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[personal profile] labellementeuse

OK, well, let's just get this out of the way: of course, of course, I enjoyed it, but *man* are bits of this clunky, and I'm a bit sad about it. I re-read the entire series before I read this one and ... the contrast between this and Deep Wizardry ... I just don't know. I mean, where to start:
- the excruciatingly clunky scene where Lissa comes out to Nita as ace. ... it just could not have been more pasted on. And look, I fucking love representation! BUT.
- The need to fit in every single character we've ever met in the books for a scene. Look. I understand the urge for this. Especially because on one level I'm yelling with glee when they show up. BUT: ultimately it's too busy a cast for an individual book. Lay it back. Be controlled. It worked in Wizards at War because it felt like an unusual circumstance, but that's been hit for three books in a row now ... lay it off. It's so blatantly fanservicey and yes, I love it, but also ... enh. Let's get back to basics a bit. You can't fit this all in.
- Honestly, Lifeboats has a better plot and execution and yes I feel like a monster saying this.

Some further random observations:
- lmao OK the scene where Nita's like (clunkily) "How did I not notice Matt was gay! Well, I guess I've made that mistake before," and then Carl is right next to her. On the one hand I laughed; on the other hand, DD, JUST DO IT ALREADY. Just do it. Just make it canonical. It's 2016, your books aren't gonna get banned.
- look the sex stuff. look. OK, I still have no idea how old Nita and Kit actually are at this point but *boy* there's a lot of agonising for one friggen kiss. I know DD isn't a prude! I read the Middle Kingdoms books! Twilight means there can be sex in YA books now! But OK, whatever, I don't actually mind and the dancing scene was fucking great (also, a nice callback to the scene in A Wizard Abroad where Nita mentions that Kit loves to dance, which, btw, is one of my Underrated Facts About Kit which goes with "loves poetry, especially Shakespeare" and "the only thing that wasn't casual about Kit was the way he worked to do what he said he would". Another fun fact about Kit is that I fucking love him and think he's a better fictional boyfriend than Gilbert Blythe). It's very ... hmm, interesting? How Nita and Kit during this book vary from being quite clearly sexual, sexually interested in each other, to being entirely chaste when they're actually with each other. Which I guess is not that unusual for teenagers. Is it? It's been a while :-/
- man, DD working out her own issues about high school a little bit ... I don't remember sex talk being anything *like* that explicit. And again, this weird juxtaposition where on the one level Nita and Kit are barely talking about sex and on another level they're normal teenagers making a slightly bitchy remark about one of their classmates being a virgin ... it's a weird tightrope that I don't entirely get.

Oh, the main plot. It was fine I guess, although like, yeah, what were the themes exactly? It felt more like a filler book than Lifeboats did. I really thought getting Roshaun back would be the next book, but hey. I loved Mehrnaz, who was so sweet, and I liked her family backstory, although ... man it's an implausible wizarding family, eh? Penn, obviously, was TERRIBLE but in a fun way. I did spend the entire book waiting for Nita to beat him up, though, and she NEVER DID. Sadface. I felt like there were some missing consequences from some of the conversations, as well, and plot that seemed to stop in one point and pick up at another with beats uncovered.

Sidebar: Lifeboats makes a lot of sense to me as an authorly reaction to A Wizard of Mars and Games Wizards Play, because Kit does awesome shit in Lifeboats and man does he get hit with the idiot stick in Mars and Games. Like, ouch. Honestly? Honestly? That dumbass fight that comes out of nowhere and isn't even provoked by anything particularly nasty out of Penn? Meh. Meh, I say.

IDK. This isn't coherent but I wanted to get some quick thoughts down.

Date: 2016-02-03 10:03 am (UTC)
batman: From Hanna Is Not A Boy's Name (fragile guides)
From: [personal profile] batman
I found the treatment of sex and sexuality in the book oddly inconsistent, and an unfortunate step backward from Lifeboats. Lifeboats felt more like teenagers in that we had dick jokes, we had references to characters downloading porn, there was references to tentacle porn ... it felt like this was a story populated by adolescents in their mid to late teens. That said, it wasn't as downright explicit as apparently Nita's classmates are, which honestly is downright weird to me. Maybe things have changed a lot since I went through, or maybe it's because I'm not American, but any discussions that were that explicit would be considered to be downright strange and my year would have shunned the speaker. It's especially weird given that any talk of sexuality is treated in a very twee way. Lissa and her "Special One" talk, for example, made me want to roll my eyes into the sun, and I am ace.

(I am also weirded out by Matt referring to his boyfriend as "his mate", but I guess that's just because "mate" can be such a context specific term over here that I guess DD got it wrong. Still, felt weird for him to essentially no-homo himself!)

I was kind of disappointed at how Mehrnaz didn't tie into the climax overly much. It felt like she was really only there to justify Dairine being on the Moon to rescue Roshaun, and it made me sad. I felt like her plot with that was dropped by the wayside and left unexplored, and I expected more payoff to Dairine essentially flagging with Irina that Mehrnaz's family are abusing her. Given that Irina read the riot act to Kit and Penn for what was essentially a dick waving contest, why was "emotionally abusive family" not considered important enough to resolve in this book?

I did find that Mehrnaz and Penn were the most interesting characters introduced in a while though! I want to see more of them, and bouncing off various members of the current cast. While DD has suggested that Penn and Ronan would be interesting, I really want to see Carmela and Mehrnaz interact. I think that if anyone can have a positive effect on Mehrnaz, it's Carmela, given that Carmela is very good at reading people. And I am buzzed to find out what the hell the prophecies Nita was having earlier in the book meant, given that Dairine rescuing Roshaun has triggered one.

In any event, it was a fun way to spend two hours, but I can't say that it's anything like as good as Deep Wizardry.

Date: 2016-02-03 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] batman
Yeah, I thought that Kit is treated a lot more like a sexual being than Nita, which is an interesting narrative choice, though one where the characters feel peculiarly sexless. I mean, I don't want multiple graphic sex scenes between Nita and Kit! That would be kind of weird given how the books have played out so far! But given that this was the book about Nita and Kit navigating their relationship and defining what being a boyfriend/girlfriend meant to them, including sex, it felt like not a lot of navigation was done, or definitions. I had really expected, flowing on from Lifeboats, a much more frank and consistent examination of their relationship. Maybe next book, I guess!

Lissa and Matt were kind of frustrating to me in the extent that representation is great, and the fandom has been clamouring for representation quite vocally since AWOM, but it felt like none of them got to be characters in this book outside of revealing to Nita that they're not straight. Lissa gets more as she gets the scene at the beginning, but given that DD's stated reason for not including LGBT characters in the past was because she didn't want it to be tokenism ... that is exactly what we got. This might be more on me; I would have liked them more tied to the plot. But I agree with you about what you said earlier about this cast being too large for the story, and so I can appreciate that some characters had to have minor roles. Just ... I wish they had minor roles that allowed them to do more! I also agree that the Special One talk was weirdly dictatorial, and based on a far more naive view of relationships. I guess it is a fairly accurate capturing of adolescent views of relationships! But given how much time is spent on it, it did feel like it was given the Authorial Seal of Approval.

I have to wonder whether in conception Mehrnaz was meant to be from a non-wizard family who were abusive and that her journey was meant to be how being given wizardry meant that she would have the tools to leave a family that could never change. Having her move out and leave in that context, as you say, would be a conclusion I would be on board with. I would find that satisfying. Instead, what's happened is this kind of limbo state where Mehrnaz can move out, but unless she cuts herself off entirely from the wizardry hierarchy in her area, she's still left answering to her own family who have made it very clear they have no interest in fostering her talents and abilities. I'm genuinely shocked at how a ridiculous dick waving contest between two adolescent guys who are explicitly caught in a hormonal surge will get you threatened with taking your wizardry away, but that decades of emotional abuse is condoned. It happened on Irina's watch, these are wizards, they are responsible to her. It's a very ugly scenario and one that I wanted explored because Irina's response was to me utterly unsatisfactory. The time spent on Lissa's Special One talk really could have gone to resolving this as honestly it was more important. Because how can you be a wizard if you are not at heart a good person?

ngl i am less interested in Penn so much as "the narrative trope of someone's identity being upended and them working out what that means", so I fully expect that in the next book he will be uninteresting to me from a canon perspective because it would be resolved. Mehrnaz I desperately want more about, not the least because she would be the first recurring teenaged female character since Carmela and I think the books need more young female wizards! She is super sweet! I want more about her and her moving out and dealing with her family's abuse and coming out stronger for it! I guess I will just have to stare intently at the YW fic fest I'm running and hope that someone writes that who is not me.

As for Nita's dreams, the only one I thought was necessary was the one with Carmela. /heretic. The rest, while creepy, didn't really seem to further the metaplot of the series! But i am super looking forward to the next book and what happens in it, because it sounds like it will have a fairly meaty theme, something that the "main" novels have been missing since WAW.

I'm hoping that Lifeboats is a return to form - it's a better story than GWP, it allows Kit to actually be the intelligent, clever, awesome character he is meant to be, and demonstrating why he is Nita's equal, rather than her sidekick. Also Kit with the sibik was adorable and I will fight anyone who thinks it wasn't necessary.
Edited Date: 2016-02-03 08:47 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-02-04 10:00 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] batman
That's true about how their affection seems to have died down somewhat since Lifeboats. I hadn't been able to put my finger on just what seemed a step backward but I think it's that there is less casual affectionate contact. I hope the rest of the books, going forward, also progress this forward too. Their casual contact in Lifeboats really worked for me for them!

I was so bemused at Nita's conversation about assumed heterosexuality, because Nita has had a grand total of three conversations with Matt and two of them would have been incredibly inappropriate to drop in OH BTW I'M GAY. Maybe he could have casually mentioned a boyfriend in How Lovely Are Thy Branches, but the fact that he didn't isn't that big a deal either. It's not like Nita knows him all that well at all.

I can handwave the idea that Mehrnaz's family are able to strangle information so that it doesn't come up to Irina, or that because they are so important no one is game to breathe a word to Irina, but what I wanted to know is how these people were invested with that power in the first place. The Powers are the source of wizardry power, and so I'd really would have liked Irina to have been explicitly not aware and then resolution at the end of the book for Mehrnaz. Otherwise Irina comes across as peculiarly inconsistent about how she is handling being the Planetary. Unless that is of course intentional and meant to foreshadow Nita stepping into that role? (Though I'm weird in that I hope that Nita does not become the Planetary because I would feel sad that Nita was bound to Earth and doesn't get to go to SPAAAAACE)

As for the YW fic fest! Officially it's not unveiled yet but you can find it (and put in prompts) here! I'm still in the process of setting it up to have all the right information for this time around, but essentially it is a prompt fest thing where you put up five prompts and then claim some and write them. You can write your own, or someone else's, and there can be multiple fills. No minimum word count, and the stories are due on 26 March EST for reveal on 27 March. The current tag set is here, and I am happy to add characters and correct spelling, like with Mehrnaz's full name which eludes me. I'm not sure how successful it will be, but as Christmas in July had increasingly low numbers, I'm hoping a low pressure fest will mean more interest!

I really loved Lifeboats because it was the Kit book that I thought AWOM was meant to be. He got to be the hero from beginning to end! His empathy and ability to understand people was his strength rather than his weakness! (And I would love lots of tonally different side stories, especially if they feature little things that can't really go into the books. Dates that go badly! Antics at the Crossings! Eurovision: Wizardry Edition!)

Date: 2016-02-19 06:28 pm (UTC)
birke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birke
I share many of your reactions!

Also, I think a more accurate title might have been: "Wizards Behaving Badly."


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