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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Discord's Apple was a book that I received whilst I was working at Gollancz over the summer two years ago. I feel really bad that it took me two years to get to this, but then I knew that my book-buying habits were somewhat out of control even back then. After a little research, I found out that Carrie Vaughn also wrote the Kitty Norville series, which I hear is very good. So this seemed like a good place to try out her writing, without starting a huge series in the process. 

Discord's Apple is a bit of an odd premise. It follows Evie Walker as she returns home to take care of her father as he dies of cancer. Whilst there, she realises that the basement of her family house contains several items from fairy-tale and myth; all the while there are supernatural forces gathering in order to gain the eponymous apple. To make things worse, the political situation of the world at large is particularly delicate and rapidly spiraling out of control, following a major act of terrorism in an atmosphere not dissimilar to that of the Cold War.
As you can probably tell, there are some pretty high stakes in this novel, the most interesting of which is the supernatural aspect of it. It focuses heavily on Greek mythology, particularly that of the Trojan War, a subject that I am quite fond of, so I was inclined to like it from the start. One part in particular that I liked was the portrayal of the Greek pantheon: it is just as cruel and petty as it is in the myths, not made grander and more moral like so many adaptations that I've seen before. It made for some good character interaction, especially between Apollo and Sinon/Alex: it starts off about as badly as you can get, what with the whole rape thing, but somehow mellows out into mutual trust and respect. It's not an especially comfortable relationship to watch, but then the Greek gods have never been simple or one-dimensional enough to warrant simple, comfortable relationships. The humans are generally less well-formed and, in my opinion, less interesting. Evie is pretty much your average girl-next-door type who is given an awesome responsibility to wield; she's still grieving over her mother and is prone to emotional outbursts, but she doesn't really do much. It's the problem she has as one of the only important squishy humans: whilst her internal struggle between her growing responsibilities and her father's ever-impending death is touching, it's just not as interesting as the external conflict, which is completely world-changing in scale. There's an almost romance in her story as well, but it's so chaste that it might as well not be there; hell, I saw more homosexual sexuality in this book than heterosexual, which was rather unexpected. Not unappreciated mind you, just unexpected. 

This review turned out a bit more train-of-thought than I'm used to. Overall, I think that this is a good popcorn book. The external conflict is very engaging, so much so that the main character's internal conflict seems ridiculously small in comparison. Despite this, it's still a very well-written and engaging read, with a lot of complex side characters. 4/5 

Next review: I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter 

Signing off, 

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