.

To do so, Chauvelin blackmails the Lady Marguerite Blakeney, a French citizen married to a foppish English Lord, holding over her head information that her own brother has been in league with the Pimpernel. Lady Blakeney is an intelligent, fashionable woman, devoted to her brother and torn between her deeply Republican beliefs and her understanding that the current bloody version of the Republic betrayed the core principles of the Revolution.

The language of the book is rich, but mostly doesn’t overwhelm with detail. There were only a few places where the story drags, and usually it’s because the author is giving us backstory for a character. It’s a fairly quick read, with the biggest question–who is the Pimpernel?–not being answered until well into the book. It’s a brilliant case of secret identity, a predecessor to the comic book and silver screen heroes most of us know well. And while you certainly couldn’t call it a romance, the estranged Blakeneys rebuilding their love after secrets strained it is central to the story. The author is herself an aristocrat, so her sympathies toward those of noble descent are obviously stated, but at the same time, she doesn’t really say the Revolution was unjust. Marguerite is undeniably Republican, but still believes the Pimpernel is a hero because she rejects the bloodbath happening in her homeland.

In short, I felt swept away to a different place and time when I read this. The Scarlet Pimpernel is a great read for anyone who loves historical fiction, or who is new to reading classics. I will likely be reading more of Orczy’s novels about the Pimpernel’s adventures soon. Do you have a favorite adaptation of the story? Or a favorite classic novel? Share your comments below! 🙂

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NaNoEdMo Week 3: Those crazy characters

So I’m getting this out a little late, because I had a deadline to meet last week on an unexpected project. I was asked to do a guest blog post for a major website, an honor which I feel was completely unearned. I’m pretty pleased with what I wrote, though, and I’ll share the link here as soon as it’s up. Let’s face it, I’ll be sharing that with everyone who will listen. I’m pretty excited. Because of this, I’m ridiculously behind on my NaNoEdMo hours, and I actually forgot to log them at all last week. So I will not be winning this year. Nevertheless, I am still plowing ahead with my revision of PQ.

One of the biggest areas needing improvement in my novel is my characters. As is typical in a first draft, I had characters who walked into scenes and then never appeared again. Others were very inconsistently portrayed, both in small details and their motivations. My villain was weak, and actually fairly undefined. The climax involved a war between forces that had never been properly introduced. I had a major character start a scene talking about his wife, then completely ignored that and had him be single for the rest of the novel. These are the sorts of things you do when you’re writing a first draft. You change your mind, move on, and pledge to fix them in revision.

Actually fixing them is not always easy. In analyzing my characters, I realized that I had made the wrong person the villain. A different character had much better motivation to oppose my protagonist, and it was possible to keep his identity hidden until ultimately using it as the biggest twist in the story. This means that I am now re-plotting my entire novel, because this character had been more of a pawn in the big picture of the first draft. In some cases, I’m just tweaking existing scenes to place him in a position of power. In others, I’m scrapping entire scenes and adding new ones.

Another character issue I found is a bit of a tougher call. I realized that my protagonist has no friends. Well, she has one friend who disappears about halfway through the story, and who is little more than set dressing. The trouble is, I’ve written a very independent protagonist who is used to spending time on her own because of her profession, and who has only just returned to her home city after years of being away. I’ve decided to bring in some new characters that were friends of hers during her time away, and I’m looking for ways to better incorporate the one friend I originally wrote.

When considering character changes, the biggest question I’ve been asking myself is, “How does this person help the story?” Clearly defining each character’s role in the story is the first step in making sure you have the right cast of characters. Weeding out extraneous characters makes the story flow better for your readers, and can tighten up your scenes. I’m getting rid of probably a dozen one-off characters, but adding nearly as many supporting cast members to flesh out the story where it was thin on first draft.

Have you had to cut a character you loved? Or maybe, like me, you realized your protagonist had no allies to help them reach their goals? Share your own experiences in the comments. I’ll have one more NaNoEdMo post later this week. If you’re participating, let me know how your revision is going and if you’re on-target for total editing hours. You can do it!

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