Round 2, Match 3: The Perilous Gard vs. Saffy’s Angel

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Judged by Jo • Find her on her blog


First of all, I am SO EXCITED to be participating this year and am very grateful to Beth for putting up with my scatterbrained procrastinating self.

Before I get to the actual recap/comparison/judging, I thought I’d start this post off with a few disclaimers:

1) I am (some would say very) pregnant with my first child.

2) I haven’t read the previous round’s judging yet.

3) I came to know our illustrious bracket-mistress through a mutual love of Megan Whalen Turner’s novels.

4) That same love propelled people who shared our love to recommend that I read Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (may she rest in peace) and Tam Lin by Pamela Dean in college. I listened to their recommendations and loved both books. (I recommend you read them too.)

5) Those same recommendations came along with one for a certain novel that I was lucky enough to be tasked with judging this round, but it was not readily available at the time and so I actually had not read it before learning that it was one of the two books I would be judging. “You will love it,” they said, all those years(!) ago. “It is right up your alley,” they said.

And so, as you might be guessing, Steph and Andree did me a great favor but perhaps did you, the bracket-filler, a great disservice, as even without picking up either book I had a very strong suspicion which one I would pick to be a winner. That potential winner’s competitor would have to be the strongest of contenders to overcome not only my initial bias but also the potential winner in and of itself. And while the competition was strong, and perfectly lovely in its own way, it sadly (if you were rooting for it) was not that strong. If it’s any comfort, I do have some slightly more objective reasons for why it was not the stronger of the two books!

So, with that out of the way, onto the books themselves!

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay
I have tried about four times now to come up with a succinct summary of this book, but none of them quite did it justice. It is, in many ways, a fairy tale, the sort of story that has a lot of very unlikely events and characters but imbues them with coherency and truth, so that in the midst of all the improbabilities you find yourself laughing and sighing and nodding at the reality of it all.

So, let’s just say it’s the story of the Casson family, wherein the parents are artists living separate lives and the children, left to their own devices, have each developed their own neuroses and also have to thus learn to conquer them with or without the help of others. There’s Cadmium, afraid of her own ability to succeed; Indigo, the lone brother, afraid of heights and Caddy’s driving; Rose, who thinks making art out of food and mailing it to their father is a good idea; and Saffron, whose name doesn’t appear on the color chart with the others, who’s adopted, and feels left out as a result. There’s also Bill and Eve, their parents, and Michael darling the driving instructor, and Sarah the girl in the wheelchair down the street, and Sarah’s parents, a headmistress and a Stereotypical English Man.

The titular part of the plot involves Saffron (and Sarah’s) quest to find an angel that resided in the garden where Saffron’s parents lived before their death. Given that the girls live somewhere outside London and the garden was in Siena, Italy, their journey to it involves considerable planning, and it is not one they could make on their own. Even beyond the surface obstacles of “how are two thirteen-year-olds going to travel through three countries,” though, finding Saffy’s angel ultimately requires the cooperation of all the children, and in the process all of them more or less discover strengths they didn’t know they had, empathy they hadn’t known to have, and (as cliché as it sounds) the importance of family, birth or otherwise.

The book is written in a sort of madcap way, choosing the most important bits and pieces but not always stringing them together, which suits the madcap nature of the characters. Most of the strength of the novel lies in the characters of the children. Caddy in particular is a hoot, and I will admit that I cared slightly more about her driving lessons with Michael than about Saffy’s quest for her angel. (Only slightly. But then, I loved Michael as passionately as Droopy Di.) The only child who eluded me was Rose, who (perhaps by virtue of having overcome impermanence so early on) was quite confident in herself the entire time and whose quirks were thus a little more confusing. I also lost track of how old she was supposed to be; looking back on it, maybe she was supposed to only be five years old? But that doesn’t really make sense to me either. Anyway. The supporting cast is also generally strong—Sarah’s parents in particular are absolute gems, and did I mention my love for Michael?—and the way the friendship between Saffy and Sarah develops and grows, especially at the end of the novel, is just beautiful.

And then there’s Bill and Eve, the Casson parents.

This is where disclaimer #1 comes into play—a LOT of my recent thoughts and concerns in my everyday life have had to do with parenting, and being a mother, and making sure my marriage is strong going into the transition into parenthood and remains strong as we parent together, and raising children, and taking care of children. And frankly, I could not stand Bill and Eve. I mean, McKay gives us a lot to work with there, a lot that probably either goes straight over kids’ heads or else gives them niggling insights into Being a Grown-up that will coalesce when they think about or read this book when they’re older. I appreciate that of course Eve is the actual artist of the two, that Bill is so completely out of touch with his family that he turns them into something they’re not in his head, but at the same time I could not figure out why they were still married. And I’m all for making marriages work! But I couldn’t really come to terms with the fact that Bill was still hanging around with them. (That is not meant as praise of his character at all; he’s actually useless, probably the worst of the bunch. Which makes his sticking-around-ness all the more bewildering.) And I appreciate Eve’s artistic nature, but reading about their house horrified me. I know it’s a fairy tale and things are exaggerated and that marriages are messy sometimes and people are fallible, but I had no sympathy for Eve or Bill and just felt very, very sorry for their screwed-up children.

That being said, I enjoyed their screwed-up children, and the zaniness of the story, and I laughed aloud many times, given what a short book it is. I enjoyed the ways the book examined friendship and family, determination and devotion, though ultimately I thought the ending was a bit flat, especially the epilogue. On the one hand, it shows how everyone’s come together, how Saffy’s family isn’t just the family she’s had all along but has room for new people, too; but the very end, with Caddy and the statue, is sort of…okay, what’s the point? I’m not surprised she fixed the angel (though Caddy isn’t particularly the artistic one, and maybe that’s part of the problem), but ending the book on that note instead of the family/home note (broken angel and all—because Saffy’s family is broken too, even as it’s hers) was sort of a build-up to nowhere. Rather like Crime and Punishment[1], I think this book suffers from that desire to tie up that last thread and in so doing loses a bit of its grip on its own narrative. (Though at least this epilogue had Michael darling.)

I’ve never read anything by Hilary McKay, though the parts of the dust jacket that I did read were full of her praises and I can understand why. That it is so hard to untangle the plot from the themes of the book speaks I think to its strength and its goodness, but in the end neither quite came together enough for me to feel as though it all made sense.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Pope
This book is a little easier to describe; it’s a Tam Lin retelling, set in Tudor England. Our Janet is this time Kate Sutton, a maid of honor to the exiled Princess Elizabeth, whose sister is not quite so sensible as our heroine and manages to get Kate exiled from the princess’s exile to a remote castle in the north of England. At the Perilous Gard, long the holding of a family literally called the Wardens, Kate finds herself caught up in the mysterious disappearance of the current lord’s daughter, thought to be murdered at the hands of his younger brother. Of course, this being a remote castle by a “holy well” in the north of England in the 1500s, the answer is actually the Fairy Folk, and it all goes downhill from there.

(I will say I greatly enjoyed the twist on the Tam Lin ending, partially because I was amused that it was much easier to comprehend than Fire and Hemlock. Though I didn’t have much trouble with Fire and Hemlock when I read it. Anyway.)

The writing is lovely, descriptive without being overly flowery, not poetic or particularly gorgeous but still very vivid. The style is much more traditional than Saffy’s Angel, and again I really did enjoy the madcapness of that one—the style of each of these books suits it, helps it tell the story it’s telling without drawing too much attention to itself.

I admit, when this novel started off with Kate’s sister Alicia, I was a little bored. But that’s mostly because I’ve grown out of the stage where I thirst for stories about the plainer/more “boring” of two friends/sisters (stories which thus require the other friend/sister to be glamorous and silly), preferring a little more complexity when it comes to depictions of traditional gender roles as played out by members of that gender. At sixteen (or heck, even twelve), however, I would’ve been all over that.

And soon enough Alicia went away and then the book became everything I love: Tudor England, an old castle with a Great Hall, an absent lord, his snarky and stubborn (and hot) younger brother, an even stubborner heroine with a hugely practical streak and a head for spatial acuity that I envy, villains who are evil not so much because they’re a cliché but because they have chosen their own profit over that of others, Fairy Folk, a stone-cold Lady, banter, adventure, and a dash of most excellent theology.

I loved Kate. I mean, I enjoyed Saffron, and watching her grow, but Kate is a presence, a force to be reckoned with simply by being herself. And unlike so many, many YA books today, the book doesn’t waste time talking about how great she is, or pointing out how different she is from other girls (I mean, it points it out, but it’s more Kate’s self-perception; the book doesn’t blather about how great it is that she’s not like other girls); it doesn’t enumerate her strengths and her flaws, or break point-of-view by going all meta about her sense of who she is. The book simply sets her before you and then lets her go, and you go along with her, and she is brilliant, beautifully realized and entirely her own.

I loved hating Master John. I loved what happened with Susan. I loved the Lady, but I loved Gwenhyfara even more. I really liked Sir Geoffrey! And Christopher. Oh, Christopher. I loved Christopher. I can’t describe him so well as Kate—words are failing me—but he is every inch her match, and reading about him was a sheer delight. (This surprises no one.)

I loved the way she juxtaposed the conversations between Gwenhyfara and Kate and Christopher and Kate, the pacing of that whole section. I loved the weight in all its terror. I loved watching Christopher and Kate fall [even more] in love, loved their conversations, their rapport, loved the way he described loving her in the end. I loved Kate’s musings on who the Fairy Folk were, how such things come to be, and also I loved EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT CONVERSATION BETWEEN KATE AND THE LADY ABOUT GOD. And using the name Christopher and the legend and DID I MENTION THAT CONVERSATION BEING MY BREAD AND BUTTER BECAUSE IT WAS BRILLIANT, especially the conclusion, the twist of it, and I loved Kate, did I mention loving Kate?

At the end of this novel there was a moment where I thought the story might weaken itself, and I read on worryingly, because it had gotten so much right it seemed odd that it would get this wrong. It’s when Christopher and Alicia come to Perilous Gard together, and of course in two seconds Kate goes from so proud of her pretty dress to being crushed that her sister is here and beautiful and calling her out of style and also apparently making eyes at Christopher. Again I was a bit impatient with this, all “all right, how are you going to resolve this misunderstanding” as obviously Kate and Christopher belong together forever and ever, and then the Lady shows up to offer Kate a spell to make Christopher love her. And obviously Kate is going to reject it—

but the way in which she rejects it matters, and she rejects it well, and that in part goes along with the sheer genius of naming the chapter “The Changeling,” because of course Kate is not a changeling child and yet she has changed, even while remaining true to her wonderful self. She’s more confident, more sure of herself, even in the face of potentially losing that which she has fought so hard and at such cost to save. And it’s a beautiful moment—and then, a page or two later, once she knows it’s hers and she thinks back on the Lady’s offering—and how the People always speak the truth—her realization about the true nature of the offering is just—simple, and brilliant, and perfect. Like the novel itself.

THE VERDICT
As I said at the outset, in many ways this matchup was entirely unfair. The two books are very different; drawing a straight comparison between them would be an interesting exercise, but not particularly relevant to my judging. The most important similarity between them, I think, is how each has a very strong sense of exactly what it is—they’re both well-written, with solid characters and good prose and a plot that sucks you in and has you rooting for it, even when you’re pretty sure you know what’s going to happen.

And Saffy’s Angel really is a great book, and a book I would recommend, minor flaws aside. I laughed a lot, read several portions of it out loud to my husband (mostly concerning Mr. Warbeck), and developed a very deep affection for most of the characters involved. But I had trouble with Saffy’s parents, and in the end the book didn’t quite come together, lovely though it was.

On the other hand, The Perilous Gard is my favorite kind of book, history and magic and dresses and snarky heroes and stubborn heroines, good writing, people falling in love all at once but also over time, vivid villains, strength at the end of all things, and just a dash of stimulating philosophical conversation. It is a book I will curl up with on a rainy day to revisit, a book I’m already planning on buying my best friend as a graduation present, the only one of the two books that got me capslocking. Years ago people told me I would love it; they were right then, and they’re still right now.

And so, surprising no one, the winner of this round is The Perilous Gard.


1. I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the epilogue of Crime and Punishment. SAYING RASKALNIKOV ONCE RESCUED ORPHANS FROM A BURNING BUILDING DOES NOT SUDDENLY MAKE HIM A NICE GUY OR HIS CHARACTER OKAY, FYODOR.)


Congratulations to The Perilous Gard, which moves on to Round 3!

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43 thoughts on “Round 2, Match 3: The Perilous Gard vs. Saffy’s Angel

  1. Ahh, this write up is AWESOME. (Also, I’ve been wanting to re-read Tam Lin foreeevvvver. Maybe this a sign to finally do it.)

    MICHAEL. I love him so much. He’s such a great guy.

    But that’s mostly because I’ve grown out of the stage where I thirst for stories about the plainer/more “boring” of two friends/sisters (stories which thus require the other friend/sister to be glamorous and silly), preferring a little more complexity when it comes to depictions of traditional gender roles as played out by members of that gender.

    SO MUCH YES. I keep coming across new YA’s where the descriptions make it clear that’s what’s happening and NO THANK YOU. At this point, if anything, I want stories about the “silly” one.

        1. (Okay, I missed the RE part of your “read” comment. OOPS.)

          (And I did read a Tam Lin retelling once – can’t remember the author – McKillip, maybe?? I think it was called Winter Rose. Did not like it. I think that’s what put me off ever reading the original.)

          (I did not know The Perilous Gard was a Tam Lin retelling.)

          1. (The original is just a ballad, I think, one of those stories you’ve never heard of until suddenly you discover that people have retold it several times. I don’t think I knew The Perilous Gard was a retelling going into it, but the second Randal mentioned it I was like “there is only one reason you would ever mention Tam Lin in a novel” and then as soon as Christopher was like “LALALA DON’T MIND ME TOSSING COINS INTO WELLS MAKING WISHES LALALALA” I was grinning ear to ear. In an “you idiot oh noooooo” sort of way.)

            1. The original is just a ballad, I think, one of those stories you’ve never heard of until suddenly you discover that people have retold it several times.

              This is so true. Dean’s wasn’t the first I read–that would be Fire and Hemlock or The Winter Rose–but it was the one that made me realize that it was a THING.

    1. THANK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. I really enjoyed P. Dean’s Tam Lin–I thought the ending was a bit rushed (in a “I would happily have read a hundred pages more but I think it needed at least fifty” way), but it’s as much a book about college as it is about anything else and I read it at a good time for that.

      YES EXACTLY. And like I get that it’s a thing we’re programmed to do from a young age culturally and so when you’re writing about teens you fall into writing about that but at the same time, like, it’s a thing you have to DECODE from your system as you grow up and realize that girls can have interests you think are silly but still be quite bright. (Not that Alicia is quite bright. But she is at least sweet, and Perilous Gard does at least give the sisters a good relationship, more or less.) And still be people you want to be friends with! LESS EXCLUSION OF FEMALE CHARACTERS DUE TO PERCEIVED GENDERED SILLINESS, MORE FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS PLEASE.

    2. I don’t think YA should always be about the plainer/more “boring” of the two girls, that’s obviously ridiculous. But I do find I tend to like them more than the stories about the “silly” one, just because my tolerance for the “silly” one is very dependent on how the silly is done. If this book had been about the sister, I’m not sure I would have finished it, because her type of silliness grated on my last nerve. Just because there’s an element of BE AT LEAST A LITTLE AWARE OF HOW THE WORLD YOU LIVE IN WORKS.

      I’m all for a kind, but silly heroine, but a completely oblivious one will always grate.

      1. Yeah, I don’t think I’d want a book about this particular “silly” sister, but I’m so tired of reading book descriptions that set up that dichotomy–the silly/popular sister and the sensible/shy one–and always, always choose to tell the story from the “sensible” perspective. It’s become the boring, obvious choice to me. (And this reaction is very much about modern YA, not that of Perilous Gard’s era.)

        And I’m saying this as someone who would be the “sensible” sister in a book about me and my sister.

  2. You know, I think I remember Rose working for me in this book, but now she’s sort of – affected – by the later books, where she’s just too much. And it bleeds backward into this one 😦 I hate when that happens.

    ending the book on that note instead of the family/home note (broken angel and all—because Saffy’s family is broken too, even as it’s hers) was sort of a build-up to nowhere.

    I’m really curious about this point: is it because to you, the book wasn’t about the angel? In a way, if the book is about Saffy finding out she doesn’t belong, and trying to make a place for herself, the angel becomes representative of all the ways she does belong – and always did – and having it broken (even though Caddy’s and Indigo’s gifts were non-existent!) sort of cements that. As in, no, you don’t get even get to have a piece that commemorates the fact that you had a grandfather you knew who loved you, too. So until it’s fixed, that entire storyline feels unfinished.

    I loved the Lady, but I loved Gwenhyfara even more.

    GOOD TELL ME MORE ABOUT GWENHYFARA. She didn’t make as much of an impression on me!

    And KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE 🙂

    1. MY COMMENT BELOW WAS MEANT TO BE A REPLY TO THIS COMMENT BUT DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE POSTED AS ONE?

      Also Gwenhyfara I just loved…it’s the juxtaposition of her and Christopher, and the mentoring, and the glimpses we get of you know “if it were up to me” and not humanizing but deepening/breaking of the monolithic entity of the People. The little bit of pathos that makes you want them not to cut down the dancing tree. That Kate affects her too, even just a little bit.

      1. MAYBE YOU DID WHAT I DID LAST WEEK? I was replying to the bottom comment and I put my response in the “Leave a Reply” basic comment box without ever clicking “Reply.” But I used my Supreme Moderator Powers to make that go away ;D

        I DID LIKE THE “IF IT WERE UP TO ME” PART.

        1. I DON’T KNOW. Because this happened to me the other day and I could’ve sworn I hit the “reply” button under the comment.

          This time I hit reply from email and I’m at the bottom of the page, but the url says “replytocom=537.” LET’S SEE WHERE IT ENDS UP.

        2. ALSO HOW OLD IS ROSE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THIS BOOK?

          Also where is Steph I need to flail with her about the entire car ride to Wales THERE WAS A FOX DO NOT BE MAD

          1. Maaaaaaybe six. Maybe. She’s super precocious, isn’t she? It works with her notes – and it works in Indigo’s Star with her letters – and then she becomes a narrator and it completely breaks down for me.

            I DO NOT KNOW. PAGING STEPH.

            THOSE NOTES ARE EVERYTHING. “Why is everybody waving?” “I make friends with them.” CADDY YOU ARE ROSE’S SISTER YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TO ACCEPT THAT WITH SUCH EQUILIBRIUM.

            1. I realized that after the fact–like, if Saffy’s thirteen, and Rose was a baby when she was eight, then…okay. SUPER-precocious; figuring out she’s six makes even less sense than the alternatives (I was thinking, like, ten) EXCEPT for the scene where she talks to Saffy on the phone and then hangs up before anyone else gets a chance to. THAT was pure five-year-old. :-b

              WE ARE TURNING RIGHT (I didn’t mention in this write-up how these books made me miss Europe/England but MAN I MISS EUROPE/ENGLAND, I MISS THEM A LOT).

              p.s. don’t call me darling I’m a driving instructor

              THE BOOK HAS SO MANY GOOD THINGS I FELT BAD BEING LIKE “SORRY PERILOUS GARD WINS WITHOUT ANY CONSIDERATION” BUT ALMOST WORSE BEING LIKE “SORRY YOU WERE GREAT AND ALL BUT PERILOUS GARD, SERIOUSLY, PERILOUS GARD.”

              1. Yeah, definitely. She has way too much of an ironic bent, too. One of my favorite parts was Rose painting a desert landscape on the wall because Bill told her to start small and paint what she knows – but at the same time, when you consider her age: really?

                IT’S OKAY, THERE ARE JUST A LOT OF GOOD THINGS IN THIS BATTLE. Also, Jess might appreciate you knocking out the book that knocked out A Ring of Endless Light.

              2. Don’t feel bad about SORRY PERILOUS GARD WINS. What do you think happened in round 1. It was something of a relief when something annoyed me a lot about the other books.

                (And one of my pairings in last year’s bracket was even more unbalanced. Obviously, I am always a super-objective judge. HI BETH.)

                1. I LONG for a super-unbalanced matchup! I keep ending up with books I feel roughly the same about.*

                  *Statement may or may not apply to my next match up. Which I must be mysterious about.

  3. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

    All of it, but especially this:
    “it doesn’t enumerate her strengths and her flaws, or break point-of-view by going all meta about her sense of who she is. The book simply sets her before you and then lets her go, and you go along with her, and she is brilliant, beautifully realized and entirely her own.”

    Pretty much why Kate resonates so well with me. And yes, to the excellent theology to. That discussion between Kate and the Lady about God is one of my favorite passages ever.

    This is actually my favorite Tam Lin retelling. I love Fire and Hemlock too, but need to be in a very specific mood to read it. I didn’t like Tam Lin by Pamela Dean though. I was so sick of all the lists of classes and this is how we decorate our dorm room and just GET TO THE POINT ALREADY. Took way too long to get there.

    I like what you have to say about the Casson family in Saffy’s Angel too. I included those kids in a list of characters I would want to adopt, because wow do they deserve better parenting. (You haven’t even read the worst of it.)

    You better post news of that baby on Tumblr when it gets here. I’m so excited for you!!!! 🙂

    1. I didn’t like Tam Lin by Pamela Dean though. I was so sick of all the lists of classes and this is how we decorate our dorm room and just GET TO THE POINT ALREADY. Took way too long to get there.

      Ha! I do agree with this! Especially in regard to the romance. One of those where I kept flipping back to the description to make sure I wasn’t misremembering who the couple was supposed to be.

    2. hahahahahahahahaha YOU’RE WELCOME (I cannot tell you how hard I’m rooting for Saving Francesca to win, JUST TO WATCH YOU SUFFER.)

      YES!

      1. and by that I mean YES I WOULD LIKE TO KEEP TYPING MY COMMENT not YES PLEASE POST IT NOW whoopsies.

        Anyway YES about Kate! Which reminds me, I need to scurry over and read your post about heroines now–I saw her on the list and made myself skip it.

        I can absolutely appreciate both those feelings–I got more fed up with the 70s approach to dating in college myself. Apparently I need to read The Winter Rose (but first I have to finish Riddlemaster) (book three’s just waiting on me) (best friend will never forgive me) and then my Tam Lin reading will be complete? And I can pick a favorite. (I’d have to reread Fire and Hemlock before deciding between it and this one.)

        I KEEP HEARING IT GETS WORSE AND I’M JUST REALLY CURIOUS especially as I was telling Beth I don’t really understand why they’re so terrible in the first place, like what’s the point of making Bill and Eve so terrible? I can’t decide if scooting over to y’all’s Goodreads pages to spoil myself would be worth it.

        I WILL! Also I will need to get your email address in that case. 😀 ❤

        1. HEY HOW ABOUT YOU JOIN GOODREADS? IF I START A PUBLIC PETITION, WILL THAT SWAY YOU? I NEED TO READ YOUR BOOK THOUGHTS WITH MORE REGULARITY. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME. LIKE, SAY, TO HEAR WHAT YOU THINK OF THE THIRD RIDDLEMASTER. AND YOUR FIRE AND HEMLOCK REREAD. AND ALL THE THINGS, BASICALLY.

          (Obnoxiously all caps for maximum attention-seeking-ness. Help me out, y’all :D)

                1. I’M SO CONVINCED

                  that I so do not need another time sucker BUT I DO PROMISE AT THE VERY LEAST TO POST ABOUT BOOKS ON MY BLOG IS THAT AN ACCEPTABLE COMPROMISE FOR NOW

                  which actually reminds me BRANDY I’M ABOUT TO READ FINNIKIN’S ROCK I AM VERY EXCITED TO DO THIS THING

                  1. YES. (FOR NOW.) I WILL HOLD YOU TO THAT, AT ANY RATE.

                    (Don’t you miss the good old days – like right now – of just caps locking at each other?? I really will hold you to that; I miss talking about books with you!)

                    1. I DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I MISS YOU TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ah man this is so much fun.

    3. OH I forgot I wanted to comment on Fire and Hemlock! Because everyone I know understands it – Hallie, and Jo, and you – and I keep going, so I think I understand the ending – but when I squint at it, it, like, SHIFTS and suddenly doesn’t make sense anymore – though I think I did read an explanation of it that I really liked. Of course, I can’t remember that explanation 🙂

      I DON’T KNOW. Fire and Hemlock is a DWJ that never worked for me. Mostly because I never liked the central relationship, I think.

  4. Whereas see to me there IS an angel and her grandfather even WENT AND GOT IT FOR HER, and even though it’s broken it still exists, and her siblings went out of their way to find it and bring it to her. I mean, she’s hugging them and saying “it doesn’t matter.” And as the beginning of the epilogue says, “Sometimes Saffron thought of her angel and she could not help being a little sad, because after the trouble everyone had taken to find it for her, it was broken.” Which I think still fits! Like I said, her family’s broken too! The angel being broken works fine with the sort of cracked nature of all the loves in the book–Saffy’s family, but you could also include Sarah’s disability in there too–it gives you closure without making things too neat.

    And again that CADDY’S the one to do all the artistic work is a little strange, and then she just pulls it out of the book and is like “look at Saffy’s angel!” and you’re like “okay we’re looking it’s lovely but that’s literally the last line of the book?” when it could have been the “no place like home” line which is cheesy but at least provides some closure. Fixing Saffy’s angel and then just leaving it dangling a) is “too neat” inasmuch as making it SO MUCH PRETTIER kind of goes against all those undercurrents of brokenness but also b) is not neat at all because there’s no real lead-up to it–it literally pops up on the first quarter of the very last page in my copy–and then it doesn’t fit and there’s no attempt to make it fit with everything else that’s happened.

    I mean I guess I can see your reading, sort of, but again I think that fixing the angel ignores the very real brokenness that McKay sets up in this book (and then apparently makes worse in later ones), and like, if that brokenness is important to the story (which I assume it is otherwise WHY ARE THE PARENTS SO TERRIBLE?), then fixing the angel seems like a–veneer, an attempt to give it a clean ending when really that’s not what she seems to want at all.

  5. I am pleased by this decision. Also, am somewhat relieved that I am not the only one who was not exactly enamored with the start of this book. The whole Alicia thing just really rubbed me the wrong way right from the start. It was lucky there was brooding Christopher.

    1. Ahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa it was funny because I was reading your review going “oh look she loved it and it wasn’t even all her favorite things so clearly I am justified in making this decision” (having already sent my write-up to Beth by then). But yeah, I appreciate the book needing a set-up, but Alicia’s behavior is just so clueless. Like, have you ever heard even the tiniest bit of court gossip from the last oh I don’t know THIRTY YEARS? Because that should’ve been enough to tell you that the monarchs of England DO NOT TAKE KINDLY TO POTENTIAL USURPERS. Also, who tells the Queen that everyone likes her sister better? SERIOUSLY, WHAT.

      1. Well, I’m glad I could support your decision. I do think I was in a bit of a mood when I started it, which didn’t help Because Alicia just grated on my nerves. It goes beyond clueless an right into, HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO SURVIVE THIS LONG? YOU ARE LUCKY YOU ARE APPARENTLY SUPER-ATTRACTIVE AND WITH RICH PARENTS, BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOU’D HAVE ENDED UP IN PRISON LONG BEFORE NOW.

  6. I love Perilous Gard and it clearly deserves to win. That is all.

    (Actually I finished re-reading it a few nights ago and don’t have the words for an actual review yet. But–that final scene, with Kate and the Lady on the terrace…I get chills.)

    1. YES. THAT SCENE. THAT SCENE IS SO IMPORTANT. AND SO GOOD. It’s so twisty and there’s so many emotions and yet it’s so deftly done.

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