Saturday, August 12, 2017

108. The Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins if Golan by John Flanagan

Flanagan, John. The Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan. New York: Puffin Books, 2005.

SYNOPSIS: Orphans in this fantasy universe are made into apprentices when they reach a certain age. Will, the protagonist, is selected to be a Ranger's apprentice. Ranger's are, essentially, the CIA of the kingdom--specialty fighters trained in espionage. This book is part of a series and mostly focuses on setting up the characters and plot for the books to come.

WHAT I LIKED: This is a great adventure fantasy and is probably written for middle school aged readers. In middle school, I would have loved this book. The writing creates excellent tension and I wasn't ever pulled out of the story but was instead fully absorbed in the story. I liked the concept of the ranger and a ranger's role in a kingdom.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I didn't like that there were almost no female characters. It grew tiresome reading about male characters through about 90% of the book. A female ranger would be AMAZING. Instead, all the women and girls in the book had soft roles--diplomat, and cook. YUCK.

I also didn't like that the solution to bullying was to beat the bullies senseless rather than reporting bullying to the proper authorities. Also, yuck.

RECOMMEND FOR: This could appeal to a wide audience of you're ok with minimal female roles.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Readers who want to see women and girls taking part in the action.

2.5 darts out of 5

Saturday, August 5, 2017

107. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1985.

311 pages.

Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

SYNOPSIS: This first person narrative tells the story of Offred after the U.S. government has been overthrown by a group of religious zealots called the Sons of Jacob. In this dystopia, humans are struggling to reproduce so women who have successfully had children prior to the overthrow are forced to become "handmaids" used for breeding purposes. Each handmaid us assigned to a commander and is expected to birth his child. The story follows Offred and her experience with her commander and life in the new world order.

WHAT I LIKED: This is an important book to read. Atwood paints a harrowing picture of where we may end up if women become complacent and if Marshall law is enacted. The story is terrifying and I didn't enjoy it, but I don't think it is a book that is mean to be enjoyed. The book is warning much in the same way that Animal Farm is a warning. The writing is good--skilled, artful, absorbing.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: When I read a piece like this that goes beyond being a novel for entertainment's sake and becomes a piece of art, I want that art to provide me hope and some kind of solution to the problem it's attempting to tackle. That is why I love art--it helps me conceptualize new ways of approaching old problems. The Handmaid's Tale falls flat for me in this regard. There is no solution. There is no hope. There is no clear step that can be taken to get end the dystopia that Offred lives in. We don't even get the closure in the end when historians analyze how she escaped. They're answer was "we don't know. haha." We also don't know how the historians gained freedom to study this period in American history from the place of intellectual freedom in which they currently reside. They just do. They're just there. In this way, The Handmaid's Tale is the same as the hanging wall depicted in the story. It's warning, nothing more.

RECOMMEND FOR: Anyone who plans on watching the Hulu adaptation needs to read this. I don't plan to watch the series, but from what I've heard the Hulu series has some major differences from the original novel.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who may be triggered by sexual violence or hopeless dystopian themes.

4 darts out of 5