My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag

When it was released last year, this book flew around our blogging community.  Impressed by the number of positive reviews, I planned on reading it sooner rather than later, and the 2014 Blogger Awards gave me a chance to turn that into a reality.

Plenilune has an official excerpt, but I don't feel it captures the heart of the book.  It's such a dense, vast story that it's difficult to capture in one sentence, but I'll try.

Plenilune is about a Victorian lady named Margaret who, through a chance meeting and a twist of fate, becomes the coveted object of the two powerful rulers of a different world.

In many ways, Plenilune is gorgeous.  It has a vast scope-- the story encompasses countries, a dynasty, and a civil war, but that alone doesn't make Plenilune brilliant.  In the long and short of it, Plenilune is a story of power and those that wield it told from the perspective of one small, angry girl cast into the center of it.  I still stand by our decision to elect Margaret the best heroine of 2014.  Raised in the confines of Victorian-London society, retold through gorgeous chess imagery, her struggle with her own powerlessness and her gradual realization of her value make this novel.

Freitag's use of language rivals the skillfulness of her characters.  She has a sophisticated grasp of imagery uncommon in young adult literature and displays a cunning use of repeating motifs.  (Indeed, sometimes she overdoes it.  But I digress.)  She also has a delightful way of handling shocking revelations: namely, she refuses to over-explain them.  Freitag does not talk down to her readers.  She expects them to have the patience required to dig back through the novel, searching for half-referenced conversations and factoids.  Her discipline is a delightful surprise in a debut novelist.


You knew this was coming.

-- but the restraint she shows in referencing her own work does not apply to all of her dialogue and descriptions.  Is it gorgeous?  Absolutely.  Did I go insane with my highlighter, picking out particularly beautiful phrases-- that is, the whole book?  You bet.

Did it go too far?

I'm afraid so.

I would like to see Plenilune after it had passed through the hands of a particularly ruthless editor.  Scenes wandered on and on through charming, unnecessary subplots (ahem, Woodbird), eating up a decent chunk of word count that could have been used to address another issue: the political civil war.

The world of Plenilune is a vast place-- so vast, indeed, that I only grasped about a quarter of its politics.  It was easy enough to remember who disliked whom (Freitag helpfully gave the antagonists sinister names, like Bloodburn and-- well-- Rupert; never mind), but the chain of battles in the war proved more confusing.  At every step the forces of good defeated the forces of evil, yet by the end of the novel they were somehow still losing.  Perhaps evil greatly outnumbered the good guys; but then, why would so many people choose to follow a frankly detestable character who quite openly attempted to murder his brother?

And then there was Dammerung.

Don't even get me started on Dammerung.

Dammerung might have to be a separate post.

Suffice it to say that he is utterly amazing, and that is not necessarily a good thing.

But I digress again.

In short: Plenilune is fabulously gorgeous.  I spent half of it in utter confusion (which will hopefully dissipate after future rereads), but I still fell completely in love with it.  Check out Jennifer Freitag's blog and read her awesome books!


ghost ryter said...

She has a sophisticated grasp of imagery uncommon in young adult literature...
Was this YA, though? I had thought it was adult. Hm.

I enjoyed reading your review!

Grace M said...

Enjoyable review, Allison! This book does look interesting (and that cover!), but I'm still not 100% sure about reading it any time soon. Still, your praise of it it has piqued my interest in it a little more than it was. :-)

Allison Ruvidich said...

@Ghosty- Good question... It's never explicit, and it's less violent than some books marketed for young adult... I'm inclined to say YA because it's kind of a coming-of-age story for Margaret. Thoughts? Maybe new adult?

@Grace- It's pretty intense. I would wait until you have a non-busy week or something, then dig into it. Like I said, it's worth reading, but it can be sooo heavy in places. : )

Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination said...

I really wanted to read Plenilune, but now, the more reviews I read of it, the more I think I better wait. The story seems wonderful, and I know from Jennifer Freitag's blog posts that her writing is gorgeous, but I've also heard that this book is pretty mature.

ghost ryter said...

Now that I think about it, Plenilune is probably new adult. There is the coming-of-age aspect, but it's less of a focus than I think it would be in a young adult novel. And you're right that it isn't explicit, but in my opinion it is better suited to older readers.

Laura Pol said...

Great review! I was so surprised that when I bought it at Christmas in how big it was! I'm hoping that I will enjoy it like you did even if some things could have been cut out! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

Allison Ruvidich said...

I hope I didn't sound too harsh on it. I really did enjoy it, and I hope you guys do, too. Thanks!