Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nerds Heart YA - The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

Today is the day when Becky and I reveal our choice for the Nerds Heart YA book competition. In the following review of The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier, my thoughts are in the general green and Becky's are in white. The other book that we read was Pretty Monsters, which Becky will be posting on her blog. You can read it by clicking here.

THE KINGDOM’S HEART is the City. The City’s heart is the King. The King’s heart is the Prince. The Prince is missing.
Ever since the Prince disappeared, nothing has been right in the Kingdom. Something has disturbed the strange, old magic that whispers around its borders . . . something cunning and powerful. And the disturbance extends to the farthest reaches of the Kingdom, including the idyllic village where Timou is learning to be a mage under her father’s tutelage.
When Timou’s father journeys to the City to help look for the Prince, but never returns, Timou senses that the disturbance in the Kingdom is linked to her—and to the undiscovered heritage of the mother she never knew. She must leave her village, even if it means confronting powers greater than her own, even though what she finds may challenge everything she knows. Even if it means leaving love behind.

What do you think of the cover? What was your first impression? Based on the cover alone, would you have been drawn to book and wanting to read it?

- When I looked at the cover when I bought the book, I thought fantasy, so I may have given it a second glance if I had saw it somewhere, but really, I was not a big fan of the cover overall. It's a very dark cover, but it actually does represent the book. It's very rare nowadays that instead of trying to make the cover sell the book the artist appears to have actually read the book.

-I did not care for the cover at all. The cover did not say read me, read me. After having read the novel, I can see why the cover makes sense. The strange girl with white hair. The bridge. The city. And without a doubt the cover's dark tones do justice to the darkness that prevails this fantasy novel.

What would you say if you had to describe Rachel Neumeier's writing style?

- My biggest complaint with the novel was that I was not a huge fan of Neumeier's writing style. She has written a fantasy world that is complex and interesting, but she wrote it in such a way that I found her writing boring at times. I would be reading along and something would make me pause and consider. I prefer books where there is no interruptions, but you could tell at times that this was Neumeier's first book.

- Neumeier's writing is definitely imaginative. It's a complex fantasy novel that weaves together a world full of interesting characters--some good, some bad, all rather mysterious. It's not always easy to follow, however.

Did you enjoy the fantasy world created by Neumeier? Why or why not?

- I'm not sure. There were moments that I thought she had a very imaginative world going on, but then there were other moments where I just couldn't seem to relate to what was going on. Overall, I would say yes, but there were moments where I just couldn't seem to grasp the story. I can even think of the scenes that didn't work for me now, but I am afraid they might be spoilers. It wasn't the whole book, though, and other people might not even notice.

- Sometimes. There were places that had me feeling a bit lost and a bit disconnected. I think a few of the imaginative twists and turns of this one went over my head. I wasn't quite able to imagine or visualize along with the writer the story she was trying to tell. But that being said, the novel had some intriguing characters. Characters that I enjoyed getting to know. So while I wasn't completely connected, I did enjoy elements of the story.

What do you think is the book's strength?

- The story. When you get passed the few little problems I had with it, Neumeier did come up with a creative story. I really enjoyed the idea of the City in the Lake. It meant there were two kingdoms for the story to take place. Neumeier wrote interesting characters and had interesting plot developments. Once in a while I would figure things out before they were revealed, but generally it was such a different story that you would find yourself feeling a bit refreshed that things were not always going the way that you thought they would. I read a lot of fantasy, so it is nice to have something different.

- It has a good premise. The prince goes missing. This prince is "the heart of the kingdom." Without the prince, the king and queen, indeed the whole kingdom begins to lose it. Things begin to go wrong, very wrong, and the effect is becoming more and more widespread. I think Neumeier did well in presenting a story with a complex cast of characters. She also did a good job creating a mysterious and atmospheric story.

What do you think is the book's weakness?

- I got confused. There was a bit of scientific theory at play in this book that sometimes I felt like I wasn't really grasping it. I think she tries too hard sometimes to be different and she sacrifices her story as a result. Like I mentioned above, there were times when I had to pause in the story. I would be reading along and then I would just get through a paragraph and stop because I apparently missed something. There were certain storylines that at the end of the day, I still don't know if I really could visualize. Sometimes I think there was too much description thrown at me at once and I couldn't always grasp it all in my mind.

- At times I think the novel is too complex for its own good. I'm not sure what to think. There were places I was confused, but I'm not sure if it's because it was written that way, or if it's just me not getting it. I'll try to explain. Neumeier imagines things a bit too abstractly for me. A few of the twists in this one were too abstract for me to follow through. I couldn't conceptualize it or visualize it. This may be a reader by reader thing. Other readers may be able to do a better job at this than I did.

Who is your favorite character? Do you have a favorite scene?

- One thing I do have to say is that I enjoyed the characters. She may have went a bit off track with the story at times, but she was on track with the characters. I find they all had characteristics that I could enjoy. I don't really know if I have a favourite. They all brought something to the story.

- I enjoyed many of the characters, but if I had to choose, I'd probably go with Jonas. I liked his courage and devotion. He makes for a good hero.

- As to a favourite scene... I don't think I have a favourite. It's been a few days since I finished the book and I am sitting here thinking, but nothing is really jumping out at me.

- I don't know that I have a favorite scene. One of the more memorable scenes is Timou's first encounter with the snake or serpent in the forest.

How does this compare to other fantasy novels you've read?

- It's not memorable. It's different, but not enough that you are going to remember it forever. I read it in one sitting, so obviously it has something going for it, but overall... I am sitting here trying to remember things like my favourite scenes and I nothing is jumping out at me. This is not a fantastic fantasy novel, really, it is just 'okay'.

- I'll be honest. This isn't topping my list of fantasy novels. I enjoyed elements of this one. I did. But I've enjoyed other fantasy novels more.

Who would you recommend this book to? Do you think it's a book that both young adults and adults can enjoy?

- Frankly, I wouldn't recommend this book. If I did, it would be with the added remark that I didn't actually like it that much, but you might! I mean, I didn't hate it, don't get me wrong, but I just didn't love it. I think there are a lot better fantasy novels out there to be reading. This is just in comparision to every fantasy novel I have read, but this contest only compares it to one book.

- I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy fantasy and adventure novels. While there is a slight romantic element involved, the heart of this one is in the mysterious disappearance of a prince (soon followed by the disappearance of a king) and the adventure quests taken on by others (our heroes and heroines) to solve the mystery, save the day (battle forces of evil), and restore the kingdom. For those readers who love reading epic-like battles of good versus evil, then this one is an interesting read.

I also get to announce the winner. After some consideration, we have both decided that The City in the Lake is the better of the two books. It will be moving on in the competition to be read by Stephanie from Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic! Stay tuned!


  1. Really? after reading both reviews i was pretty certain that Pretty Monsters got through, cause none of you sounded too enthusiastic about City in the lake! so I guess the short stories weren't too impressive either:P

  2. I'm with Valentina; reading your review, I figured the other book was a shoe-in. It sounds like it must've been a lesser of two evils kind of a deal.

  3. It sounds like you guys didn't get such a good bracket, but I guess we knew starting out some books would be weaker than others.

  4. I'm with Valentina--after reading the reviews, I was sure Pretty Monsters was going to the winner. I think Pretty Monsters is the book I'll be more likely to pick up. Mostly because both you and Becky mentioned being confused at times during The City in the Lake, and I figure if it had you a little confused at parts, I'd probably be totally lost. :) And I hate that feeling.

  5. I totally loved this format to review this book. I do not like the cover at all. Would not pick it up based on it. I appreciate your frankness in regards to if you would recommend this book to others..Thank you!

  6. I'd be much more likely to read the Kelly Link too, mainly because I am not such a fan of this kind of fantasy.

  7. Aw, I'm sorry y'all didn't enjoy Pretty Monsters more. :( I feel bad for nominating it for the short list!

    I really enjoyed it myself. I don't read many short stories, so I just had different expectations maybe? Most short stories I've read (granted, not many) don't have conclusive endings, so that didn't bother me. I had favorite stories, but I enjoyed all of them.

  8. Valentina: I am not a big short story person, so they have to be REALLY good to catch my attention.

    Memory: Yeah, I really didn't like either of them.

    Jodie: Nope, but someone else might love it, so you never know what could happen in the end!

    Debi: Pretty Monsters was a book that I had planned to read anyways. The other one I had never even heard of before.

    Staci: Yeah, the cover isn't the best. Too much going on, I think!

    Lenore: I am. That's why I was so sad I didn't love it.

    Kelly: That's okay! It is not your fault. Everyone likes something different. :)


Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I am so sorry, but I turned anonymous commenting off. I have had it from the very beginning, but that is how the spam is getting by my spam filter at the moment. If it is a big deal I will turn it back on and moderate all comments. I also changed moderation from older than 14 days to older than 7.