[Sci Fi Month] Series Reflection: Divergent (Veronica Roth)

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Series stats

Author: Veronica Roth
Number of books: 3 (5 novellas also available)
Total number of pages (novellas not included): 1538

Opening lines:

There is one mirror in my house.  It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.  Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.

Status on my shelves:

I own books two and three of this series but don’t yet own a copy of Divergent since I borrowed a library copy.  Ironically I think Divergent is my favourite of the trilogy!

Why I picked this series up:

I confess – this is a series I picked up because of the hype! The series kept getting recommended to me by Goodreads and Amazon, and I’d heard lots of good things about it.  I reserved myself a library copy and that was that!

How I felt about it:

Sixteen-year olds in this dystopian world have to attend a Choosing Ceremony, where they choose the faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives.  There are five factions in this world, each dedicated to one trait.  Tris has grown up as part of the Abnegation, the selfless.  The other four factions are the Erudite, who value knowledge, the Candor, who value honesty, the Amity, who strive for peace and the Dauntless, who value bravery.  On her Choosing Day, she must decide whether to stay with her family, in the faction she’s always known, or whether she belongs somewhere else.

Divergent is packed with action and suspense, and Veronica Roth kept the story fast-paced throughout.  The writing and the drama kept my glued to the story, and I flew through the first book in a day!  The initiation into the factions, the training and the fight-scenes were all thrilling and dramatic, and kept me hooked.

The supporting characters, including Tris’ brother Caleb, her instructor Four, and the other initiates were fantastic.  Three-dimensional, believable and likeable, I genuinely cared what happened to each of them.  The characters introduced later on in the series were also really interesting, trying to figure out what made them tick and where their paths would lead next.

Tris is a very complex character.  She’s not perfect and she can at times make decisions for selfish reasons.  I didn’t mind that at all, because it made her seem real and believable – every one of us is guilty of doing the same occasionally.  She grew gradually throughout the series, as did many of the other characters.  Veronica Roth didn’t have any characters undergo sudden changes, and almost all had hidden depths to them.  My only disappointment was that Tris’ selfishness, the trait which made her so believable to begin with, seemed to become less of a part of her as the series went on.  I assume her increasing selflessness was designed to show character growth, but to me it began to feel forced and sometimes unbelievable (particularly that she’d already undergone plenty of character growth!).

I really enjoyed Divergent; learning about the Abnegation, the Choosing Day ceremony, the other factions and the initiation ceremonies.  I gave it a 4/5 overall.  I also really liked Insurgent, which I flew threw because it was thoroughly gripping.  The ending felt a bit predictable but I enjoyed it, and I gave that 4/5 too.  Whilst I really liked those two books, Allegiant for me, was a disappointment.  The ending has been widely shared all over the internet, but I won’t be going into it here!  All I’ll say about it is that I didn’t especially love the ending, but I can see why it ended the way it did.  The ending is not all that disappointed me about the final book in the trilogy. Written from two perspectives, it didn’t feel like these two voices were distinct enough, which was frustrating at times.  The plot and the world-building actually seemed to fall apart a bit in the final book as well.  For me, it felt like too many loose ends had tried to be tied up last minute, as a result of keeping the suspense up throughout the first two books.  This was not only sometimes confusing, but also left me with more questions than answers.

One more thing:

There’s not a love triangle in Divergent, which is wonderful!  There is a romance, but it grows in a believable, organic seeming way.  The relationship goes through ups, downs, is on and then off, and has some serious problems to get through.  But, none of those problems is an unwanted third wheel!

250 Word Review: Insurgent, Veronica Roth

Summary (From Goodreads.com)
One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Length: 525 pages
Series? Yes – Preceded by Divergent & followed by a third title to be anounced.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★
Overall: ★★★★

My opinion:
Having heard so many great things about Divergent, I read that and promptly ordered Insurgent off Amazon.  I’m not sorry I did!

We touched on the similarities between Divergent and The Hunger Games in the review of Divergent, and there are more in Insurgent.  Most notable, the feel of the novels – Divergent is similar in feel to The Hunger Games itself, whilst Insurgent has more of a Mockingjay feel to it.

I found the characters to be just as imperfect and compelling as previously – Caleb, Tris, Four and the others all have flaws and I find that makes them more likable than if they were good at everything and generally perfect.  I thought Tris was more annoying (though I think that was intentional) but I found other characters made up for that.

I found Insurgent the more gripping of the two, but also a little more difficult to keep up with. It’s certainly not hard going by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d be less comfortable to take it on a journey or somewhere I’d be likely to interrupted.

My biggest objection to the book is somewhat difficult to explain without giving plot spoilers to those who haven’t read it yet!  I personally felt the conclusion to the book was reasonably predictable, which was a bit of a turn-off for me, but overall I did enjoy it.

Buy it? I’d be happy to buy it for less than a fiver, which it’s now widely available for.
In a nutshell: Recommended to fans of the series – fast-paced, gripping but a bit predictable.

Top Ten Tuesday: If you liked… you might enjoy….

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted at The Broke and The Bookish where they post a list idea and everyone is welcome to post the list with their own answers.  This week’s theme is “Top Ten Books For People Who Like X Book”.

I didn’t want to pick just one book, because what fun is that as a reader if you happened to hate it? Or have never heard of it?!  Instead, I’ve picked a few different books and offered readalikes for each.

Each link is to the first book of the series, and all descriptions are from Goodreads.com.

If you liked….

You might like
1.The Uglies Quartet: Uglies / Pretties / Specials / Extras by Scott Westerfield
Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and become Pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from a repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time.

In just a few weeks, Tally will be there. But Tally’s new friend, Shay, isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world – and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worse choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

2. The Divergent Trilogy: Divergent / Insurgent / TBR by Veronica Roth
In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

3. The Delirium Trilogy: Delirium / Pandemonium / Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

If you liked….

You might like
1.Wizard’s First Rule: Sword of Truth #1 by Terry Goodkind
In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher’s forest sanctuary seeking help . . . and more. His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence.

In a dark age it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who hold dominion, Richard and Kahlan must take up that challenge or become the next victims. Beyond awaits a bewitching land where even the best of their hearts could betray them. Yet, Richard fears nothing so much as what secrets his sword might reveal about his own soul. Falling in love would destroy them–for reasons Richard can’t imagine and Kahlan dare not say.

In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword–to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed . . . or that their time has run out.
This is the beginning. One book. One Rule. Witness the birth of a legend.

2. The Farseer Trilogy: Assassin’s Apprentice / Royal Assassin / Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chilvary Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribbing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

3.The Belgariad: Pawn of Prophecy / Queen of Sorcery / Magician’s Gambit / Castle of Wizardry / Enchanter’s End Game by David Eddings
Long ago, so the storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion over all and drove the world to war. Now the one talisman keeping this sinister force from seizing power has been disturbed—and no one will be safe. . . .

Raised on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, Garion spends his days lounging in his aunt’s warm kitchen and playing in the surrounding fields with his friends. He has never believed in magic, despite the presence of a cloaked, shadowless stranger who has haunted him from a distance for years. But one afternoon, the wise storyteller Wolf appears and urges Garion and his aunt to leave the farm that very night. Without understanding why, Garion is whisked away from the only home he has ever known—and thrown into dark and unfamiliar lands.

Thus begins an extraordinary quest to stop a reawakened evil from devouring all that is good. It is a journey that will lead Garion to discover his heritage and his future. For the magic that once seemed impossible to Garion is now his destiny.

If you liked….

You might like
1.The Study Trilogy: Poison Study / Magic Study / Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

2. Bitten: The Women of the Otherworld Series #1 by Kelley Armstrong
Elena Michaels seems like the typically strong and sexy modern woman, She lives with her architect boyfriend, writes for a popular newspaper, and works out at the gym. She’s also a werewolf.

Elena has done all she can to assimilate to the human world, but the man whose bite changed her existence forever, and his legacy, continue to haunt her. Thrown into a desperate war for survival that tests her allegiance to a secret clan of werewolves, Elena must recon with who, and what, she is in this passionate, page-turning novel.

3. Dead Until Dark: The Southern Vampire Mysteries (a.k.a. True Blood novels) #1 by Charlaine Harris – Please look past the POOR goodreads description!
Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out…. Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

If you liked….

You might like
1.The Penelopiad: by Margaret Atwood
In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope–wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy–is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and–curiously–twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality–and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

TGIF & Feature & Follow (#1)

As a new blogger, I’m constantly finding more blogs that I like.  Blog hops &weekly features seem like a great way to meet new people, so I’m going to give two a go this week and see how it goes!  Both the features I’ve picked run today (which means if you hate them, you only have to skip one post!) and feature a book-ish question to answer.

Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted at Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read.  The idea is that two blogs are featured every week, and it allows book bloggers to meet more like-minded individuals.

The question this week is:

Q: Birthday Wishes — Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake…who is it and what book are they from??

I would love for it to be Silk (Prince Kheldar) out of the Belgariad series by David Eddings.  He’s an amazing character, and I imagine it could result in a hilarious birthday – he’d end up convincing everyone to indulge in something fun but probably immoral.

“I thought you said you were the one in charge!” Ce’Nedra exclaimed.
“I lied.” Silk said. “It’s a vice I have.”

I think my second choice would probably have to be Charlie Weasley from Harry Potter.  I’m not a huge Charlie fan in all honesty, but who wouldn’t want to see if they could talk Charlie into letting them ride a dragon for their birthday? Plus, I’m pretty sure if you played your cards right you could end up with a Molly Weasley homemade birthday cake, and a night out with the Weasley kids (excluding Percy) and the Trio (if you must!)

TGIF is a weekly feature hosted at Greads.

The question this week:

Best I’ve Read So Far: We’re half way through the year (crazy how time flies!), which top 3 books are the best you’ve read so far this year?

Oh dear, I found this question seriously difficult.

I’ve settled on (in no particular order)

1. Divergent
I read this because it’s been on my TBR list forever, after hearing so much about it.  I finally knuckled down and got on with it in preparation for the release of Insurgent, but I haven’t got a copy of that yet.

2. City of Dragons

I’m a big Robin Hobb fan, having loved her Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1)
& Liveshiptrilogies (and enjoyed the Tawny Mantrilogy).  This series has been my favourite so far though, and this book my favourite of the series.  I literally couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait for the next.

3. Fifty Shades Darker
I know this is a controversial choice – Fifty Shades has been both loved and hated.  Was it the best written book? No.  Was it enjoyable, gripping and full of twists? Yes.  I found book 2 to be the most dramatic, and felt it had more of a plot (even if it was a bit crazy!) than Fifty Shades of Grey.  I also feel that, despite the mixed reviews of Fifty Shades, E.L. James has made….shall we say more adult?…books more popular and less taboo to the wider market, and I personally think that can only be a good thing.

Divergent (Veronica Roth)

Divergent (Veronica Roth)Divergent Series: Divergent #1
on 7-11-2013
Genres: Dystopia
Pages: 489
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

My opinion:
I picked this up because I’ve heard a lot about it (particularly in comparison to The Hunger Games) and I like dystopian fiction.

There are definitely similarities between this and HG; dystopian world, female protagonist, personal growth, romance and the scene set for an uprising.

HG Difference: Tris chose to leave for another faction, (arguably selfishness), whilst Katniss chose to save her sister (selflessly).  I think that makes Tris a believable character – how many of us have never made a selfish decision?

“We should think of our family…But.  But we must also think of ourselves.” Pg 36.

Some readers object to the five factions as arbitrary segregation and unbelievable. However, the logic behind the factions (revealed very briefly later on) is as believable as the HG concept, I think.

Negative reviews also object to the ‘brave’ acts committed by the Dauntless – many are simply stupid.  This is one criticism I absolutely agree with, however the story suggests Dauntless has deviated from the ideal: stupid thrill-seeking is not the aim, but is plot-relevant.

I enjoyed Divergent, but I don’t know if it’ll make my Top #10 Reads this year.  Probably the Top #20 though.

Buy it? I’d buy it on a deal – 2 for £7, buy 2 get 1 free etc.
In a nutshell: A quick, easy, enjoyable read, worth a look given the hype.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star