Sunday, 19 July 2015
The Girl Who Would Be King - Review
After reading good things about The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson while setting up my blog, I picked it for my second review, expecting to take a week or so to read and review it properly. Instead, I stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading because I simply could not put it down. It’s that good!
Featuring a pair of kickass female leads, TGWWBK tells the story of teenagers Bonnie Braverman and Lola LeFever, both gifted with god-like superpowers on the event of their mother’s deaths. While Bonnie is driven to help and protect, Lola is set on death and destruction. Drawn to each other by destiny and a history which goes far beyond the two of them, the two girls take very different paths with their powers, paths which collide in spectacular style in the lead up to the inevitable confrontation.
Dual protagonist novels are notoriously difficult to write and usually difficult to read without the temptation to skip pages. But to call TGWWBK a dual protagonist novel would be untrue. What Thompson has done is even trickier; tell two interwoven stories through the eyes of a protagonist and an antagonist. The story itself may not be ground breaking - it’s your classic good vs evil, with a helping of “teenager with magical powers” thrown in - but the characters of Bonnie and Lola are what makes this book come alive. Relatable even when they’re punching helicopters out of the sky or setting their broken bones, both girls are damn near close to character perfection. The inner dialogue and first person point of view storytelling paints each character with her own vivid personality, there’s certainly no danger that you’ll forget which character you’re reading! Thompson is a truly gifted author (one who makes me positively green with envy!) who does a fantastic job of writing in two distinct voices. There are symbols to tell you which girl is narrating, but you likely won’t need them. The care that's gone into creating these girls as three dimensional characters, rather than just "skins" that the reader can slip into to experience the story, is clear to see. There's also some fantastic artwork online which is worth checking out.
As with all novels that feature more than one lead character, it’s hard not to play favourites, but whether you lean towards good or evil, this book has you covered. Bonnie is your more traditional YA novel heroine. Her gift is her curse, and she takes a while to accept what she is and decide to use her powers for good. She’s introverted and guarded, but ultimately kind and selfless, rising up to become what she was born to be. Maybe it says something about me though that my favourite character was Lola. Hand on heart, I found her to be one of the finest characters to come out of YA lit in a long time. She begins the book by killing her own mother for her powers, then driving off to Vegas on a motorcycle with a black cat suit and a vague plan to set up an underworld empire. She’s twisted, she’s evil and she’s seriously screwed up, but good lord is she fun to read! Brutally honest (as well as downright brutal) and utterly clueless at times, she’s like a comic book supervillain who grew up in Hollywood, and her descent into madness is utterly riveting. If the book had one flaw, it’s that Lola was such a fantastic character that she left Bonnie a little in the shade. I found myself rooting for the bad guy! That’s not to say at all that Bonnie’s chapters left me cold, but they were much more familiar territory for an avid reader of YA books.
Speaking of which, the book is a little edgier than most YA, with more graphic violence and a sprinkling of PG 13 sex, but that’s just another thing that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. There’s always the risk when setting this type of story in the real world rather than some mythical kingdom far, far away that a fair bit of suspension of disbelief will be required, and this is certainly true of TGWWBK. But the storytelling, and most importantly the characters, are so enthralling that you won’t even notice!
In summary. Five stars! Loved it, and cannot rate it highly enough! If you like ass kicking female leads, comic book violence, superpowers and an old fashioned good vs evil throw down, then this book is for you. Oh, and if you’re a guy? Please don’t be put off by a female lead, trust me when I say you will not be disappointed by TGWWBK. The only problem is I’ll need to clear my diary when Thompson’s next book comes out. I certainly won’t be getting much sleep!