Monday, February 20, 2012

The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kittredge

So, I recently reviewed the first book in the Iron Codex Series: The Iron Thorn, and I really loved the world Caitlin Kittredge created. I got this one (the sequel) courtesy of Random House Children’s Books on NetGalley. And I was so excited to continue with this story.
If you haven’t read the first book yet, be warned that I am about to spoil things. This book begins with Aoife, Dean, Cal, Conrad, Aoife’s father and the father’s girlfriend holed up in the girlfriend’s family home. Everyone in Aoife’s life is determined to keep Aoife safe for the time being, to train her on how to use her weird better, and to better prepare her for some tough times ahead. Aoife can’t stop thinking about what she did with the gates and how now all the creatures from one land are entering another land.
She also can’t stop blaming herself for leaving her mad mother behind. And despite the warnings of everyone she has ever cared about, she decides to go back toward Lovecraft, where she is famous for being the destroyer. She did destroy the engine, and practically decimate a whole city. Proctors know what she looks like and are searching for her. But, she decides to go any way. She fights monsters, meets new friends, gets captured (several times by different bad guys), gets put on various missions (one per bad guy), and learns a lot about the creation of her world and how the universe works, and even how time works.
The explanations for her universe and for time, and their connection to one man/creature was a little vague and confusing, yet so, so fascinating! I loved the whole concept of the old ones, and how the one gate was connected with dreams. And I liked that a lot was left for the reader to figure out about this. The one thing Kittredge really mastered above all else was creating this world!
Aoife’s ultimate mission (the one she decides to do herself), is to find the machine that can turn back time, so she can stop herself from ever destroying the engine and leaving her mother behind. But, nothing is ever as simple as turning back time. And between her deals to the fey to hand herself (and her mother) over to them, her deals with the proctors to destroy a brotherhood against them in order to get Dean back, and a narrow escape of the only people who ever cared about her, Aoife has a lot going on and a lot to think about in this book. I loved seeing the Winter Court! And all the scenes on the submarine were so cool!
I did not like this book as much as the first one. It took me over a week to read this one, when normally a book like this is finished in a matter of a day or two. I feel like the world was just as interesting. And the story definitely had a lot of twists and turns.  It was the characters that were kind of not as interesting to me any more. To start with, my favorite character, Dean, was only in about half of it. And while I love how brave and strong Aoife is, I couldn’t help but think about the many ridiculously poor decisions she continued to make, even after all the mistakes made in book one. A) A character needs to grow throughout the series. And B) So many comments are made on her intelligence; yet, I couldn’t help but think how rather un-intelligent she was, making rash, dangerous decisions, without any regard for her life and safety, along with the well-being of others. In a way, she kind of reminded me of a certain boy wizard.
I get that she had a tough life with her brother before. Though, we only technically get to witness one scene of her past life that demonstrates this. I would have liked to have seen more of that because then I might have felt more empathy toward Aoife and her brother. But, even with this assumed tragic past, she was way too worried about her mother! Everyone was telling her that her mother was a survivor. Her mother survived the mad house for years. And she survived living in a world of iron. Why was the possible destruction of the world along with the possible destruction of all the worlds in the universe worth risking to save her crazy mom, who’d most likely survive any way?!? I really did not get Aoife’s motives. And I certainly lost most of the respect I had left for her for doing this. I mean her mother wasn’t even a real mother to her. She grew up in foster care as a ward of the state! Why was her mother worth everything? And why couldn’t she have learned anything from her past mistakes?
The story is good. The world is unbelievably good. I just wish the characters were more realistic and or easier to care about, especially the main character. I give this one a 7/10, and it really would have gotten a 10/10 if not for the lack of character development and growth.

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