Posts Tagged ‘Cassandra Rose Clarke’

Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Favourite Flawed Queens

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Cassandra Rose Clarke (see my reviews here), so you can imagine my excitement when Big Book Little Book was given the opportunity to host the latest stop on the blog tour for Cassandra’s latest book,The Wizard’s Promise.

One of the things I really admire about Cassandra’s writing is her ability to write strong but flawed female characters. I was delighted when Cassandra agreed to share her favourite flawed Queens with us.

the wizards promiseAll Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.
As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

It’s become a trend lately to say one’s favorite female characters are flawless. Usually this descriptor is paired with queen, as in, “Ripley from Aliens is a flawless queen.” I’m certainly guilty of doing this myself, usually on Tumblr. But the truth is most of the characters I call “flawless queens” aren’t actually flawless at all—and that’s exactly why I love them so much.

Flawed characters are more interesting to me as a rule, regardless of gender. A perfect character is dull and inoffensive, a bit like a meal at Chili’s. Utterly forgettable. A flawed character, on the other hand, will grab your attention and won’t let go. Consider movies like Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean: in both you are presented with a bland hero, ostensibly the main character (Luke Skywalker and Will Turner, respectively). But who grabs our attention? Who do really remember when we talk about of the theater? That’s right—it’s Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. That’s the power of the flawed character.

Of course, Han and Jack are both men, a trait they share with a lot of the favorite flawed characters out there in the world. Today, I want to focus instead on flawed female characters, a rarer beast. So without further ado, I present you with my Top Eight Flawed Queens:

rosa_diazRosa Diaz, from Brooklyn 99: Rosa is such a classic anti-hero type in the vein of Han Solo and his male brethren, only she’s a lady. A fabulous, fabulous lady. Let’s see: She’s secretive and mysterious. She has a horrible temper and responds to IT problems Office Space style, with destruction. Her coworkers frequently refer to her as “scary,” and she can bring the meanness when she’s of a mind. But she’s also loyal to her friends, and although it will take some wheedling, willing to admit she’s made a mistake. Plus she wears a bad ass leather jacket.

Sansa Stark, from A Song of Ice and Fire: A lot of people reading these books tend to relate to Arya, but I was always much closer to Sansa when I was younger, and so she has a special place in my heart. I don’t consider femininity and politeness flaws (just the opposite, in fact), but Sansa can be incredibly naive at times, and she frequently makes poor decisions based on her ideas of how the world should be, rather than how it is, particularly at the beginning of the story. However, as her arc progresses, we see her learning from her mistakes, and coming to understand how her strengths—the aforementioned femininity and politeness—can help her thrive in a misogynistic, violent world.

harriet_welschHarriet M. Welsch, from Harriet the Spy: Harriet is the first flawed character I ever fell in love with—male or female. I read this book around the same time I was devouring The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, and as delightful as those series are, they really don’t bring the flaws in their main characters. Harriet, though, is a piece of work. She’s nosy (I mean, c’mon, it’s right there in the title). She’s intractable. She cares more about the truth than she does tact. She yells when she doesn’t get her way. And yet all those qualities make her incredibly relatable, and at the end of the story, when she realizes just how important friendship is, what could have been a saccharine after-school-special type message becomes resonant and powerful.

Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter: She’s brilliant, yes, but she’s also a know-it-all and overly obsessed with her grades. One of her most famous of lines — “Try not to get killed, or worse, expelled”—sums up her general attitude fairly well. However, as a teenager fearful of authority, it was also basically my motto when I was in school, so I understand. Hermione would have been tedious if she had not been given those minor flaws and streaks of relatability. Was she a bit over the top? Sure, along with every other character in that series who didn’t have the initial H.P. But those flaws were what made her interesting, and let’s face it: she would have been a better protagonist than Harry.

Margot_TenebaumMargot Tenenbaum, from The Royal Tenenbaums: Margot is beautiful and talented, but she’s also secretive to a fault, and she lies to her family about her habits, simply, it seems, to prove that she can. She’s unfaithful to her husband and in love with her brother (she’s adopted). There’s a lot about Margot that should make her thoroughly despicable. And yet the film portrays her sympathetically, as someone whose flaws exist largely because of the difficulties of growing up with a father like Royal Tenenbaum. Margot is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love the beautiful complexity of her personality, and the way she slowly changes over the course of the film.

Mindy Lahiri, from The Mindy Project: Mindy is a great everygirl character. She’s a bit neurotic, a bit lazy when it comes to exercise, and a bit too focused on men. She’s also overly in love with romantic comedies, like, to a fault. However, she’s a fantastic, caring OB-GYN (and better still, we get to see her work: in the first episode, she delivers a baby with skill and aplomb). Mindy is a wonderful example of a character who is good at her job but perhaps a bit flawed in her personal life—except the show allows her to be much more than that, too.

Nancy-Botwin-CarNancy Botwin, from Weeds: Nancy is a suburban mom who starts selling marijuana after her husband dies so that she won’t have to give up her wealthy lifestyle—or uproot her kids more than she has to. In many ways Nancy is the quintessential female flawed character for me. She makes some pretty terrible decision throughout the run of the show, and she can be selfish, naive, and rash. But at the same time, her actions often come down to a desire to protect her family, and she learns and grows from her mistakes. As with so many of the ladies on this list, she’s a beautifully complex, fully-realized character.

Gloria Pritchett, from Modern Family: Gloria is the sexy, vivacious wife of an older man on a sitcom. This scenario doesn’t normally lend itself to complexity of character. And yet Gloria is given depth and flaws that round her personality beyond Stunning Eye Candy. She’s prideful and won’t back down from her opinions even when the evidence contradicts her, and she can be a bit grudgy (although not too much). She also has a terrible singing voice, although that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her karaoke machine.

Guest post by Cassandra Rose Clarke

cassandra rose clarkeCassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.

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A Pirates Wish

Cassandra Rose Clarke

a pirates wishAfter setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.
Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.

The Pirates Wish is book two in the Assassins Curse duology and as such this review may contain unintentional spoilers for book one.

It’s no secret that I loved The Assassins Curse (read my review here), and that I began agonizing over the wait for The Pirates Wish from the moment I turned the final page of the first book. As one of my most anticipated releases for 2013, you can imagine my delight at getting my hands on an advanced readers copy, and shortening that wait by a few weeks.

I was immediately transported back to the creepy and disorientating Isles of Sky. Weeks after the events of Assassins Curse, barely tolerating the cold, rain and monotony, Naji and Anna are no nearer to finding the cure to the curse and their misery was palpable.

Into this environment of listlessness Cassandra introduces a new character, a manticore (with an unpronounceable name), who’s uniqueness and humorous partnership with Ananna is a sparkling light in the gloom.

The introduction of new friends doesn’t detract from our reunion with our beloved characters. We learn more about Marjani and the circumstances which led to her life on the high seas. While I appreciated the friendship and support she provided to Ananna in the first book, in The Pirates Wish her mentorship of Ananna is more than just instructive. Naji is still very much strong, silent and brooding. But like Ananna, through better acquaintance, we learn to read Naji’s non-verbal cues more clearly.

After all of her experiences, I was not at all surprised to find that Annana is not quite the bolshie, over confident, firecracker we met in book one. While she retains her distinctive voice, quick witted snark, and fierce loyalty, she is at times winey and self serving, and I found her naive attempts to catch Naji’s attention and make him jealous, squirming uncomfortable. Ananna’s flaws, however, make her more believable as character, marked her growing up, and actually endeared her to me even more.

At one point, as Cassandra’s imagination conjured up an unexpected twist in the quest to break Naji’s curse, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief. Although the twist was firmly grounded in Cassandra’s excellent world building, It was just a tad too “Disney” for me.

While the ending may not have been the traditional HEA ( I have an increasing respect for Clarkes unique perspective of love and romance. Read my review of Clarke’s The Mad Scientists Daughter here) that romance fans like myself crave, it was absolutely perfect for the characters and so beautifully written that I have already re-read the final chapter twice.

After bemoaning the trilogy formula, and the agony of committing to a series for two years or more, the current spate of duologys (that’s a sequel to you and I) have come as a welcome relief. However, I am one who is never satisfied and I can’t help wishing that we could spend more time in Ananna and Naji’s lives (yes I want to have my cake and eat it!).

However, I am happy to be consoled with the news that although The Assassin/Pirates story is complete, Cassandra will be revisiting the world in The Wizards Promise, another duology for Strange Chemistry (expected publication 2014).

Verdict: For me Cassandra Rose Clarke is an author who’s work is synonymous with one click preorder.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: June 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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The Mad Scientist’s Daughter

Cassandra Rose Clarke
mad scientists daughterThe Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist.
There’s never been anyone – or anything – quite like Finn.
He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat.
When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

While I have a growing appreciation for YA fantasy and speculative fiction, particularly those liberally sprinkled with romance, I have to admit that I am more than a little intimidated by the thought of reading these genre’s within the adult category. So while the synopsis for The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, sparked my interest with its originality, my main reason for request to review The Mad Scientist daughter was my love of the authors YA debut novel, The Assassin’s Curse (read my review here).

Commencing The Mad Scientist’s Daughter I had high expectations of the quality of the characterisation and storytelling and just a touch of apprehension of reading outside my comfort zone. The synopsis led me to expect a book about personal growth and character development, which dealt with discrimination within a futuristic (speculative fiction) setting. This is exactly what I got, but rather than, as the synopsis suggests, the focus on Finn struggling to find his place in the fast changing world, it was in fact Cat’s (the afore mentioned Scientist’s daughter) third person perspective which guided the story.

While I found the synopsis misleading, it didn’t effect my enjoyment. If anything the story, within the pages of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was much more my usual kind of read.

What I discovered with each compulsively turned page was a beautiful character driven, heart aching, love story. The books tag line: “a tale of love, loss and robots”, rather than the synopsis is a much more accurate description of this gorgeous book.

In Clarke’s post apocalyptic world, robotics and artificial intelligence has been utilized to rebuild and repopulate. As a result technology has developed exponentially, the existence of sentient machines, undeniably helpful to humanity’s recovery from disaster, have thrown up issues concerning servitude, discrimination and rights of freedom. It is against this backdrop of challenge and change that our protagonists attempt to define and nurture their unusual relationship. Clarke’s world building was beautifully subtle and as a result felt completely plausible.

I adored the author’s ability to believably portray Cat over a significant portion of her lifespan. From the wonder and imagination of childhood, through the awkwardness of adolescence and in to an unhappy adulthood, Clarke maintained the essential elements of Cat’s character but realistically allowed for the changes brought by age and life experiences.

At time Cat is frustrating, full of contradictions and not altogether likeable. She makes some seriously questionable decisions, callously hurts those she claims to love most and those who love her. Despite these obvious flaws I remained on her side throughout, hoping that she would untangle the mess she had made of her life and rooting for her happy ending. By introducing Cat from childhood the author inspired my loyalty. Having witnessed her mentally absent, neglectful father, her desire for the approval of her frustrated mother and her need to be normal, I was able to understand her decisions even if I couldn’t condone them.

Finn is a complex robot, completely unique in his believable human like appearance and sophistication of movement, speech and behaviour. Yet, Clarke’s writing ensures that you are constantly aware that he is not human. The big question for Cat, and for the reader is, if by the nature of his complex programming and wiring he is capable of conscious thought, would the same quirks also allow him to be capable of feeling?

Verdict: If you are looking for hearts, flowers and candle lit dinners you won’t find it here but if you are in the mood for a tear inducing, head shaking, heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting love story, within an unusual setting and with a unique love interest, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is for you.

Note: Cassandra Rose Clarke is fast becoming an author whose work I will automatically preorder. I can’t wait for The Pirate’s Wish, the sequel to her YA debut, The Assassin’s Curse. In the meantime, Cassandra has recently released The Witch’s Betrayal, a prequel novella featuring our favorite strong and silent assassin.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: February 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 400
Genre: Speculative fiction, Romance
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut(adult) Author
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The Assassins Curse

Cassandra Rose Clarke
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

The daughter of high ranking pirate clan leader, Ananna is no Disney princess waiting for a handsome prince to come and sweep her off of her feet and in to a hasty teen marriage.

Born and raised with deck underfoot, the wind in her hair and salt spray on her skin, Ananna’s plans for the future are filled with adventure, freedom and the dream of commanding her own ship of cut-throats and thieves.

Betrayed by her parents, who bargained her freedom for strategic advantage, facing a life of control and restriction with a man she doesn’t trust or respect and with her hopes slipping like sand through her fingers, Ananna utilizes her skills as a pirate princess and makes her bid for freedom on the back of a bedraggled camel!

I was first attracted by the uniqueness of the cover. Conjuring images straight out of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and hinting at the swashbuckling adventure within. A peruse at the synopsis (Pirates and Assassins! Who could resist?) placed the book firmly at the top of my wish list!

The Assassins Curse certainly lived up to its promise. On the one hand you are flung at break neck speed in to a world of magic, dominated by an organized hierarchy of pirates and a shadowy brother hood of hired assassins. Racing from one heart pounding action scene to another, fighting for survival and personal freedom.

Simultaneously Clarke hands the reader a gorgeous meandering, and at times deliciously awkward, story of loyalty, trust and growing friendship between two outwardly strong characters whose spiky shells mask cores of vulnerability.

So ensconced in Clarke’s world building and accepting of Ananna’s voice I didn’t question Ananna’s worldview and her pride in her ethically challenging heritage. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of cut-throat pirate with honest narrator, compassionate human being and loyal protective friend.

I adore Ananna. A free spirited, feisty and independent heroine with a sharp knife and even sharper tongue, she didn’t wait around in her ivory tower for a prince charming to rescue her, and she used all of her experiences and resourcefulness to save herself and her unlikely companion, Naji.

Ahhhh, Naji! Who can resist a bad boy, and I doubt you could choose much worse than a black magic wielding, tattooed assassin, who’s been hired to kill you!!

I have a soft spot, for the bad boy with a troubled past, a dark secret and a hidden soft center. The YA genre is liberally sprinkled with these brooding, over protective, and at times almost chauvinistic male protagonists.

The enjoyment of these characters, for me is a guilty pleasure. The guilty element comes from the uneasily feeling I get as I wonder what the behavior of these “romantic” leads is teaching our daughters about relationships, dependence and acceptable behavior. I loved how Clarke took the archetype of possessive protector and turned it on its head.

I am very glad that a blogging friend fore warned me that The Assassins Curse was in fact a part of a series and not a stand-alone. While the book doesn’t conclude with a traditional cliffhanger it has certainly left me desperate for more.

Verdict: Marooned in the middle of Ananna’s story and desperate to read the conclusion, I wish I could fashion a raft and paddle until the 2013 release of A Pirate’s Wish is in sight.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 350
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut Author
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