Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: Ascendant

Like Rampart, I remember hearing some good buzz about this book in the YA community when it came out and this time I remembered that I had even read a short story set in this world in the anthology Zombies vs Unicorns. I think I even have a review of it here (it's probably terrible) but I remember that despite being unfamiliar with her mythos I rather liked it, out of the whole anthology I seem to recall I only liked a few stories and they were all unicorn stories oddly enough. I believe she has other short stories in this world too, I should look that up since with no publishing date for the third book yet I'll want something to keep these stories fresh in my mind.

Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund

As the order undergoes constant change, Astrid both becomes more comfortable with her unicorn-slaying abilities and also more uneasy at just how little she and the other girls seem to know about unicorns. While she's willing to try and learn new things sometimes that just makes the choices all that much more difficult.

Continuing from the introduction, yes there is going to be a third book in this series which immediately clears up a few of my questions about it. It's been several years since this book and, with no publishing date on the horizon and Peterfreund has been working on other titles, that does make me a bit worried since this book is a terrible place to end a series. It's not obvious when you read the book, the story disguises it with grace, but Astrid's story is a very classic, heroic story and this is the part where the hero both rises the highest and falls the most. She truly is becoming one of the best unicorn-slayers but still feels a bit conflicted about killing them all especially after learning how they had been in hiding for centuries and that this could work again. So, taking a classic step, she leaves and searches for her own answers and even finds a false paradise which is far more of a temptation than anything else in the books so far and that fits in perfectly with her character. While I am still of two minds about Astrid's character, she seems both too mature and too dumb to be a 17 year old (and I still feel similarly about her mother, even though I know people with parents who are completely tune-deaf when it comes to life matters), this was a good choice for her character and I was happy that her "fall" wasn't because she made a dumb, easily regrettable life choice.

And that's why this book is terrible at being a, at least temporary, ending; Astrid has fallen but has neither risen back up nor does she even know how she wants to do it. There are quite a few other loose ends in this story, Baccelus is completely absent which feels odd, Giovanni is practically hurtled off stage in a moment which seems out of character for him, and I'm not sure how I feel about the reveal about what the mysterious remedy really is which is usually a bad sign. Heck, I'm also still not sure how I feel about the story's reveal that "lesbian sex doesn't make you lose your virginity" which was something I was spoiled on years ago by people talking about it online as if this was a natural phenomena to be discussed, not a deliberate choice by an author to create tension. I know that this must be a symbol for something but I'm hard pressed to figure out what it must stand for and in an odd way it makes the book feel much more dated than it is, that this has to be yet another world where LGTBQ lives are different from straight lives and I feel like Peterfreund created a different message than the one she meant.

In the end I still recommend both books in this series but, it's much harder to recommend them with this series currently unfinished. They are good books with an interesting premise and take on the unicorn mythology but unlike some books where even the middle book in a series feels like a complete story this one's loose ends are just a bit too obvious.

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