Month: March 2018

On Character Deaths

Hello lovely readers!

The (probably) last snow of the year has cleared, and spring is well and truly on its way. With it, comes a whole host of new stories so today I thought I’d talk about… endings. Specifically, character deaths.

This has been spurned by two books, both finales in a trilogy, which I won’t go into too much detail about because I know they were both highly-anticipated and not everyone will have had the chance to read them yet. It’s also been spurned by the upcoming release of The Avengers: Infinity War movie where it has been rumoured key characters will die (Captain America, Iron Man, etc.)


I’ve been writing recently and trying to plot out a novel has led me to consider the deaths of characters. Deaths in real life are never just a plot device, never just glossed over and never mentioned again for the rest of the book. Deaths in books (especially of major characters) tend to be dramatic and untimely, sometimes mysterious, sometimes gruesome. Ultimately, what they do is they move the story on, shock the reader and develop the remaining characters. They have to happen for a reason, whatever that might be.

George R R Martin’s ASOIAF series (turned into the Game of Thrones TV series) uses character deaths to leave readers on the edge of their seats – absolutely anyone could meet their untimely end at any time, and it may not be for the most violent of reasons. What Martin does at the end of the first book in killing off main character Ned Stark, is shock readers into believing anything is possible. In many books, it doesn’t make sense to kill off your main character, but with a multi-perspective story, Ned’s death ramps up the tension for books to come. Arguably, now we are into the final books and final season, there are many characters it doesn’t make sense to kill off at this late stage (we’ve followed their stories this far, it’d be painful not to see the conclusion of all these intertwining plots), and it will be interesting to see who survives the Game of Thrones.

What stood out for me when talking about these two books whose names I won’t mention, both different genres but ultimately YA, is that a lot of people died. A lot. We’re talking thousands here. Both had a scene where it seemed our main love interests had died, but – surprise! – they were absolutely fine in the end. (Perhaps not as dramatic as the dream fight scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2!). Ultimately, a series of couples we had been rooting for the entire series all survived, and absolutely no main characters died. And that’s disappointing to me.

I think part of this has to do with not being too attached to our main characters, and I’m also not a huge fan of these grand happily ever afters. Some of these couples simply aren’t good together, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if maybe one of them perished in a grand battle. It might anger some fans, but it would also probably make the story more memorable.

So, dear readers, I want more shocking deaths please – but the type where you realise afterwards that it had to happen all along. Endings with a sense of satisfaction because everything is right in the universe – even if that meant the death of a love interest or best friend. There’s nothing worse than multiple deaths being teased, and then, SURPRISE, everyone is right as rain and ready to fight another day.


I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman


I picked up this book without really knowing what it was about – I loved Radio Silence so much that I would probably read Alice Oseman’s shopping lists. This book is so different and yet so similar in theme to Radio Silence – if you haven’t picked up any of Alice’s books yet, you should. She is one of the few (if not the only) authors talking about teenage fandoms, internet culture, Tumblr, and the soul-crushing and dream-destroying expectations put on teenagers today.

I devoured I Was Born For This in an evening (something I almost never do). The story is told through dual perspectives. Angel Rahimi is a hijabi travelling to London to meet her best ever internet friend for the first time, so that they can both see their favourite band, The Ark. Jimmy Kawa-Ricci is the transgender frontman of The Ark, struggling with anxiety and debating whether to continue with the band. The book takes place over one week in their lives, where they are thrust together in unexpected circumstances.

This is UKYA at its best – distinctly British characters who are both relatable and realistic, dealing with issues such as anxiety, making friends over the internet, being part of a fandom (or being the subject of many fans), and the pressure to succeed. It’s not often you come across these issues, even in teenage fiction – and the diversity of characters in this book didn’t feel forced or tokenistic.
Each character’s voice was distinct, and I was rooting for both of these characters throughout the book.

A unique and incredibly readable read, and one that should be on your pre-order list as it is essential UKYA fiction. If you haven’t checked out Alice’s other books, now is the time.


The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


The Belles is a book that is completely up my street – it’s a thrilling court fantasy, with mystery and intrigue at every corner. I absolutely devoured this book – the language and writing is deliciously moreish, with vibrant descriptions unfurling the world of the Belles.

The Belles is the story of Camellia, one of six sisters who bring beauty to the fantasy kingdom of Orleans (based on New Orleans). The citizens of Orleans are born grey, and the Belles have the job of carrying out beauty treatments, changing the appearance and temperament of the citizens of Orleans at will. At the beginning of the book, the sisters are assigned a location where they will tend to the citizens – and Camellia is desperate to be favourite, assigned to the Royal family.

I raced through this book, desperate to know more about the Belles – I had (and have!) so many questions and can’t wait for the next book in the series. There are so many mysteries set up in this first book, and yet I still found the ending satisfying and unexpected.

This book wasn’t without its faults though – I’ll let other reviews talk about the treatment of queer characters in this book – and for me some of the characters were a little one-dimensional. For me, I didn’t find the flowery language too much, although other readers may find it a little grating. I must say I’m not the biggest fan of the cover design – I love the cover image and the design inside, but the back cover and title font feel a little childish to me. The blurb also contained spoilers for events that happen quite a way into the book.

If you’re looking for an exciting new court fantasy reminiscent of Red Queen or Everless, this is one for you. If you’re not, you should probably pick it up anyway.