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Odd review perspectives - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Odd review perspectives
For entertainment purposes, I went and read some Warriors reviews. Mostly, they were what I'd expect, though it surprised me that a few of the reviewers thought it would be hard to keep track of "so many" cat characters. They also pointed to the thing that annoys me, the "meowing" of dialogue, which is, in the words of Kirkus, "too precious."

But it was also an instructive reminder of why reviews always need to be examined with a slightly raised eyebrow.

Kirkus was also stuck on the "preciousness" of the word "kittypet" for housecats, which made me go, "Huh?" Because, um, when the forest cats use the word, it's distinctly meant as mockery. (Fireheart uses it because he's used to it, but it's a word that is more commonly "spat" or "sneered" than "said," or even, God help us, "meowed." As the series goes on and they're forced to deal with more house cats--and as Firestar redefines their perceptions--the term has become more neutral, but as it's the only term they have, they continue to use it.) No one uses it affectionately, and it's meant to make fun of the "preciousness" of house pets, which they perceive as being nothing but toys for humans. It's like missing the easy SAT practice questions about, "The tone of this passage can best be described as...," in which three of the choices listed are so obviously off-base that there's no way you could miss it... except that they do.

This isn't a subtle distinction, or a point that it's easy to lose. It's one of the main issues in the story--the sneering contempt for Fireheart's origins. There are a lot of things it's possible to miss, but that's not one of them. The clan cats end up getting a comeuppance not just with the kind and wise Fireheart, but with a vicious band of city cats who one of the clan cats dismisses as "nothing but kittypets" a moment before one of them tears a clan leader down the abdomen and coldly watches him bleed out nine lives at once. Coming out of these books not realizing that the cats' use of the dismissive term "kittypets" is meant to be a sign of a serious and irrational prejudice is kind of like coming out of Harry Potter and complaining that the repeated use of the word "mudblood" is an annoying tic to refer to anyone who happens not to be born magical, and the books would be much better if JKR would just use a neutral term. (Though "muggle-born" is a valid alternate term in the society, while there is no comparable alternate in Warriors for "kittypet").

Another review (don't remember where) of the second book actually complained that, since the reviewer deals with strays who want homes, no feral cat would really want to stay in the wild. Yeah. I can also tell a story of a fox hit by a car who ended up living with his humans long after he regained his eyesight, because he liked them and didn't want to leave. But is that really likely to be true for foxes in general? I don't recollect a lot of squirrels and ducks trying to get into my house. Feral cats are wild animals. Rusty may have been born a pet, but he's an individual cat who wanted to be wild. The house cats, for the most part, don't go off and join the clans. Grr. And this was then followed by a snide comment that no one could possibly be interested in Fireheart's conflicted desires about his past life in Fire and Ice, where he's thinking about easy food and warmth vs his life in the forest... in other words, addressing the exact thing that the first complaint was about.

Make up your mind, man.

Oh, well. I think that's not a reviewer I'd put a lot of trust in on books I haven't read, you know?
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 18th, 2007 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I remember a reviewer who used the wrong name for one of the main characters in a book I was reading that was part of a series. He also gave a summary that, after I read it, didn't sound much like the book but did sound like what you might have thought the book was about if you'd only read the blurb.

That was when I was at college and back issues of review magazines were so very easy to get ahold of. I found the rest of that magazines reviews on the other books in the series. None of the others were that glaringly off, but (once my suspicions were raised) I could legitimately wonder whether the reviewer had read any of them. It wasn't because he tended to dwell on generalities or because he kept saying how he hated the books (although he did).

In every, single review, he used the same wrong name for one of the main characters.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 18th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, after the first one, I'd think someone would have written to the editor, who would have caught it in subsequent misnamings. :headscratch:

I mean, I know that you get piles of books to review and you have to read quickly, but noting and checking things before you send off the actual review would be, you'd think, SOP.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 19th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it was the Kirkus review of one of the Death Gate Cycle books by Weis and Hickman. I think it was the sixth although it might have been the fifth one. It's been long enough (am I dating myself or what?) that I'd have to double check the name of the character they got wrong. I think it was Alfred and that they called him Albert or something like that instead. I would have passed it as a normal typo if I hadn't gone back and read the other reviews. It made a reference to a character named Haplo dodging assassins throughout the book when, actually, assassination attempts were a pretty small part of the plot (the blurb made it sound like it would be a lot more of it).

I've always taken Kirkus SF&F reviews with a grain of salt since then.

Ellen
cheddartrek From: cheddartrek Date: February 18th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Warriors

I've really enjoyed reading the Warriors books. I checked the first one out of my local library after seeing your first post relating to the series, so thanks for the recommendation.

I agree with what you said in a previous post about Tigerstar being an excellent villain, though I didn't care as much for him when he made a reappearance in the New Prophecy series.

I also agree with you about this post, and I don't really have much to add to it. The term kittypet was always used as a derogatory term, but Fireheart/Firestar and BloodClan made it clear that things aren't always as they seem with "kittypets."

Hrmmm, so basically, I'm just posting to say that I agree with you. I'm also using my agreeing with you as an excuse to finally say thanks for directing towards the series, which was the real reason that I wanted to post in the first place.

Thanks. I enjoy these books for most of the same reasons that I enjoy Harry Potter, which are too numerous and hard to express to go into right now.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 18th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Warriors

Glad you liked them!

I didn't mind Tigerstar appearing in NP, largely because Hawkfrost turned out to be a kind of lame villain, and at least Tigerstar gave some texture. Also, I love cat hell--lots of rustling underbrush and no prey, cold, and no sunlight, moonlight, or starlight, plus they rarely see other cats. I could see that being a cat's worst nightmare. ;p
cheddartrek From: cheddartrek Date: February 18th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Warriors

Yep, I thought they did a great job with their depiction of "cat hell." Very well done. It's something different from the traditional fire and brimstone, and suited especially to the cats of the forest.

I enjoyed the first series more than the second, though both were worth reading. I think I felt that the books jumped perspective a bit too much in the New Prophecy, so that we weren't really following one cat's journey like we were with Fireheart. That's a personal preference though, and I could understand if some people preferred getting in everyone's head a bit.

I really liked Crowfeather after a while. I'm not sure exactly why, but I think that apart from Fireheart he's my favorite.

I'll be quiet now, but it was nice being able to discuss (briefly) these books. I don't know many people who've both read them and think them worthy of discussion.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 18th, 2007 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Warriors

Well, they're trying to drum up more membership at warriorcat_icon, which, despite its name, is for discussion, fan art, fic, and so on as well as icons. Kind of a young and small membership at the moment, but anyone who wants to go over, it's not a bad little comm.
murasaki99 From: murasaki99 Date: February 18th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
There used to be a Philly-area movie reviewer who loathed SF and fantasy, so we used him as our negative weathervane. He hated ET, Star Wars, all the Trek movies. The more he hated it, the quicker we got our tickets. :)
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