November 03, 2012

CYBILS F/SF: KILL ME SOFTLY, by Sarah Cross

And in answer, YES, I do have that wretched song armor-plated to my brain, thank you Roberta Flack, Fugees, et al.

It's a fitting title, in many ways, but the image that occurs to me, after reading the book, is that of being smothered by very pretty, brocaded pillows... there are indeed all sorts of soft ways to die.

Reader Gut Reaction: I love fairytale retellings when they're done well, when they're unusual and offbeat. I tend to tire of them quickly and easily, though, so I was surprised by my attention to this one. In many ways, I had that sense of being behind a screen, screaming at the girl running through the foggy forest to, "NO! Don't go in there!" and groaning as she tripped over absolutely nothing four inches from the pursuing vampire/werewolf/Bad Man. I could see The End coming, in this story -- the trap was set with zero cunning whatsoever. After all, "That Can't Happen To Me" is what's on the headstones of myriad people from scary movies.

This novel by turns annoyed me and amused me, and yet, I kept reading.

In the end, I realized that was because my teen self was copying whole swathes of the book out in her journal. The author has some good things to say, even through the very flawed vehicle of this slightly goofy, bent-on-self-destruction character. I think she's the bit of the fairytale that always rings true.

"Layla," she said. "Is it possible to avoid your destiny? Like if you're fated to be with someone, but you can sense that it isn't right between the two of you?"

... "I don't know," Layla said. Her voice was fragile - this was a sensitive subject for her, too. "But I hope it's possible. That what we want - what we're willing to fight for - matters as much as, or more than, our curse."

p. 167

Concerning Character: Mirabelle Lively is a very fortunate girl - very fortunate. She's had all of the advantages she could ever have in life, and two godmothers who dote on her and spoil her. She has been kept from a whole host of craziness by these overprotective women -- but she doesn't appreciate it, not much. She's almost sixteen, and she can't even get a straight answer about where she came from. After all, she's told her parents died when she was three -- but, why on earth can't anyone just tell her the truth about their deaths - the fire that consumed them? And why can't she visit their graves? But, the godmothers have always, always said and unequivocal "NO" to that request. And so, Mira's off to find her past -- not for any good reason except that it's been kept from her... and no one could POSSIBLY have a good reason for not telling her everything they know.

Mira is pushy in some areas of life, and in others, completely passive, and MADDENINGLY unable to learn from the fact that people repeatedly are leaving things out when they tell her things. She cannot seem to understand that she needs to look more closely before leaping, and think harder before accepting the word of those who share the märchen -- the mark of those cursed. But Beau Rivage is all too beautiful, the lovely people she meets all too accommodating. There are secrets for her to uncover, and she's eager and ready

Recommended for Fans Of...: Cameron Dokey and Jackson Pearce's fairytale retellings, Heather Dixon's ENTWINED, the work of Jessica Day George, and Zoe Elliot's SHADOWS ON THE MOON.

Cover Chatter: I have to say that this cover doesn't do it for me. I have no idea why book designers seem to love the concept of tainted roses, but they do. I don't - mainly because it's a vampire/horror standard, and this novel, while horrific in its own little ways - doesn't approach the rip-your-throat-out gorefest that vampires represent. The horror of this novel is the whiny characters running around - maybe we should have a portrait of the bruised, middle-aged backside of The Princess and the Pea -- that's horror, right there.

To my mind, the book designers missed a key symbol for the cover - but I can also see why they would have chosen a more innocuous one than they did -- spoilers. Plus, the item I'm thinking of might have sent a different message than was intended. The rose is still a thin substitute, however, and makes a beautiful, but ultimately generic statement for a book that, in glimpses, is anything but.

A naked blade hid nothing, feared nothing. She wanted to be like that. Because that was how you found yourself, created yourself. You didn't hide. You didn't wait for the perfect moment to settle on you like a butterfly, like magic.

You went out and made magic. Made your own wishes come true.

p. 308


You can find KILL ME SOFTLY by Sarah Cross at an independent bookstore near you!

4 comments:

gail said...

"Wretched song?" That screams college dorm to me. Yeah. The sixth floor of Jeanne Mance in the spring.

tanita davis said...

Oh, ALL RIGHT. Wretched earworm. I can say that, yes??

gail said...

I have no meaningful history with earworms, so go for it.

aquafortis said...

I know what you mean about fairytale retellings...it's gotta be a really good one, and there ARE a lot of good ones out there (like Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days, e.g.). I kind of like the premise here, but it sounds like there were issues with the execution....