I completed my first reading challenge! Here's a run-down of all the books I read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Loved this book! Super original, wonderful writing. This was one of my favorite reads of the year. I reviewed it here.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
I started this the night I came back from seeing Wicked performed in Spokane (We sat front row. So amazing!). I've seen the musical twice and listened to the soundtrack thousands of times, so you could say I had unfair expectations going into the book. I think I enjoyed it as much as possible considering how different the story was from the musical. Eventually, I had to decide to just go with it, and I'm glad I did because the last half was almost unrecognizable from the musical. I was really impressed by Maguire's grasp of language and was fascinated by the constantly surprising world. I've heard some discussion lately about whether Maguire writes the way he does simply for the sake of quirkiness, but I'm actually generally OK with quirkiness for quirkiness' sake (what can I say, I love me some quirk). It contributed to the world building, which was one of the most impressive aspects of the book. I'm a little ambivalent about reading the sequels, but I think I probably will eventually.
Huntress by Malinda Lo
I really enjoyed this book, even more than Ash. I so appreciate Malinda Lo's sense of subtlety and pacing. When I look back at this book, I remember a sense of calm. That's how Malinda Lo writes, with serenity and calm at the heart of every sentence. I think this book improved on Ash in several ways. I found the love story at the center of Huntress a little more believable and not quite as neat. Also, one of my complaints about Ash was the inexplicable behavior of the fairies (all I knew about them was that they were unpredictable and mysterious. Mystery is great and all, but seeing as the fairy characters were so vital to the plot, I wanted a little more fleshing out). I thought the fairies in Huntress were much better developed. They still kept an air of mystery, but their motivations and history were clearer. I also really enjoyed getting to see into the fairy city. Malinda Lo just keeps getting better and better. Can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston
This book has one of the best premises I've ever heard: a film noir set in a fairy tale world. The main character, Henry, the son of the Big Bad Wolf, lives with his best friend Jack (of Beanstalk fame) in juvenile detention for anthropomorphic fairytale animals. Hilarity ensues? Not so much... Unfortunately, the telling was seriously disappointing. It started to fall apart about of a third of the way through. Maybe a second and third act just can't stand up under the centrifugal force of a premise that epic. In general, I think the book just took itself too seriously. What I thought was going to be fun book with its tongue firmly in its cheek (a la the Thursday Next series) suddenly became a ham-fisted allegory for the Holocaust (or something. I don't even know). In any case, it was one of the more disappointing reads of the year.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Yes, I'd never read this book before. I'm not sure what I was afraid of, because I really enjoyed it overall. The major criticisms I've heard about this book are Clare's tendency toward purple prose and her penchant for "borrowing" from other famous fantasy sagas. I thought the prose was generally just fine (except for a couple of irritating repeat-offenders, namely the word "brindle"). And while I did notice many similarities between City of Bones and Harry Potter, I thought the original parts of the book more than made up for it. Clare is really, really good at action. Even if some of the revelations about characters were a little iffy (and too numerous), I was diverted by something new and exciting on the next page. In general, I found this to be an extremely entertaining read. I did have a couple complaints about the end, but I hear that those are ironed out in later books.