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I Sincerely Hope the Second Book is Better: Review of Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

e-ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley in exchange for review.

When I first saw the cover reveal for this book I was entranced and couldn’t wait to pick it up. It was giving me Gothic romance vibes and I wanted to see how this might be incorporated into a young adult novel. That being said, I think that this might have done better as an adult Gothic romance but as it was I was bored with this book and found it lacking.

Lakesedge (World at the Lake's Edge, #1)
Image: Cover of Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Synopsis

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.

Review

This review will contain spoilers.

Lakesedge followed Violeta (Leta) Graceling and her younger brother, Arien, after they’ve been taken back to an estate with Rowan who is a boy known simply as The Monster of Lakesedge. As the story progresses, she realizes how entwined this estate is with the evil god the Lord Under. It’s a story about magic and seems very connected to a larger metaphor for mental illness and I can only hope that the second book improves upon the events of the first.

I thought that Lakesedge started off interesting enough. I will include a more comprehensive list of content warnings at the end of this review but I do want to start off by saying that this starts off right away with scenes depicting emotional and physical abuse. I’ll admit, I found large portions of this book to be really triggering and I almost DNF’ed it but when I set it aside for a few weeks I was already 60% of the way through and decided to just see if it got any better. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

When the story first opened it raised so many questions. I was so confused by the world and spent the entire book waiting for questions to be answered but only ended up with more questions. The world itself felt underdeveloped as a whole and I hope that the second book gives more explanation but saying that ultimately doesn’t fix this book. The woman who raised Leta and Arien was very religious and this seems to be how people are in the world overall. They essentially worship a goddess of light which is why the dark magic that Arien possesses is seen as evil. Leta has spent her entire life protecting Arien with a zeal that I think many older sisters could relate to. The Lord Under is the evil god that they have in this religion and he gets the main focus in this story which left me, again, with more questions because he was so tangible and yet the goddess was often an afterthought.

Past these aspects I found myself understanding next to nothing about the religion and culture of the world that these characters resided in. YA fantasy often doesn’t have the in depth systems that adult fantasy has and I’ve always been grateful for that because they’re easier for me to consume. This is one story though where I definitely needed more to understand what was going on. There was magic, and alchemy involved with said magic, but nothing really came of this. The powers were just mentioned and there and the story would move on. I understood that at the heart of it, Lakesedge was a character driven story but with the plot as it was, I didn’t feel like I was able to connect with any of the characters.

Our main character is Violeta (Leta) Graceling and I’ll come back to her later because I have a lot of thoughts about who she was as a person but first, the other characters. We also had Arien, Leta’s younger brother, Rowan, the Monster of Lakesedge, as well as an alchemist, Clover, and a housekeeper, Florence. I found all of the characters to be flat and too often they seemed to be there for no real reason at all. I was especially confused by Florence because as the only true adult in this group she didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Maybe if there was more explanation into the dynamics between her and Rowan or the culture I would have understood why she just sat on the sidelines while she watched these kids destroy themselves both physically and mentally.

The central conflict to this book is a corruptive magic that has spread through Lakesedge following an incident in Rowan’s past. Rowan is supposed to be this evil monster and yet there was next to no evidence of this outside of the stories from his past. So when Leta constantly tried to remind herself that she couldn’t possibly have feelings for him because he’s a monster, I got really frustrated. Their romance almost felt like it was supposed to be a take on the “grumpy-sunshine” trope though I’ve also read in some other reviews that it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling of sorts. I could see where the author wanted it go but neither character ended up being strong enough characters to make this work. I genuinely thought that Leta had more chemistry with The Lord Under than she did with Rowan (whoops).

Now on to Leta.

I know that the author probably meant to give Leta pure intentions in her actions throughout the course of this novel but she made me so sad. Her self-sacrificial martyr complex was genuinely too much for me. I kept waiting for her to find a different solution, or for the group to come together and actually stop her from taking the steps that she did and yet that never occurred. The heavy depictions of trauma and mental illness throughout this book coupled with the fact that the corruptive magic required a physical sacrifice from Rowan that took the form of self harm through cutting ate away at me. I have no idea if this overall portrayal of mental illness is something that the author intended to have going in but I don’t think that it was done justice if it was. And if it was unintentional I have to say I’m really disappointed with how it all came together overall.

Leta was characterized in a way that she was unable to think past the actions she was currently taking. She had been through so many traumatic things in her life and it broke my heart to she how she treated her own life and future as something that could be thrown away so easily. With everything she did, she took care of everyone else before herself. It got to the point where it felt selfish instead of helpful, the pain that Leta was causing the other characters, especially her brother, was too much.

A battle with mental illness often feels impossible. From my own experiences I can say that with every step forward I take it feels like I take ten steps backward. Reading this book I saw a lot of my own mental illness in the story and that worried me a bit. There have only brief periods of time where I have had a healthy journey with mental health and I have put in a lot of work to try and deconstruct from the beliefs that I held and still hold. Reading Lakesedge I thought my younger self would have loved the book but I also have to note that my younger self would also seek out books that perpetuated the bad beliefs because I didn’t want to get better. I didn’t think that any aspect of my life would ever get better. I kept waiting for Leta to realize that she was hurting others and when she didn’t I just felt numb.

Arien knew what he was getting into and I was frustrated that Leta did whatever she could to either sabotage his efforts or pull all the burden onto herself. This is an incredibly unhealthy mindset and I can only hope that something changes in the second book and things get better but I’m worried. I don’t want people to step away from this book and think that they have to suffer along or think that they have to sacrifice themselves for the good of others.

Lakesedge began dark and it was intriguing. I was looking forward to an angsty romance with a grand Gothic setting. There was angst galore but instead of something captivating and unique I found the plot to be depressing and repetitive and the characters to be two-dimensional. Everything about this book felt underdeveloped from the setting and characters to the plot and fantasy elements. I was disappointed by this and ended up rating it two stars.

If you want to check out the book on Goodreads, you can find it here.

Content warnings: Death of a parent, death of a sibling (neither on page, but mentioned), self harm in the form of cutting (for the purpose of sacrifice), vomiting, drowning, emotional and physical abuse, depictions of trauma and depression

If you’ve picked up Lakesedge, what did you think of it? Am I wrong for reading into the plot so much? I just know how I was as a teen and don’t want someone like me to pick this up and find it influential in a negative manner.

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Books Reviews

Reread Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

If you were to ask me my favorite book, since the age of 13, my answer has steadfastly been Graceling by Kristin Cashore. My grandma gifted me this book (along with Twilight) for Christmas when I was in seventh grade. I’m not really sure which of those two books I was more obsessed with at the time but I devoured both of them within a matter of hours.

graceling.jpg

Graceling is a young adult fantasy story set in a world where if you are born or develop two different colored eyes you are considered a Graceling. Each Grace is different but it basically means that the person has some sort of extreme skill in regards to one thing. It could be fighting or mind reading, sewing or baking, or even something like being able to predict the weather.

It follows a Graceling named Katsa, a girl with one blue eye and one green eye and born with the Grace of killing. She is the niece of a king and has grown up as his thug, doing his bidding throughout the kingdoms. She then meets Prince Po and sets off on a deadly mission to uncover the secrets that could potentially destroy all seven kingdoms in their world.

I used to reread Graceling on a yearly basis. This was sort of my tradition with all of my favorite books. As I grew up though it got harder and harder to do this and I think was the first time I’ve read Graceling since high school. It was sort of bittersweet to dive back into this incredibly familiar story and I got so emotional as it unfolded over the pages. I know the plot like the back of my hand and I cheered on every triumph and got sad and angry at every obstacle. It felt like going home.

This story held so many firsts for me. The first time that I ever saw myself in a character, the first OTP I ever had, the first book that ever shocked me. It was life changing for me.

Katsa is a kick-ass female character that really stood out to me in a way that no once since Hermione Granger really had. She was hesitant about men, didn’t want kids, didn’t want to get married… She had a lifetime of trauma that led to her trying to be cold hearted and cruel because that’s all that she thought she could be. A killer. A girl Graced with the ability to kill anyone. It was almost heart warming to read about someone who felt like me in so many ways  and that still could have someone fall in love with her and care about her.

Now rereading this story I see so many parallels between Katsa and Celaena from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas and I wonder if that’s another reason as to why I was so drawn into the ToG series when it originally was published. I think that if you are a fan of ToG that you should pick up Graceling as well!

After this reread I have decided to maintain my original rating of 5/5 stars. This book will be timeless to me and I think it will forever be considered my favorite. If you are looking for a unique fantasy with a really strong female lead I highly recommend picking up Graceling.

This following section contains spoilers:

This book is one that I will continue to read again and again. It’s such a unique concept and I still fall in love with everything about this book even now. However, now that I’m older there are things about this that I sort of wish I could change. Like I really wish that Katsa was asexual… Or demisexual. I just feel like there are so many reasons for her to be that way and sometimes I just consider her to be demisexual anyways. I absolutely love her romance with Po but it could have been just as amazing without the added sexual element.

I also have always considered Raffin to be gay or bisexual. It just made sense to me. He’s not really accepted by his father (granted this is because of his interest in chemistry and whatnot), the king, and he doesn’t really have an interest in getting married. He’s very close to Bann, his assistant but I never chalked that up to them being in a relationship (though I could be that crazy shipper if I wanted to). And I mean Katsa and Raffin had discussed they themselves getting married just because they’d each allow the other to keep on doing whatever they wanted to do. It would have been a marriage of convenience over a marriage of love and I think it would have been interesting just to see how Cashore could have written in a queer prince.

Other than that I feel like I was blind and still am blind to any issues this book may have and I was surprised when I read a note from the author in the back of the anniversary edition of the book that I bought to replace my lost original copy. Po has the Grace of being able to sense people and as the book unfolds his Grace strengthens to be able to sense just about every aspect of the world around him… So when he gets injured to the point of being blinded it never once occurred to me that his Grace being this “cure” for his disability could be considered offensive. But that’s what Cashore apologized for in her note. That at the time of writing she never realized how unfair it could be to write of someone who can be “magically cured” by this skill that he has. It was kind of shocking to me but it made a lot of sense and I really appreciated that she took the time to include that note in the new and future copies of the book.

I think that this is an important step for all authors to take when they realize that something that they had done in the past may be realized to be not “okay” anymore. It could have been so easy for Cashore to just let this go and ignore anyone who tells her that it might be considered offensive. I mean it’s just magic, right? Anything can happen in a fantasy world… But the fact that she admitted to being a bit uninclusive in her writing was really admirable to me.

Now I’ve got to go back and reread Fire and Bitterblue. I was always so unimpressed with Fire and I’ve only read it maybe three times and I’m not sure if I’ve ever reread Bitterblue so I’m very interested in seeing how my opinions on those may have changed over the years.

Now my question I pose for you is if you were a Graceling, what do you think your Grace would be? I feel like I would have ended up with something really pointless. A Grace for cooking would be kind of awesome though since I’m absolutely horrible at it. Or maybe the ability to speed read. Then maybe I’d get through my TBR pile in a bit more timely manner.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy of Graceling, here’s a link.