Espresso Expressions: Readers And Their Characters

I’ve decided to begin “Espresso Expressions” as a weekly feature on my blog that will explore a range of thoughts on books, readers, characters, literary themes…you name it! Actually, you name it. I want your topic suggestions. I want your opinions on these posts. If you email me a topic that you’d like me to cover, I will do a quick spotlight on you! After all, it’s interesting to know more about who suggests a topic and why! (I won’t be featuring anyone this first time since I selected the topic.) I’m supremely excited about this new feature. I will post my Espresso Expressions on Sundays; Sundays are, after all, great days to become introspective and investigative.

You DO NOT have to be a fellow blogger to participate! You can find my email on my Contact page. Thank you in advance to everyone who participates! It will be so much fun!

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This week’s topic: “Like calls to like.” –Leigh Bardugo

The Darkling. So intriguing. So enticing. His power acts as a magnet and draws me to him. So tempting. So unlike me. I’m good, right? I make mistakes sometimes, I do bad things, but I’m a good person, right? Except that my fascination with The Darkling’s darkness seems to come from my very core. It’s natural. I can stay engrossed in his darkness because I’m not actually doing anything wrong…right?

These are the thoughts that run through my mind, and, from my conversations, the minds of numerous others. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

**Disclaimer: Don’t get the wrong idea! I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing and characters. **

All of the greatest characters in literature both contemporary and classical are figures to which we can relate. Whether it’s the young adult female protagonist who is a book nerd, a trait that nearly every person reading the book likely has, or whether it’s the Shakespearean tragic hero who ponders the meaning of life through convoluted, Renaissance-era prose, we often find something inside of them that mirrors something inside of us. In Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, one of the fundamental principles of the Small Science is “like calls to like.” The magic in the person calls to its counterpart that exists in the universe that surrounds the person.

One of the main characters in the book, the Darkling, has received a lot of popularity even though he represents evil and remains a villain through and through. This phenomenon was so unusual that I started to contemplate why he became so popular. Sure, he’s got the “bad boy” label down to a tee—he probably created the entire appeal of “bad boy.” But the bad boy usually uses the title as a shield to cover some sensitive romantic side or dark past or even finds himself being redeemed! Someone or something will come along and show him that he has a soul, that he can offer the world something, or that he is bigger than his past. The Darkling may have a dark past, but…he created it. He is darkness. He is not sensitive or even remotely romantic. He is manipulative, self-serving, power hungry, and destructive. He tears countries in two, he kills without mercy, and he is a ruthless hunter. He has no redeeming qualities.

And we adore him.

Why is that? I think it’s because we can understand him. There’s a part of every person that battles with the temptation to commit wrongdoing. I’m willing to bet that even the most perfect saints in our history dealt with it. The difference between them and the vast majority of the human population is their relentless pursuit of goodness and refusal to give in to their dark desires. If we look back to Greek mythology (or Percy Jackson), the gods and goddesses are very relatable. They’re all gods of human emotions, needs, and ambitions. They may know more than humans, but they aren’t omniscient. They may be more powerful than humans, but they aren’t without weakness. The Greeks found it hard to worship a God that they couldn’t understand. They understood Aphrodite; they understood Ares; they understood Athena. Even the great Zeus has his faults.

Such is the importance of dynamic characters. They allow us to explore ourselves objectively; they allow us to see ourselves reflected. What are your thoughts on this idea? What types of characters are most important to YOU when you read a story?

coffeeshopreader

Book Review: Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: The Grisha Trilogy

Pages: 356

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Rating: 5/5

Summary from GoodReads:

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

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Keftas, Unseas and Darklings?

Characters—

   Alina: I think it’s important to make sure you understand her childhood background before you can fully understand why she is insecure and impressionable. I like that Alina is unremarkable at the beginning of the novel—not once has someone told her that she has great things ahead. Until she demonstrates her power and ends up in a palace, that is. She’s not one of the strongest female protagonists, but the reader gets to see her go from cowering and wistful to standing up for herself and making her own choices. LOVE IT!

   Mal: Swoon-worthy, to say the least. He is the “sun” of the story; he seems to light up everything around him. Honest, caring, and imperfectly perfect. And guess what…we get to see transformation in him too!

   The Darkling: Um, hello SMOKING HOT bad boy. If Mal is swoon-worthy, then the Darkling makes you want to give in to all of your temptations. He’s the latest epitome of “tall, dark and handsome.” Bardugo keeps him shrouded in mystery the entire time and he is such a complex character, I find myself constantly wanting to know more about him. (Siege and Storm can’t come soon enough)

   Genya: She is the model girl best friend and confidante. She has Alina’s back many times and really drives home the idea that beauty isn’t everything. She is wickedly cunning and has mastered her Grisha ability.

The World—

As one completely in love with Russian culture, I thought the world was very intriguing. A kingdom with an ignorant king, an elite crew of magic users and an established chasm between nobility and peasantry? Yes please! Not to mention a deadly magical Shadow Fold of impenetrable darkness that hides creepy vulture-like things that attack anyone who attempts passage through their territory. This fantastical world removes me completely from my suburban town.

The Themes—

   Controlling vs. freely given love

   Power, the struggle for it, and how to handle it

   Taking life vs. appreciating life

   Misplaced idealism

Final Thoughts—

I read this book in about a day. I only put it down to take care of life’s absolute necessities. Bardugo’s beautiful plot and complex characters will have you pining for Siege and Storm, which releases June 4th in the U.S.

Memorable Quotes—

“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.”

“…then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me.”

“I wasn’t nervous or frightened. I wasn’t anything anymore.”

You can buy this book on Amazon or get more info at Goodreads! Thanks for reading!

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