The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen

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Dear Erika,

Unfortunately, due to the nature of this concluding novel, I do not feel comfortable writing a generic blog post, so I’ve decided to write you a letter.

As an author, you created a contract with me, which started when you wrote your first novel and continued after I bought and read it. I invested in your books, you, as the author and creator, wouldn’t let me down.

Well, let me tell you now, Erika, you have let me down, deeply. The conclusion to your series was not of the standard I was expecting. I will caution everyone who has not yet read the finish to look away now, because the next sentence will spoil the ending if they decide to risk the surprise.

YOU CAN’T USE TIME TRAVEL TO ERADICATE ALL THAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN!

Kill characters off, that’s fine and I’d be disappointed if you didn’t. Break their hearts, make me cry, make my heart break… but don’t put me through all that only to make it so worthless. It’s like you literally watched Days of Future Past (an extremely sore point of a movie that my friends are scared to talk to me about) and thought ‘oh, I know, I’ll create a whole world AND MAKE IT WORTHLESS’. I mean, you literally had quotes from history books running through the series, from start to end, but you made all of that history, all of that research and passionate planning and historical development pointless.

Time travel is a risky device in the best of novels and has blown up in many an author’s face. I don’t really understand why you felt the need to risk it. Your story was fantastic. Your protagonist had gone on such a brilliant journey of change and growth. The power of the sapphires was overwhelming and their mystery intact. All of your antagonists – The Red Queen, Row ‘the orphan’, Brenna… they all had well developed pasts, shades of grey that they struggled to over come. They weren’t the two dimensional disappointment of Voldemort or Sauron, but rather solid, multi faceted characters that you both hated and pitied. Kelsea wasn’t perfect – she committed murder, she made poor decisions and she was pig headed. Your characters were so well formed and so realistic throughout.

I’ll pause here to give you credit that you deserve. What I said previously is true. Your characters are some of the best formed in a short fantasy series that I have read for a long time. You manage to fit in the depth that Robert Jordan creates with his characters in a very short amount of time. Your techniques are a little elementary – a lot of flashback and exposition – but you did so well creating those gritty, uncomfortable characters that make your audience sit back and think, not only with your main characters, but with others such as the Mace, who were important to the story line, but in less able authors’ work, often left to the side in terms of depth. I felt for you characters – I loved them, spent time with them and understood their struggles. In that lies your greatest strength.

You got very preachy, though. That was probably my first warning sign. There was a lot of anti-religious propaganda spread throughout. I’m a little at a loss that you managed to write this series without a single mention of a religion outside of Christianity. Surely, if Tear truly had selected the ‘best’ for his journey, there would be equal representation. Instead, you focus on Christianity, followers of Jesus, and you condemn them throughout. It is clear that in your version of utopia, religion cannot play a part. But you can’t simply write out other religions to get to that point. There will always be faith, and it won’t be quieted just because the Tears are killed. I found this very unbalanced and single minded.

Secondly, you created a final world where it seemed that Tear’s vision had worked. He had to be dead, both his sons had to be dead, but the vision that he had succeeded. It is unrealistic and against human nature. Row gave other people a purpose, an outlet for their discontent, but that discontent wasn’t going to go away just because Caitlyn created a constitution or ruled well for 70 years. Human kind can achieve a lot in 300 years, but they wouldn’t be able to do it under the strictures that Tear’s paradise laid down. You create a utopia which goes against the grain of humanity.

Which brings me to my biggest issue. Kelsea. I don’t understand how time travel works, which is why it makes me so mad as a story telling device, but I don’t think Kelsea or her mother would exist as they do, and by concluding the novel from her perspective, you lose the power of the time travel. Nothing would be the same. Kelsea would not exist. The Mace would not exist. Nothing and no one would be as Kelsea remembers because the world wouldn’t have journeyed that way. Assuming that Kelsea is descended from Katie’s child – how did that happen? With the monarchy being abolished, many of the marriages and alliances that led to Kelsea’s birth would not have happened. It simply doesn’t make sense, and as a result the final ten pages of the novel are nonsense.

Also, the anti-climax of the identity of Kelsea’s father was unacceptable. You can’t just decide that it was some minor character she killed a little while back after you’ve made such a big deal of it throughout the novel. He had no purpose; he was no more a part of Kelsea’s identity than I was. It’s okay to keep a secret and then reveal it to be something unexpected, if that change of pace had a purpose. For example, Row or Fetch or even Aisa’s father would have made really good but surprising choices, but you went with a side character we could barely remember. It was too obvious a shock tactic, and I was really disappointed in you – and this was before it became clear what you were going to do with the time travel.

Your books excited me. They created a world I could engage with and enjoyed reading about. They were always a bit preachy, a bit obvious, but you were innovative and interesting. Instead, you’ve turned yourself into a let-down of an author who has fallen back on a traditional trope because you backed yourself into a corner. Unfortunately, as result, despite the strong start your series had, the innovative tale that you told and your impressive characterisation, I can’t trust you as an author again. This was the series that made me want to write my blog again, that inspired me back to reading after depression had taken that joy away from me, and you’ve ruined it.

I was looking forwards to this conclusion for a long time, and I feel incredibly let down by the final effort. If you haven’t started this series yet, don’t bother.

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This was a Man – The Clifton Chronicles Book 7

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My dad assures me that a lot of people don’t like Jeffrey Archer’s writing, and unfortunately, because I read the first 6 of these novels while I was unable to write in this blog, there is absolutely no way I can do it justice in this review. All I can say is that I don’t know why people have such a problem with Archer – this, his most recent series, has blown me away.

The Clifton Chronicles

This series of 7 novels follows the tale of two families, the Barringtons and the Cliftons, and the unlikely relationships and complications that occur between them. We begin when Harry is a boy, meeting his mother and father, and hearing about his grandparents. In book 7, Harry and Emma become great grandparents. It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a ride, following this family so closely for so long. I can only really cover here what happened in this novel particularly, but don’t read on if you have any intention of reading it! Please return to ‘overall’ below if you want to, that won’t contain any spoilers!

Plot Endings

Harry and Emma are NOT brother and sister. I have never been so relieved. It made their decision back in novel 2 to not have any further children incredibly sad because you knew that they would have loved for Sebastian to have been raised as one of many. It was beautifully understated, their discovery, because their love for each other had far surpassed anything barriers at this point.

The discovery of Harry’s father’s body was also understated and well placed; you felt sympathy and gladness that the uncertainty was set to rest, but sad that Emma’s father had been responsible for such an atrocity.

Giles finally became a father – his adopted son Freddie came to love him in such an unusual and roundabout way, and his adoption as a teenager was testament to the kindness and love that surrounded the Clifton and Barrington families. You often forgot that Emma and Harry met because Harry and Giles were best friends in school, and Emma was Giles’ sister. This was often referred to in this final novel and continued to add depth to it.

It was such a relief to discover that Karin didn’t die, and that Giles was able to accept her past and move on with her, and the scenes of them travelling through Berlin as the wall fell down spoke volumes for a generation that suffered through the atrocities the separation of East and West Germany caused.

All the various plot strands that for so long have been intricately interwoven together finally concluded satisfactorily. And then… the ending.

The Ending

Harry killed Emma. It was euthanasia, but it was heart wrenching. Her surprise diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease and her speedy decline were heart breaking to witness. She fell from a powerful lady in the House of Lords to someone unable to even feed and dress herself. She asked Harry to kill her, and his love for her was so great that he obliged and died 9 days later, unable to continue without her.

It is clear that Archer has a great love for Harry’s character as the final chapter is devoted to his memorial service and a recollection of the great things he achieved in his life. To list them all here would be pointless, as it would just be a repetition of the final chapter, but I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute for any person, fictional or real. It was both satisfactory and heart wrenching because this family will go in a thousand different directions now, and Harry’s death marked the end of an era.

Overall

This is a realistic, heart tugging story of love, war, joy and sorrow, hatred and fear. It is the tale of a few ordinary people who achieved great things. The writing is clear and concise, it offers plenty of opportunity for imagination whilst clearly giving direction. I never found one typo in it, so yay to the editor!

These books were unlike any I had read before, but I’ll certainly be returning to Archer as an author again, as they touched my heart in painful and complete ways that I hadn’t expected. I cannot rate these books high enough, and hope that others find the same joy in them that I did.

There is so much more to write, but I’d have to go back through the whole series book by book. And I can’t do that right now! Just know that I love these books, and that I have adopted Harry and Emma Clifton as my grandparents!