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!