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Captive Prince V3 came out last month -- long-awaited and very enjoyable and satisfying. Satisfying, however, in a significantly different manner to the first two books, and in a manner that pushes my buttons a little less. What I miss in it most is the sense, pervasive in the first two books, of an organising mind -- Laurent's mind, and the author's. Pacat was tremendously skillful in developing a narrator that is not so much unreliable as unknowledgeable. That would be the point of view character, Damen, who is plunged deep into the deadly political intrigue of a rival foreign country, and spends the first two books in desperate catch-up mode.

During those books it becomes apparent that initial antagonist Laurent's story is buried inside the tight perspective Damon's own story. It exists in observations that Damen or can't fully understand, or wilfully misunderstands; in events that colour past words or actions retrospectively; in surprises and slow puzzlings out of character deed and motivation. Every time Damen turns a corner on his understanding of Laurent and his environment, the foundations of our assumptions and prejudices crumble a little more, and we get a marginally clearer glimpse of the long game that Laurent is, and has always been, playing.

One of the cleverest things Pacat manages to do -- genius-level stuff -- is to run Damen's and the reader's levels of knowledge at different speeds. The reader -- cued by genre clues, mostly -- is running a few steps ahead of Damen at most points. And yet we still can only know what Damen knows, and seemingly inconsequential moments like the reveal of an earring as a disguise come as momentous, emotional, characterful shocks. Pacat manages that trickiest of things -- to have a Laurent's tremendous intelligence and competence actually feel like a living, realistic intelligence, organising the narrative behind the scenes without trickery or crutch, and she keeps it so, even on reread. This was, honestly, a revelatory pleasure for me.

By V3 most of the tension created by an unknowledgeable narrator has been settled: reader and Damen has much better handle on Laurent and the true antagonists. The reveals of V3 are correspondingly smaller and less undermining; it contains a narrative "cheat" POV switch; Laurent's interim plans reach fruition; romantic desire has been satisfied, although there is still a good level of tension; and, perhaps most crucially, the two major secrets that continue to underpin the emotional stakes are essentially resolved in the reader's mind, and are unavailable for the same kind of destabilising shock.

Laurent is still, of course, a genius, and legitimately reads so, but the third novel is organised around Damen's ascendency and power, and his is a much more straightforward, A-to-B, enduring kind of power, and the texture of the narrative follows accordingly. The plot(s) and characters remain twisty and complicated, but Damen is the one in the know now, and while it is immensely satisfying to see him and Laurent renegotiate their relationship and kick ass, that "uncharted territory" pleasure is missing, that feeling of you and Damen matching your wits against Pacat and Laurent both.

All three books are an incredible achievement, and Pacat is very generous about passing on some of the lessons she's learned. I've reread the first two several times and look forward to going over the third again to marvel at just how she does what she does. I've been thinking a lot about unreliable narrators lately, and the way she manipulates information, context and assumption just blows me away. Do check her out.
arf_she_said: (Default)
well last year was meant to be a year of writing, but I have never been able to get into the habit when it actually means something; I need to learn how to hold myself accountable but how do you hold yourself to account when you find yourself so boring?

The two times I managed to post with any vigour were attempts to understand the frustrating mess of disappointments that is Inception and purge the overwhelming push-pull of Broderskab's narrative conceit and dense sensuality. Beginning with Live Free or Twihard, I also had a series of enjoyable conversations over in the threads of the AV Club Supernatural reviews.

Nevertheless I must, I must write! I must watch and think and read and think and write in proportion or else I will get kicked out of uni, and then the dear knows what I will do.

2010 ended up being about movies. I saw more non-English language movies than I usually do, I checked out some of the classics, and I had a bit of a fitful nostalgic trip down Disney lane (Pocahontas is skeevier than I remembered even though Miss P herself remains the hottest of all the Disney girls, and Sleeping Beauty even more perfect than I remembered). It turns out I can recite and sing the entirety of Robin Hood along with the movie. Hey, if this academia gig don't work out, maybe I can take that on the road!

Of all the movies I saw for the first time this year there were quite a few that stick in the memory.

movies, yo )

Thus ceaseth the opinions. FOR NOW! Hopefully.
arf_she_said: (the situation being fluid and all.....)
So Brotherhood (Brodeskab) you guys, I don't even know where to start with this movie.



I could start with the heartwarming scene where the two attractive white guys bond over the creation of awful, just simply vile racist Neo-Nazi propaganda and proceed to distribute it with the sweet, guitar-accompanied abandon that sees young lovers in other movies frolicking in autumnal drifts.

I could start by comparing it to Brokeback Mountain and Einaym Pkuhot, two other recent, stunningly acted movies about the intense homoeroticism of a repressive, masculinist culture.

Or I could start with David Dencik.

Let me start with David Dencik. )

Man, I am so glad to purge my thoughts on this, I haven't been able to think about anything else for a whole day now.

ARF

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