Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Diana Wynne Jones

Last month I finally read the entire Diana Wynne Jones collection in my school library. I am now officially a lifetime fan. Her books are witty and clever and all of the things I love about books. She also does this really amazing thing where even I can't stand some of the characters I want to keep reading. Her characters fluctuate between Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral and they're always brilliant.

To apologise for this not being much of a blog here's a cat:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Replacement

Summary:Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs. (x)

The Replacement is weird, beautiful, creepy and funny, everything I normally want my books to be. The book is so perfect that I find it's strange that it's biggest flaw is what should be one of the main characters. Mackie Doyle's love interest Tate.

Mackie Doyle is a changeling child. One of the really interesting things about this book is that instead of doing this with a family that has no idea that their child has been taken, the Doyle's know that Mackie isn't their son. The town of Gentry has a history of children being taken. There is an unspoken agreement between the people of Gentry and the fey*, they take a child as a human sacrifice and in return the town prospers. While I don't really understand how this works the theme of sacrifice is explored really well here. Especially in the end but that's a spoiler so I'll keep my mouth shut.

Another really interesting theme here is love, and not just romantic love. In terms of familial love we see Mackie's sister Emma and their parents. Mackie describes his love between him and his parents as "complicated" while between him and Emma is straightforward. 
“I wanted to tell her that I loved her, and not in the complicated way I loved our parents, but in a simple way I never had to think about. I loved her like breathing.” -Mackie

Emma is seen as more of the mother figure to Mackie, she makes friends with a fey from Mayhem (there are two Houses in the novel, Mayhem and Mystery, more on them later) to get a potion to help him with his iron allergy, she has been looking after him ever since the switch. In one of my favourite parts Emma is telling Mackie about what she has learnt about the fey and she tells him that if the mother loves the child enough, the child will grow to be strong and beautiful. Mackie however tells her it wasn't their mother that made him like that, "it was [Emma]." Later Emma reveals it was her who took the sewing scissors down from the original Malcolm Doyle's crib so that he could be taken but I never really felt she loved Mackie out of guilt. Maybe she started out taking care of him because of guilt but she ended up loving Mackie for Mackie.

The love between Mackie and his friends is also seen in a big way. His friends are insanely loyal to him and I can't say too much without giving away spoilers but they show Mackie that they always have his back, no matter how crazy the plan. His friends also realise on some level that Mackie isn't one of them but none of them really seem to care.

The only flaw I found in this book was the romantic love. I found Mackie's feelings for Alice to be more believable than his feelings for Tate. Alice is a normal girl, and Mackie longs for normalcy in his life. Tate is different, when her sister gets taken she immediately starts challenging Gentry's long held silence. She is tough and brave, things I love in my heroines but I can't like her. Of all the female characters in the book I found her the least believable. When she initially tries to get Mackie to help her it starts off normally but then she starts shouting and bullying him because he won't help her. Understandable as she just lost her sister but she keeps doing it, even when Mackie starts to help her she gets angry when he shows even the slightest reluctance. She never seems to really care how he feels. It would make more sense for him to like an angry rabid beaver. When Mackie goes into Mayhem and starts even goes into the House of Mystery I get the feeling he's doing this more because he wants to. Tate's not even seen that much I find, and when she is she's  really angry at Mackie for doing nothing to find her sister. I don't remember her doing anything to try to find her herself (though on this point I concede that she couldn't have gotten into either Mayhem or Mystery on her own). It's not even Tate but the death of a secondary character that spurrs Mackie to go to the House of Mystery.

Beauty is also something Yovanoff explores. Emma, Mackie's sister is seen as plain but Mackie sees more than that. He sees the sister who raised him, who loved him, who loves to learn. Beauty isn't just seen as how someone looks, but by what someone does as well.

The Houses of Mayhem and Mystery sort of contain all the themes in the book and show some heavy contrast. The leaders of Mayhem and Mystery and Mystery contrast in terms of appearance and attitude. The Morrigan, leader of the House of Mayhem, is ugly, maybe even a bit gruesome in appearance. She is said to be the Celtic goddess of war and death and not just borrowing her name. Yet when the changeling children die she brings them back to life, she is somewhat of a guide to Mackie and (highlight for spoilers) she even rescues Mackie's mother from the House of Mystery. She looks like a stereotypical villain yet she is capable of uncommon  kindness. The Lady is beautiful, but she is described as looking ill. Her sister, the Morrigan describes her as being "born heartless." Whereas the House of Mayhem is flooded and messy, her's is clean, classy and beautiful. Her name connotes class and beauty. That's the first hint that there is something wrong. Every 7 years a child is taken to be sacrificed. It is The Lady who sacrifices them. Though the belief and fear that comes from it benefits both Houses, the Morrigan never really seems to approve of this and has found an alternative, a group of few play in a band and the love and adoration they get from the people helps sustain them. The Lady also sometimes takes children because she feels like it, because they're sweet or pretty and she wants them. The relationship between the Lady and the Morrigan reminds me of The White Queen and the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland (2010). The Morrigan isn't just being good because she wants to be, but because her sister is so bad.

Mayhem and Mystery also bring up the relationship between the worshipped and worshippers and the need of belief on the part of the worshipped. Though the Morrigan never approves of the sacrifice of the children, she knows it is necessary. Belief also harms the fey as well. They cannot go on consecrated ground or touch iron because people believe they can't.
“Intention is one of the most powerful forces there is. What you mean when you do a thing will always determine the outcome. The law creates the world.” 
**Conclusion: The Replacement is an amazing book that you should definitely read.

*I use this term because I have no idea what else to call them.
“Do you really want to know where we come from?" she said. "In every century, in every country, they'll call us something different. They'll say we're ghosts, angels, demons, elemental spirits, and giving us a name doesn't help anybody. When did a name change what someone is?” 
**I don't know when this review turned into and essay either. Sorry.