The Cybils books continue to pile up in a happy fashion, and I try to pack two or three of them into each weekend, and at least one a day. I've found another amusing thematic bundle into which to gather my reviews - the theme of obsession.
The thing about obsessions are that they begin so normally -- as a fine appreciation for a person or a thing. And then it morphs into a thing of sheer horror. These books flirt with horror -- some more than others -- and take the reader into obsession, and back again.
Fire, by Kristin Cashore
Take the case of Fire.
She's just a girl whom everybody wants.
Well, not really. She's not actually a girl, per se. But everybody -- even people who are supposed to be her trusted friends -- want what they can get from her. Women stare at her enviously, and then hatefully. Men stare at her lustfully -- and then get really scary. And, just to top things off? Monsters would like to eat her.
Fire is the last of the human-shaped monsters in the kingdom of Dells. She can change minds. She can exert her will on others. She can get into their heads. She really, really would rather not.
The only one who ever truly loved her for herself is her father - a psychotic monster who nearly brought down the kingdom as he tormented the old king. Fire believes that no one will ever truly see past their obsession with her blinding beauty. Not her guardian, not her good friend, Archer, not even the King...
Fragile Eternity, by Melissa Marr
Ash, who at the end of Wicked, Lovely married Keenan, the Summer King, yet kept her mortal love, Seth, is beginning to wonder if anyone really loves her - not just the warmth and life that flows from her. What seemed such a perfect compromise -- to be the King's consort, but only bear the title Queen in name, has backfired incredibly badly. Keenan is pushing -- pushing -- for them to get together, since having the King and Queen together strengthens the Summer Court. Seth is hiding his hurt, but anger and jealousy are just under the surface as Keenan takes all of her time and the Court holds more and more of her attention. Donia, the Winter Queen whom Keenan had loved for so long, is growing stronger -- and more jealous. Seth is soon left in the unenviable position of not being sure of Aislinn's love, feeling unable to protect her or guard her, and hating his mortality. Love has been twisted, and only trouble can follow. Seth is sure he's got the right answer -- if he were fae, wouldn't everything be just fine...?
The threads of possibility wind tighter and tighter...
Waking Dreams of the Dead, by Thomas Randall
Kara is sixteen, and new to Japan, and desperately wanting to fit in, forget the car accident that claimed her mother's life, and create new, happier memories in a new world with her father. Befriended by tough girl, Sakura, Kara finds a kindred spirit in another struggling person, as Sakura copes with her sister's unsolved murder. Oddly, it seems that no one cares that Sakura's sister is dead. And then the nightmares start. It seems that a bodiless entity is escaping to the waking world -- and killing students at Kara's new school. Is it Sakura's sister? Or has Sakura somehow herself started this? Is there any way to convince either girl to let things go?
The Tear Collector, by Patrick Jones
Cassandra Gray really just wants you to let it all out. Just cry it out. You'll feel better for it, really. Most of the kids at Lapeer High who are friends of hers do. They cry on her shoulder, sob noisily as she breaks up with them -- for the third time -- and pour our their hearts to hear at peer counseling. And she wipes up their tears with a monogrammed handkerchief, and stows it away.
Go on, cry. You can trust her with your secret pain.
Cassandra is obsessed with the sadness of others. It feeds her. It keeps her moisturized. It's perhaps killing her friends. It's so hard to tell anymore, what's Cassandra's fault, and what's not. She just needs tears to survive, is it her fault that the world is such a painful, awful place...?
...at the other end of the theme of obsession is... well, zombies. The Forest of Hands and Teeth has already been ably reviewed by AF, so I won't go into it again. It was ...definitely horrifying, yet inspired, in an awful way. Zombies. Obsessed with breaking through the Fence. Sisters, obsessed with secrets and silence... creepy.
Of all of these books of obsession, I enjoyed Fire the most, after I reminded myself that the Graces would show up in due course, and it was not a sequel to Graceling, but a companion book. Cashore's skillful writing created another great story and Fire made up for any disappointment I might have felt. The Tear Collector is possibly even creepier than the zombies. If you're afraid you're a little vampire obsessed, try emotional vampirism. Yuck. Nothing romantic about that at all.
You'll find Buy Fire, Fragile Eternity, The Waking: Dreams of the Dead and The Tear Collector -- all 2009 Cybils YA SFF Nominated Books -- from an independent bookstore near you!