MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThere’s a sharp and jagged disconnect running through the heart of Chosen Ones, and it mimics the often harsh line between stories we tell ourselves about our lives, and the messier process of actually living them ... Roth trades the world Sloane saved, the world we’ve begun to live in, for a parallel one swamped with exposition and a fresh case of mortal peril. All the characters we were starting to care about are put to one side along with Sloane’s relationships with them; new ones are quickly pushed into a prominence that feels unearned, especially after the slow build of the first half of the book ... Sloane is a strong enough character to carry you the whole way, to make you want to keep going with her into that second world and its new cast and come out the other end. But when you do, it’s with the slightly frustrating sense that you might have wanted the story that wasn’t told more than the one you were given: the one offered by the first part with all its ugly complexities, full of Sloane’s drifting and pain, the smirking hunger of the reporters and the public, the smaller but infinitely painful stakes. But even despite the disruption, that world stays with you the whole way through, and makes the final ending land on satisfyingly unsteady ground.
N K Jemisin
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewN.K. Jemisin’s intricate and extraordinary world-building starts with oppression: Her universes begin by asking who is oppressing whom, what they are gaining, what they fear. Systems of power stalk her protagonists, often embodied as gods and primeval forces, so vast that resistance seems impossible even to contemplate. When escape comes in her novels, it is not a merely personal victory, or the restoration of a sketchy and soft-lit status quo. Her heroes achieve escape velocity, smashing through oppressive systems and leaving them behind like shed skins. ... All three narratives are urgent and deftly interwoven to reveal their far-future earth, a world that has buried our own civilization and many others in its lower strata. In this world, social oppression is an irresistible and natural force, but nature isn’t seen through a green-colored wash of sentiment. Nature is trying to kill you and every other living thing, is going to kill you, now or in a century or in a thousand years. Yet there is no message of hopelessness here. In Jemisin’s work, nature is not unchangeable or inevitable. The Fifth Season invites us to imagine a dismantling of the earth in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, and suggests the possibility of a richer and more fundamental escape. The end of the world becomes a triumph when the world is monstrous, even if what lies beyond is difficult to conceive for those who are trapped inside it.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewCollins’s vivid descriptions of the abuse of magic within a grimy faux-Victorian-era world of workhouses and exploitation are almost too painfully true ... both characters are given the power to move the plot, the world and each other ... Other characters do wind up as footnotes: Emmett’s sister is an uneasy shape in the narrative, a giggling girl who occasionally emerges as a deliberate schemer in order, it seems, to soften the real harm done to her by Emmett and his lover, to make them less guilty. Darnay’s father, on the other hand, is difficult to swallow not because he isn’t believable — entirely the opposite — but because he’s so monstrous it’s hard to imagine any child of his not being damaged far worse and far younger than Lucian seems to have been. ... succeeds in creating the magic it proposes: the experience of memory returning, a rush of recollection that can change the whole world, if only for one person at a time — or sometimes two.