Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Sorrow's Knot

I can't remember if it was last summer or the year before but whichever it was I finally picked up a copy of Plain Kate, which I had seen at the library for years and avoided since the blurb didn't sound interesting, and feel completely in love with it. So, as it often happens, I poked around the internet, found out that she had a new book in the pipeline and that it would be a fantasy set in a Native American-esque setting which in an of itself is exciting since I can think of very few other books like that (the only one that even comes to mind is one I read back in middle school and I'm not completely sure of the title!). As per usual it took a little bit of time for my library to get the book, and more time for me to remember to search their catalog to see if they had it yet but I certainly got to it more quickly than Plain Kate!

Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Otter has always had a great talent for tying knots, the magical kind that keep her tribe safe and the dead away, and always expected that she would follow in her mother Willow's footsteps and become the tribe's binder. But her mother views this power as more of a curse and it seems as if it's eating her from the inside out, perhaps there is something more to this world of shadows and boundaries than any of them understand.

There's no point to me trying to ease my way into this review, I did not like this review as much and consider it to be a much weaker book than Plain Kate. The Book Smugglers echo some of my thoughts (look for the drawbacks section), starting with the plot itself. The story is awkward and stumbling, it takes a while for things to get moving and, instead of spending that time really establishing the characters, it just feels like time wasted. The conflict also felt artificial, in fact, if I read it right, the heart of it is that things were once fine and that a human messed it up but no one realized it. I tend to really dislike those stories, in part because they often appear in children's morality tales and who remembers those stories fondly, and it felt like all the characters actions had been for naught. There was no greater or more personal reason for their struggles and they never even knew it which makes the story accidentally tragic. 

Continuing with the characters, I feel like perhaps Otter wasn't the right character to be the lead in this story. Yes she is the one who resolves it, somehow, it was a bit vague at that part, but her mother Willow seemed to have a much more interesting struggle and I think that contrasting that (and her growing madness) could have made the story much more interesting. Unrelatedly, there's a character who appears very late in the story who felt like an idea that Bow forgot to cut in the final draft. He appears to be a replacement, bring information, have complimenting talents, to give Otter a love interest, he was the flattest character I've seen in a while and he does have a lot of competition for that part!

Overall the story felt weak and even the style of prose, which I really enjoyed in PK, just frustrated me here. I feel like I should say something about the setting considering how important settings are to me and how unique this one is but honestly nothing about it really stuck. The details felt few and far between and everything just slid by without being remarkable, honestly PK didn't have a hyper-detailed setting either but that was a conventional, fairy tale/fantasy one, it's a little different here. And thus, I can't really recommend this book at all, it just has too many problems and not enough pay off for them, I'm now morbidly curious, instead of just plain curious, at what her next book will be like. 

Can I also say that I thought the cover was pretty ugly? That has nothing to do with the contents of the book but the design just feels so off to me, it also feels rather rushed and like there was a good idea but the person executing it didn't hit the mark.

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