Monday, June 20, 2016

YA Review: The Dark Divine Trilogy Part 2

So here's part two of that post! If you missed part one, check it out here.

The Lost Letters of Brother Gabriel by Bree Despain

Published: November 10th, 2011 by Egmont USA
Genre: Paranormal YA like the other books
Binding: Ebook
Page Count: 18ish
Part of a series? Yes, it's 2.5 in the Dark Divine series.
Got via: The library.

Summary (from goodreads): Brother Gabriel, Daniel’s mentor and an ancient Urbat, plays an important role in The Lost Saint as well as the upcoming conclusion to the Dark Divine trilogy, The Savage Grace. We were first introduced to Gabriel in The Dark Divine when Grace recieves a book of ancient letters that Gabriel (a young monk at the time) wrote to his sister during the Crusades, detailing his search to know more about the Urbat. The book of letters ends just before Gabriel falls to the Urbat curse, leaving us to wonder what happened to him in the following years to turn him into the man he is today.

Most of Gabriel’s letters were written during the thirteenth century, and later translated and compiled by an Orthodox priest in the eighteenth century. For whatever reason, some of Gabriel’s letters were lost after translation and did not make it into that original book. But good news! A few of these “lost letters,” detailing Gabriel’s fall to the Urbat curse and his quest to seek revenge on the man responsible for his demise, have recently been “discovered” by the indomitable crew at Egmont USA, and are compiled here for your reading pleasure.

Review: First of all, I refuse to call this a novella because it's barely twenty pages long. It's pretty much a short story. That just kind of bugs me. Now, because Egmont closed its door, you can't really buy this anywhere, so finding it is probably going to be a bit difficult. I got lucky in that my library's ebook system had it, so I could just download it. Funnily enough, though, I looked it up one day, and the next someone else had checked it out. So apparently someone else in Saskatchewan is reading the same series!

Now this is not something like the Darkest Minds novellas where they're an additional story that expands upon the universe in the series. This adds to the backstory some. And it's interesting, yes. It's very stylized as letters, and that's cool, although I'm not entirely sure the whole "Old English" thing carries through consistently and that probably would bug some people.

It's a cool bonus. Is it essential? No. If you can find it legally like from a library, check it out if you're into this series. But don't worry about it if you can't.

Although I will say, this is my favourite cover of the series. I love the ombre fade of the cloth from dark to light, and honestly, I like that there isn't a model. I mean, are you going to have a naked monk rolling around in fabric on your cover?

...actually can we have that? No, I'm kidding. Mostly.

The Savage Grace by Bree Despain

Published: March 13th, 2012 by Egmont USA
Genre: YA paranormal romance
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 488 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? It's the third and final book in this series.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Wrestling with the werewolf curse pulsing deep inside of her, Grace Divine was finally able to find her brother, but it nearly cost her everything.

With her boyfriend, Daniel, stuck in wolf form and Sirhan's death approaching, time is running out for Grace to stop Caleb Kalbi and his gang of demons. If she fails, her family and hometown will perish. Everything rests on Grace's shoulders.

The final installment in The Dark Divine trilogy brings Daniel and Grace's love story to a breathtaking conclusion.

Review: Now, following my favourite cover in this series, this is probably my favourite book in the series. This one is the longest book in the series, with the most time between books between this one and the second book, and it shows. Even though it's longer, it's much, much faster paced. For probably at least half the book, a lot of the book is about Grace's parents while also forcing her to be much more independant and not rely on others to make decisions for her. The new characters acquired at the end of the last book are awesome, very funny and very interesting, and many of the existing characters really shine. It also has a pretty epic battle ending that is extremely satisfying to read.

Out of the three (I'm not counting the short story), I read this one in the most unbroken amount of time. Grace is most proactive in this one, and there's a little less focus on the romance. At times, the romance can still get a bit overdramatic, though, I will say. Especially when Grace gets jealous so easy. It's supposed to be this love to end all loves, but she gets jealous of pretty much every girl who looks at Daniel. Mildly, sure, but it's still there. But a little less focus on that sure helps, I have to say.

Now, were there things that bothered me? Yes. Let me start with this one - Grace's magical werewolf powers. Healing people? Awesome. Healing her mother's mental illness? Healing her mother's OCD tendancies and catatonic state with her magic werewolf powers? No. That's not okay. That's cheap. That's taking an easy shortcut to everything literally being magically fixed instead of treating it with the reverance and respect it deserves. That is ableist, and frankly that's the place where I stopped reading for like three days straight because I was so irritated. It's straight up offensive, as far as I'm concerned.

Also, it would have been nice if Grace's mom had been given a concrete condition instead of vague catatonia and "OCD-like tendancies" and "her own designer brand of bipolar disorder". It just feels cheap, like it's using the stereotypes of these disorders but not actually going so far as to actually put those things on the character.

And why would you when you can fix them with magic werewolf powers instead of therapy and medication? That would be harder than instantly fixing things. Also, because of the strong link between the mythology and religion, you almost get to the point where the narrative is saying "religion OR treatment". Obviously I'm not religious myself, but I don't think faith can't be a part of healthcare, be it physical or mental. But if you're saying you have to choose between the two, that's problematic.

Some of the wolf stuff is still kind of cheesy, and some of the earlier action scenes can be, too. Honestly, all the religion talk is just not my thing, and I think it gets preachy at times. The references are still super dated. Grace's voice also changes some. I like the changes, for the most part, but it's a bit jarring when the second book took place ten months after the first, and this one takes place ten minutes after the second, and she sounds different than she did "ten minutes" ago. Everyone is still straight, glaringly straight at times (there's a fair amount of pair the spares - the world is not this painfully hetereosexual, and no, not all girls swoon over boy chests), and mostly everyone besides a few small side characters are still white and thin and pretty. And obviously disability representation pretty much sucks.

This one is somewhat less predictable, though. This is gonna be a spoiler, so skip it if you wanna, but it's not huge. At one point, Grace's 13 year old sister takes about five minutes to guess everything that's going on in the last two books. And frankly, that about sums up my entire predictability complaint. Because yeah. Predictable. It gets better in this one, but let me just say the thing that I realized the other day that you probably have guessed if you've read this far - the first book and entire trilogy's title is a spoiler. Their last name is Divine. Just think about that a moment. Connect the dots there.

Yeah.

Also, there's a touch of weird gross sexism now and then. Like, I just don't find guys getting violent at other guys over jealousy about their girlfriends funny, or romantic, or sexy. It's just scary and possibly abusive. And I'm not cool with that.

Probably my last complaint would be - wolves still don't work this way. They just don't. I don't want to go into it again. I'm too tired to go there again. My soul is exhausted, guys, and my mom wants this book, so I'm about done. Oh, except this cover - what is going on on this cover? Like are this girl's legs like five feet long? I seriously can't figure out how to make this cover work. Where are her hips? Also, it doesn't match the others as well. The model's skin isn't black and white, and there are no toenails to give us neat nailpolish colours. Half of me wants to be sarcastic and be like, "Hey, she rolled over finally!" But that'd be too mean, and I wouldn't really mean it. I'm just too snarky for my own good.

So to sum up, I liked this one much better than the second book, but the ableism really threw me off. That's not cool, book. Therefore this one gets higher marks than the last one, but lower than it could have had it avoided all that nonsense. But all in all, it was generally exciting, mostly dramatic without being overdramatic, and actually enjoyable. There were enough things I liked better than things I disliked that I'm okay with giving this one a solid three and a half.



Other notes:

- You... cut bananas with the peel on, Grace? For cereal for your little brother? You specifically say you're cutting through the thick peel. What are you doing here? I don't understand.
- There's random places where "He" is not capitilized when referring to God and that kind of bugged me.
- There are only a few occurances of cursing in these books, and it just doesn't seem realistic when there are, like, supernatural street gangs and creepy demon things and really old scary bad guys. Some of these people should curse.

Okay, I suppose at this time I should do a summary of my thoughts on the series as a whole, shouldn't I? So to do that, for the most part, I liked these. Am I going to read them again? Probably not, because man that second book was kind of hard to get through. That was definitely a sophomore slump. Do I regret reading them? Also no. Am I going to keep the two I own? I'm not sure. They might go in the maybe pile.

I do think they tend to be quite dated. The third one is probably the least dated, trope-wise, but the other two use 2009/2010 YA lit tropes heavily, so if you're over those, you're not going to be into these. I don't think they're so amazingly written that they're going to win you over. The writing is good, and best in the third book, but it's not life-changing. I definitely would have liked them when I was younger more.

So I suppose you just have to ask what you're going into these for. If you're going into them more for supernatural fluff than anything, you'll probably have a good time, and the third book will probably be better than you expect. My mom has read the first two in like a day straight and if I don't give her the third one by the time she gets home from work

I hope this was helpful, or at least enjoyable, and I do thoroughly apologize for it being so late with them. I'd feel really bad if I just never posted it at all, though, so better late than never, right? I have to be catching up on my review pile soon, right? Right?!?

Alright, I think that's everything! Thanks for reading.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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