Monday, September 14, 2015

The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts...

Publish date- August 1st, 2015.
Publisher- ABC Books.
RRP- $16.99 (AUD)


Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
The story of a girl bought from her village in 19th century Japan to Edo, a city unlike anything she's ever dreamed of. And with more secrets than she can imagine.

Thank you to Harper Collins for this review copy!
Image source: Harper Collins.




What I thought:
The Peony Lantern reminded me of stories I read as a child. A strong, lively, outspoken heroine leads the story and you know, right from the off, that she's more than anyone has ever given her respect for. It reminde me of Jackie French, Anna Cidor and Carol Wilkinson.

And it was nice to be back in that sort of story, featuring an unfamiliar land in a time period I knew little about, and in general I did enjoy The Peony Lantern, if not, primarily, for the reasons I was supposed to. Kasumi's behaviour, unthinking, golly let's hate and then forever-more swoon wasn't particularly to my liking. For someone leaving her village to be a ladies maid, she also had a lot of choice and freedom, she felt represented as an equal in a way that, even with the friendship cultivated between her and her mistress, felt far too wide. I didn't feel like the limitations she felt were strong enough to be believable.
The plot moved along without really making it clear to me where it was going and what it's primary ARC was, so it didn't feel particularly strong- even if I was still able to plesantly enjoy it. The stakes were high-ish, but that didn't matter a great deal to me. Just being in a story that carried me along easily was really enjoyable and just what I needed, without even realising it.

It did have more issues, though. Insta-love that was hate for a handful of pages and resulted in dramatics I squinted at (the romance, too, was just too ooh here we are love love love for me to even attempt appreciating it); certain words were explained in a way that might have made it easier to comprehend for people who don't speak Japanese, but it made the pages, many a time, suffer as characters explained to those who should reasonably know that Kasumi is, you know, a ladies maid. With other words it got annoying and repetitive; the characters didn't elicit emotion from me. I just never got to caring for them.

The ending was the major disappointment. It felt like it came out of nowhere and wasn't really led up to, down from, throughly enough. And then- luck! for some characters and others not even revisited, not really, despite how important they had been.

Rating: Hmmm...
It was enjoyable, despite a handful of irritations; not captivating or emotionally powerful,  but enjoyable. The end, however, was not.

10 comments:

  1. I read a lot of Carol Wilkinson as a child and loved it, so knowing that this reminded you of that appeals to me! I love it when books are set in a unique setting or in a time of history I don't know too much about, so I can learn from it like this one does. The main character only sounds okay, and the plot sounds decent as well but the insta love does bring it down a bit. If I do read this one it will be for the history and setting.

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    1. Oh, another Wilkinson fan! Overall I'd say I enjoyed the Dragon Keeper books a lot more, although I don't remember how many I got through. They were a lot smoother, more fantastical, too, but really great for me and such fun to read growing up. REREAD TIME!
      Exactly! Only problem is, recently there've been a few YA books that have been set in different countries and they've been really poor/inaccurate representations, so you've gotta be careful of how much truth you take out, I guess.
      xx

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  2. I plan to read this book before my upcoming visit to Japan in November, so I'm glad to see that the world seems authentic. I'm sorry to hear that it didn't quite live up to your expectations, though.

    Aentee at Read at Midnight.

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    1. Oh, that should be super interesting! I hope it gives you some interesting knowledge and maybe things to look into during your visit, which sounds so exciting! xx

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  3. Aw this sounds like a great story - it's too bad it was disappointing as it went on. Insta-love already turns me off, but an ending that is not properly set up would really frustrate me. It's great that it's time/place was a draw for you. I'm not familiar with this period of Japan's history either, so I would enjoy knowing more about it too.

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    1. I think Aentee describes it really well, in her comment: the world was authentic. It felt real. But the people in it, and their ways... not so much, at all. It was a really peculiar type of instalove, too... their misunderstanding-hate to her almost infatuation felt contrived.

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  4. I, too love reading books set in a place I've never been to (cheapest way to travel). Japan has always been fascinating to me regardless of the time period this was set in. Sorry it didn't quite hit the spot, though.

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    1. And they also make me want to go to those places, so it's a good way of selecting your future travel destinations! I agree, Japan has long hit a spot of curiosity within me, too. I'd love to go there, one day. I should look out for more Japan-set books, I suppose, and get a wider range of knowledge on the country. xx

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  5. HMMMM. A lot of the things you wrote about are getting some side eyes from me. Especially the instalove. To be honest, I think a story like this could probably have been a little stronger if the main character HADN'T fallen in love, and just kind of lived life and rose above her struggles (if that is what happened, of course).

    Unexpected endings are one of the bane of my reader existence because they just seem to throw everything off balance, and I have a VERY difficult time forgiving the book for doing that to me.

    So while this sounds like a pretty interesting book, I probably won't get around to reading it (I already have too many books on my TBR *hides from it*).

    Lovely review as per ususal, lovely <3

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    1. It happens. And side eyes are kinda their own awesome. And you know, I think I agree. If that whole romance aspect had been cut it would have been better, I think, but also if it had been reworked I would have liked it a lot more. It felt incomplete, a last minute edition to keep things rolling, and often didn't mesh with the story very well. The ending was, in one aspect, kinda great with the romance, though, just the rest wasn't, for me.

      It's hit and miss for me, although it can be really good, sometimes. It depends on whether I like the ending, not whether the ending is well done, I suppose. If I don't like it, it can ruin a series (and has, twice at least).
      xx

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