Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Belladonna - Mary Finn

Belladonna by Mary Finn
Genre: YA, historical fiction, romance
Published on June 14, 2011
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 384
Read From: 4.13.12 - 4.18.12

When Thomas Rose first spots the girl concealed in a ditch outside his rural village, she looks as drab as a large, blending with the English countryside. Only her bright-red kerchief gives her away. Yet French Helene, who goes by "Ling" - for the year is 1757, and England and France are at war - is no ordinary bird. She is tiny and agile, with huge dark eyes and hair as black as plums. Ling enchants Thomas with tales of the circus, where she danced atop Belladonna, a pure-white horse with a tail the color of barley. But the leader of the troupe has sold Belladonna, and as Ling and Thomas set out to find her and fetch her back - with help from a mysterious painter and anatomist - Thomas knows that his simple life, that of a clever but unschooled wheelwright's son, is about to change forever.


This book had potential, but the Author failed to play into it. I had pretty high hopes, too, and in the end I was disappointed. To start with the pros, Thomas is likable, and the Author has a good writing style. She can effectively write accents without it making the character sound simple-minded. The Author clearly has an understanding of horses, too, and she plays around with a couple of interesting historical figures.

But. While Thomas is likable, his constant litany of Ling's beauty gets really annoying, to the point where I actually started dreading when he would meet up with Ling, because I knew Thomas would spend all of his narration time talking about the smoothing of her skin, the bright beauty of her eyes, blah, blah, blah. I don't mind if a character is attracted to another one - not usually, - but a character can talk about their attraction far too much. As for Ling, I am still divided on my opinion about her. She's a strong heroine and she's not flirty, but her personality is flighty - she's here and there, and her mood swings get a little tiring.

And there is, of course, the glaring and important fact that the storyline is completely missing. Reading the synopsis, one might think: Oh! A missing horse! Two young people who have to go rescue her! That sounds exciting! Well, I'm sorry to inform you that it isn't. Nothing about Belladonna's disappearance is sinister, and the whole process of finding her and retrieving her was not especially hard to do, and therefore unexciting. The majority of the book is spent with Thomas and Ling talking, Thomas being all mooney-eyed, and day-to-day descriptions of village life.

As for the writing style and technique, the Author has a nice writing style. However, the Author's choice to integrate so much French into the dialogue was a poor one, and here's why: there is hardly any translation and there is no glossary. Sometimes the Author uses the French words in a context that allows the Reader to understand the general idea of the word, and every once in a while there is an in-text translation. But over half of the time, the Reader is forced to skip huge chunks of dialogue, which makes for a very patchy and very frustrating read. So unless you know French, you'll get annoyed with the dialogue.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting The Reading Hedgehog! The hedgie and I love hearing from our readers, so please feel free to leave a comment or question! I always try to reply within a day or two. Please keep all comments civil and clean.