You win some, you lose some

I made a post earlier about shaming, in particular classics shaming – for those of you who haven’t read it, I’m essentially talking about those few individuals who feel it’s their duty to ‘shame’ other people for not having read certain books. For example, what are considered ‘classics’, or the canon etc etc. We’re talking Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and so on.

As a Classical Studies with English student, I feel ridiculously guilty for not having read some books. Which is stupid, because there are millions of books and who the hell can read every single one? Anyway, I decided that I’d gradually make my way through (and by gradually, I mean gradually) a few certain books deemed ‘classic’. I started with Wuthering Heights and, thanks to a well-timed university module, I’ve just finished Frankenstein. Neither were what I expected.

I’m a sucker for a good romance. Don’t you deny it, a little mush is good for the soul (and the heart, surprise, surprise). So I chose to start with Wuthering Heights, knowing very little other than the fact that Heathcliff is a hunk and there is a fantastic Kate Bush song (and let’s not forget the dance).

What I read was not this. I did not read about a gallant male lead who was wonderful, attractive and who incites me to say ‘Oh, I love you, Heathcliff‘. No. I read about an abusive arse of a man who is shown to actually beat a girl. Beat. And he also beats a boy. Beats. He locks Cathy’s daughter in a room and refuses to let her leave until she does what he wants. He is horrible, abusive and, I’m sorry, but just plain awful. WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS GUY? This isn’t romantic! This is barely friendship! When is a man who beats people romantic? No, I’m sorry, but this is one classic that I just couldn’t enjoy for that sole reason. I went in expecting a love story, and left with a tale of abuse. The writing is beautiful, I can’t deny that, but Heathcliff is not.

I approached the next classic with trepidation. Frankenstein. Oh boy. I know the stereotype images of a square headed monster coloured green all stitched together. Once again, I had no clue what to expect. Once again, how I felt at the end was the exact opposite of my expectations. Wuthering Heights wasn’t a good time for me. Frankenstein was one of the best. I adored every page. The writing, the story, the later analysis I did in class on the relation to the myth of Prometheus. It was pure class and I wish I had read it sooner so I could have gushed about it sooner. Frankenstein and his monster, his creature, were so complex and interesting and just so different. They had motives that I could understand; the wish to create, to discover, to find love, to find a place to belong (cue music from the Disney Hercules soundtrack). It was just perfect.

So, you win some and you lose some with classics. You might feel like you’re obligated to like them, but I’ve discovered first hand that this isn’t the case. Wuthering Heights wasn’t really up my street, so what? Frankenstein is one of my favourite reads of this year – and not just because it meant that when I read Vicious by V.E Schwab I understood references to it.

Moral of the story (/stories), try something different and you might find that you like it – or hate it, but then you can write a blog about it and get out all those pesky feelings.

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Vicious by V.E Schwab

I’ve been meaning to review this ever since I finished it, but was sidetracked by my university reading – the first book of which is Frankenstein that I finished about three minutes ago. And I’m very glad I chose to read it, one of the reasons being that I realised how V.E Schwab uses the story of Frankenstein in her book.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same ambition in each other. A shared interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl with a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch-nemeses have set a course for revenge but who will be left alive at the end?

I will just say now, that I will have a short spoiler section at the end of this review, but there will be plenty of warning before you see it. I’ll also be talking about Frankenstein in this section.

Are we surprised this is yet another fantasy novel? No. Probably should rename this blog ‘alwayslovetoreadalotoffantasy’. Back to the book, Vicious is the superhero book I’ve always wanted to read (and write). I’ve always loved the concept of superheroes, ever since watching The Incredibles when I was a child up until recently reading All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman. Vicious is a book about superheroes for adults – and the term ‘superheroes’ is one I use loosely, particularly the ‘heroes’ part.

This book turns every idea you have about superheroes on its head. It turns the concept of who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’, who the ‘hero’ is and who the ‘villain’ is, completely upside down. The book follows Eli and Victor, who start off as friends and become enemies. The layout of the novel is gripping, jumping back and forth between the past and present to slowly unravel what the hell is actually going on and how it got to this point. You see Eli and Victor as teenagers, full of curiosity and ambition, then the next page you see them as adults, entirely vengeful.

Not only do you have such complex main characters, but the ‘sidekicks’ all have their intricate backgrounds and even more interesting abilities. I loved seeing the different relationships, especially that of the sisters and how their abilities affected their relationship. I don’t want to say so much more on this, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to spoil it.

Which means, it’s time for some spoilers. Along with some Frankenstein context. For those of you stopping here though, if you enjoy anything fantasy, with action, revenge, and fantastic characters – this is the book for you.

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