The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Susann Cokal
Candlewick Press, October 2013
Reviewed from ARC
I wanted to like this.
I mean, it’s huge, it’s about my favorite general period in history, it uses a fairy tale motif throughout, it’s got a stunning package, and people whose opinions I respect say this is an it book when it comes to literary books this year.
I really really wanted to like this.
It was long. It was gratuitous. It was full of lovely writing, I’ll grant that for sure, but that lovely prose often struck me as lovely for it’s own sake rather than an integral part of the narrative, and the characters never convinced me; too often they acted as the narrative dictated.
It was so adult I didn’t feel I was old enough to be reading it, which isn’t really a fair assessment, but more to the point, the characters were not, in any modern way, teenagers; they were adults in a scary adult world, and although I usually stand by the publisher-listed age, this is where Sophie’s argument (paraphrased, possibly mangled, and which she may have only ever made to me verbally) that a well-written YA novel should in some essential way be about or speak to teens is ringing loudly in my ears, because this is the first book where I can’t find the YA-ness (appeal or theme or resonance) at all.
I do pride myself on being able to get past my own dislike, and I can see how there is a lot to discuss here from a literary perspective, but in the end I didn’t have much of anything nice to say, and Thumper’s father would caution me to therefore hold my tongue.*
Instead, I’m hoping that the handful of you who strongly champion this one as a contender, maybe even a frontrunner, will see my restraint as an opportunity to shout your arguments from the treetops (or at least the comment box). Have at it, convince us — and may the best argument win.
*At least until the comments.