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Sunday, March 7, 2010

audio review: Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri


Another #1:
Another Faust
by Daniel & Dina Nayeri

One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish - only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and
elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city's most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor's extraordinary "gifts."
But as the students claw their way up - reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty - the side-effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins.

young adult fiction ; urban fantasy { genre
PG for mild violence { rating
August 25, 2009 { first released
Brilliance-Audio, read by Katherine Kellgren (11h) { review edition
borrowed { acquisition
Amazon.com ; Amazon.ca ; IndieBound ; Book Depository { purchase links

Why I Read This
I have never read the full text of the original Faust, but I've heard the story and this new interpretation of it sounded quite interesting. I also do love sibling banter and the tragedy of power theme.

First Lines
Five Years Previously
London

Victoria didn’t have time to play. She didn’t have time for friends or laughing or jumping or any other thing little kids do. Victoria was ten, but she didn’t like ten-year-olds. At all the London dinner parties, her job was to shut up and look well-behaved for the adults. She would sit in a big plush armchair, her feet barely touching the floor, and she would pick the petals off a bouquet of blue hydrangeas in a nearby vase. She would quietly brood as she watched the adults circle the room, drink tea or cocktails, and comment on the sculptures in the foyer.

Overall Rating
☂☂☂☂

An amazing tale wrought out of teenage desires fulfilled and tested, complicated character dynamics, and the cruel consequences of desperation. It is hard to watch the teens grow more obsessed and dependent on their powers, at the same time alienating themselves and hiding behind their cruelty. The twists and turns in the last few chapters delves further into that overhead question of willing sacrifice versus coming to peace with oneself, culminating in what I choose to believe as an ending open for interpretation.
The narrator breathes a vibrant and colourful life into the story through her amazing range of accents for each character, major or minor, it is easy to overlook the sometimes underwhelming writing.

review posted to Amazon.ca, Book Depository, goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Plot/Themes
☂☂☂☂.5

I usually abhor when teens abuse the powers that are bestowed upon them, in the selfish way teenagers do, but this book handles the topic in just the right light to make even me feel sympathetic. I remember being a young child and wanting wanting wanting things, usually impossible things like magically becoming smarter or prettier. This book deals with what would happen if children, barely in their tweens and desperate in one way or another, are actually granted their wishes. It is so much more than a "be careful what you wish for" story for children, but asks "what are you willing to sacrifice for a wish"? I prefer to think that the authors never do make a final judgement on who is "right" or "wrong" about their choice in sacrifices, but that is debatable.
I'm sure I've missed out a lot on the references to the original Faust tale, but it's not essential to the enjoying of this story.

Characters
☂☂☂☂☂

The prologue introduces us to each of the children, and it's so easy to picture real kids just like them going through the pains of sibling rivalry, poverty, parental divorce, and being young and foolish enough to make a deal with the Devil. Victoria is desperate for approval after being overlooked by her parents; Belle craves to be beautiful, while her twin Bice just wants more time with her books; Christian fears of going back to a life on the streets; Valentin is devastated by his parents' infidelity. While some of them succumb to the lure of using their powers to whatever end they wished, the others refuse to do harm.
What I found most amazing was that I found the children understandably cruel and vile in their own ways. I didn't hate Victoria for all her scheming and backstabbing, I didn't hate Valentin for playing with people's emotions, I didn't hate Belle for wanting to be beautiful in everyone's eyes, I didn't hate Bice for choosing to hide rather than confront her problems, and I didn't hate Christian for wanting to win no matter what. Each of the teens go through some form of physical deterioration in the process of using their powers so much, and it is almost amazing to see how ambition and blind faith can push them so far.
Vileroy, the demon governess herself, is quite an interesting character on her own. She fades in and out of the story, pushing the children towards one goal, or enticing another to betray their "siblings". It felt a lot like she was having fun watching the teens do unforgiveable things, manipulating them through their young and human weaknesses.
I adored the complicated sibling caring, rivalry, and even outright antagonism between the five. They are close in the sense that they know each others' darkest secrets, but alienated because they can't trust each other. Add to that the complications of school hierarchies, jealousy, and the one big secret two of the children are kept in the dark from.

Writing/Narration
☂☂☂☂

Ms. Kellgren has the most amazing range of accents I've ever heard. The characters really come to life through her voices, and I can recognize it almost whenever she switches characters. She is the saving grace for the otherwise underwhelming writing - it's not horrible, but far from amazing. The emotions she put into her character's voices were the reason I was able to bear through the sometimes repetitive and expositional dialogue. If you're going to give this book a try, I highly suggest choosing this audio book.

Ending
☂☂☂.5

I do love the delicious twists towards the end where it is revealed just how deeply the consequences of each teen's power has hurt the people around them, and themselves. No one is left unscarred, and a great heap of hatred stands between some of them. I was extremely sad at one of the character's deaths, but a lot of character development is packed tightly and effectively in those last few chapters.
However, while I appreciate that the authors didn't go with a completely redemptive ending for all the characters, I was left feeling a bit cheated of tragedy. The only reason the action towards the end actually gathered tension was through the narrator's reading rather than the actual writing. I wanted to see more bloodshed and screaming rather than the borderline deux-ex-machina "powers" that come into play. While most of the plot lines have been resolved, the use of the "just the beginning" line lacked impact in my opinion. I'm not sure if the same characters return, but I may pick up Another Pan if the same narrator chooses to read that one as well.

Another Series
#1 Another Faust (2009)
#2 Another Pan (2010)

Reading Challenges
A to Z Challenge 2010 → N for Nayeri (author)
New Author Challenge 2010 → Dina & Daniel Nayeri
Audio Book Challenge 2010
TwentyTen Challenge → T.B.R.
The 4 Month Challenge Part 3 → book by two authors
Young Adult Challenge 2010
Once Upon a Time Challenge 2010 → Faust
1st in a Series Challenge 2010 → Another Series

Meme Features
Teaser Tuesday
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5 comments:

MissAttitude said...

Perhaps I would have liked this book more if I listened to it on audio :) I found all the characters understandably cruel except Victoria. i hated her. Valentine was ok, but I just wanted to smack Victoria throughout the whole book. I totally agree that Madam Vileroy was having a great time maniupulating her charges, I'm sure she was laughing it up.

And oh I agree with you on one of the character's deaths! Such a sweetie so why the death? =/

I love your review format, especially how you have an overall short and sweet review :)

...MY NAME IS ELENI AND I AM A BOOKAHOLIC... said...

Great review, I <3 your breakdown! I thought this book was pretty good :)

Sarah (Book Reviews from Inside an Igloo) said...

thanks for following my blog! yours is great!! :)

Pricilla said...

Wow! I love how you write your reviews!

April (BooksandWine) said...

I agree with Ari, your review format is amazing.

I've read a lot of mixed reviews on Another Faust and I think I may do what you did and read it via audio.

Glad to see you found this book to be enjoyable!!