Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mini Reviews: Birthmarked and Unearthly Tie-In Short Stories

Two of my favourite recent trilogies; Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien and Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, both had connected online-only content released right around the time the third and final novels were. I was really excited to read both, and thought I'd give my opinion on whether or not they are worthwhile.
First is "Ruled", a short story by Caragh M. O'Brien that takes place between Prized and Promised in her Birthmarked Trilogy. Like O'Brien's other short story, "Tortured"– reviewed here– which takes place between Birthmarked and Prized, it's also told from Leon's point of view.

It's a sweet story, that shows Leon visiting Gaia, wanting to give her a bracelet but instead ending up participating in a birth. It really helps to show Leon's outsider status, how he doesn't really belong. It also really shows how Leon feels about Gaia's distance. Reading the other books from Gaia's perspective, it's a lot easier to see where she's coming from when she has a hard time committing to Leon, whereas reading from his perspective is heart-breaking.

I did have a problem with vocabulary though, because at  one point, Leon calls Peter a "tool" and I definitely don't remember that vocabulary from the other Birthmarked books, though it's possible it was used, but in this context at least it took me out of the world O'Brien had created. It might have especially been a problem because with a short story there is so little time to bring that world alive again, every word counts.

Even though "Ruled" didn't blow me away like the full novels in the Birthmarked Trilogy have, it was definitely an enjoyable quick little read with some further insight into the characters, and after finishing Promised it was nice to return to the series, even for a moment.

"Radiant" is actually a novella-length story by Cynthia Hand that takes place between books 2 and 3 in the Unearthly Trilogy. Interestingly, unlike the full novels that are told strictly from Clara's perspective, "Radiant" alternates between Clara and Angela's viewpoints.

As always, I adored Hand's writing and I definitely think picking up "Radiant" is worthwhile. Unlike most ebook tie-ins, like "Ruled", that might provide a bit more character insight, "Radiant" actually provides more story insight. I haven't read the final Unearthly novel, Boundless, yet so I'm not sure how much will be revealed in it, but there is definitely new material and things I didn't know about the story just from reading Unearthly and Hallowed. "Radiant" also ends on a pretty intense note.

It was also really interesting to experience the Italian setting of "Radiant" as it takes place during the summer after Clara's final year of high school, following her mom's death and breakup with Tucker. So of course there wasn't any Tucker, just a few thoughts of him, and that was definitely something I missed. Angela's boy does play an important role though, and there is quite a bit of intrigue there that definitely left me worried about where things are going next. Ultimately, even though "Radiant" might not technically be necessary, I think it was a hundred percent worthwhile to read before picking up Boundless and I'm so glad I did.

Overall, two well-written tie-stories that I would definitely recommend picking up. "Ruled" is more of a quick bit of insight into Leon's thoughts, as well as seeing Gaia participate in a birth which was also pretty cool. In contrast, the much longer "Radiant" has time to develop new aspects of the story, which means I think picking it up is not only necessary, but a thrilling and enjoyable experience. I'm sad to see both the Unearthly and Birthmarked trilogies come to an end, but glad to have this extra time with them thanks to O'Brien and Hand's online stories. These are definitely two series I'll be recommending for years to come.

1 comment:

  1. I think Radiant might be up my ally--I love shorter tie-in novels/novellas/etc. that can really stand on their own!


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