Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #3)

 

Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #3)

By: Lauren DeStefano

(http://www.laurendestefano.com/)

Simon & Schuster February, 2013

A young adult dystopian review

 

 

Revived from Fever, Rhine needs to snatch at second chances-a second chance to be honest, a second quest to find Rowan, a second turn to find a situation she can live with before it’s her time to die.  With so much to do and so little hope, Rhine finds that her world is still filled with things that can break.

DeStefano’s lyrical prose draws you right back into the story where we left off, enhancing everything with its beauty.  The pacing moves differently than one would expect, but everywhere DeStefano took us was somewhere I felt we needed to be.  There were some plot points that were brushed past rather briskly, but the strength of Sever’s atmosphere and Rhine’s mentality held it together.  It worked for me because at the end of the day, The Chemical Garden Trilogy has never been about action.  It’s always focused on the human consequences-the coping, the confusion, the chaos.  I’ve seen several disappointed reviews about this book and I think it’s because DeStefano sticks so closely to her theme.  I think for many people this kind of dystopian work, at least at the end, is about wish fulfillment-we’d like to think we could fight and overcome even horribly depressing circumstances and overwhelming odds.  Alternatively, it’s about perspective-being wrenched into feeling that whatever life you’re living now is favorable in comparison.  Sever hits none of those usual notes.  The last of Rhine’s story is real and therefore, less than fully satisfying because we’re left with a lack of finality, tainted victories, and pure hope-not fulfilled and without the comfort of endings.

Unlike its predecessors, Sever has more of an ensemble cast than focusing solely on Rhine’s views.  This significantly altered the feel of the read and heightened this conclusion because there are now more people’s feelings to deal with and more overall to hope for.  DeStefano made bold decisions with this book and I believe she left me feeling exactly how she intended me to.  Sever brings this series around from sex and death to the realization that life takes every bit as much effort and anguish and courage.  Rules break, people change, and we live surrounded by things that Sever.  I’d say this book is well worth the time.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×10 (The Prince)

The finale is here and…I feel satisfied.  This show always excelled at season endings and this one is no exception.  It covered everything immediate and brought the characters to a place where I am alright leaving them, although I’d rather not.

 

SPOILERS:

Dear Machiavelli: The man is an oracle.  I dearly want a Machiavellian tarot deck now.  Think about what it would be-THINK OF IT.  All the Borgias would be present, of course.  The ordinarily peaceful cards would involve orgies.  The cups suit would be vials of poison.  Pretty much anything you do with it would bring the answer, “I shouldn’t have asked that, should I?”  It’d be a thing.

Dear Rodrigo: This-this-is why I love you.  Yes, Cesare needs to do the actual carving and fulfill his ambitions, but once you accept that he’s there, your planning and confidence blow even him out of the water.  This is the way I believe that it worked, with your twin ambitions and different abilities complementing, building, and scaring the hell out of everyone including each other.  This is it.

Dear Cesare: Ah, to be young and devious.  Francois Arnaud got to showcase the range of his talent here, from vulnerable and wishing his mother could fill in for his best friend to creepy tormenter to possessive lover.  There was everything in that.  You showed everyone just exactly how in charge and fearsome you could be, even though we don’t get to see you filling out that position, you let us already see and enjoy it.  Thank you for that.

Dear Michiletto: I understand.  Your affair not only ended in killing your lover, but in proving that you were not, in fact, the most trustworthy companion ever.  You let down your master, yourself, and your lover.  No matter what, your hometown will fall and your family have a good chance of dying.  You came back to ensure that your work was finished, because “loyalty was his only code.”  You are not dead, though-you are a ghost wiling away in the shadows.  You can go wherever you want, take whatever you want, and disappear whenever you want, and you deserve that.  In my head you wander until you meet up with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, tossing coins that turn up heads and arguing about everything.  You’ll take one as a lover, convince them it’s okay to be unsure of their names, and kill off the cast of Hamlet all by yourself.  It’ll be epic and haunting.

Dear Lucrezia: Your arc has differed the most from what I expected and wished for your character.  I expected to see you growing in triumph, killing for the good of the family, and using your tie to your brother as leverage.  In spite of that…you have completely won me over.  This version walks a fine line between different tropes, but weaves them together seamlessly.  And Holliday Grainger sells the hell out of it.  I cannot not buy her emotions, her disillusions, her determination.  There is a part of me that really wants to be upset at how defeated she winds up here, how dependent, and yet….it was just too good not to love.

Dear Alfonso: I was so afraid they wouldn’t get around to killing you!  Thank you for being such a wonderful foil for everyone else.

Dear Vitelli: Well done, you!  You’ve got craft, foresight, initiative, and commonsense.  I foresee you going far.  I’m sorry I won’t get to see you setting yourself farther up from the pack by slyly setting them up and taking their castles until Cesare finally poisons you.  It’d have been fun.

Dear Caterina Sforza: You really ought to know all the weaknesses of your chosen fortress, milady.  That being said, in all fairness, you had only Rufio instead of Michiletto and one cannot badass everything themselves.  Although, the fact that someone was touching your wardrobe seemed an odd thing to show your claws at.  The defeat was exquisite.

Dear show: The camouflage cloaks rocked!  The music throughout the whole thing was just the right amount of suspenseful-enough buildup I was literally on edge, but not so much that it wore out over time.  The camerawork, particularly in the confessional scene with Pope Alexander VI and Lucrezia was just beautiful.  The bloody smudges on her at the end were perfect.  I know you had more to give.  You will be sorely missed.

 

Meet the Baby Liligers!

liger/liliger!

Lions and ligers and liligers, oh my!!!  This is like my favorite evidence that the world just keeps on getting cuter, even when it’s also obnoxious things ever!  Ligers are already cool, but liligers-the offspring of a lion and a liger!  They are considered safe with their parents!  They are full of spots and fuzziness!  The first month is considered important not just for their health, but also because that’s how long the Russian trainers have to figure out their personalities and come up with a “suitable name”!  The summer solstice is here, and clearly there are new things to celebrate.  Huzzah!

Meet the Baby Liligers Born in a Russian Zoo | TIME.com.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×9 (The Gunpowder SPOILERS)

Okay, it’s “The Gunpowder Plot,” which is hardly a spoiler-always plots with this show!  May it plot to return from cancellation!

 

I can’t even write letters to the characters with this-this is The Borgias at their most raw and brilliant.  This episode is full of ways to play your heartstrings, from Michiletto’s love-and-death scene, to Cesare and Lucrezia’s wild reunion, to Rodrigo’s venom and fear about himself/his son.  Everyone is picking up their grudges and opportunities, there’s no stone unturned. Rodrigo strikes back after Cesare had him cornered.  Lucrezia does indeed take matters into her own hands (And we find out who Herb Woman is-clearly, she’s Flora from Sleeping Beauty).  Even Michiletto and Alfonso take their personal grievances and decide it’s worth acting on them.  (The symmetry between Cesare’s duels with Alfonso and Juan, yet with completely different endings, is almost too clever.)  This episode is full of reasons why The Borgias has more to offer, why keeping them on would bring dozens of payoffs, why these characters are badass and touching and momentous, why the writing deserves time to conclude all of its plotting.  Even following the yellow dirt trail and seeing the princess once more kept hostage struck weighty notes in this episode.

 

Dear The Borgias: I have loved every minute.  May your costumes stay gorgeous and your actors be recognized.  If at all possible, get yourself an encore.  I almost hate to watch the last one because I hate knowing it’s the end.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×8 (Tears of SPOILERS)

Well, it is high time we got back to celebrations and heartbreak, isn’t it?

 

Dear Caterina: I must say, I’m a little disappointed in you.  I’d have expected you to realize the Pope would make money off all the Jubilee Year pilgrims at the same time he was figuring out how and have had your relic plan ready by the time it started.  Also, I think it would have gone over better if you’d let them come in to see and then you all were equally shocked and blessed by the “miracle.”  (Plus, of COURSE you add a miracle to it-always miracles!  Why did someone else have to say that???)

Dear Lucrezia: Cannot wait to see what you’ll do next.  I assume you and Cesare have some sort of code you concocted as kids you can use?

Dear Michiletto: Goddammit!  He just had to twist that knife, didn’t he?  I think what you need is some time away thinking about how many people you can kill before Lucrezia poisons them all.

Dear Cesare: I thought you rode in with a group of your army guys, yes?  Why did only you and Michiletto go in the cave?  Where the hell were any of them when you came out??  That part felt a little off to me, but hey-if that’s what it takes to feel the love of God, sure.  Great calls on all the coding things.  I do love to see your Cesare-needs-to-cut-a-bitch face, but just let Lucrezia kill this one, okay?  You boys already got the last king for her.

Dear Frederigo: Great pitch, creepy presence, and dastardly plots=excellent villainy.  I give you an A.  If you want to keep it though, I’m gonna need to know what you’re getting out of Caterina Sforza.  I had assumed you’d want a hostage and inside knowledge of the Borgias on your own account, but since you’re in a league, I’d like to know why.

Dear Herb Lady: How does everyone know about you??  You’re like, the go-to royal get-out-of-jail-free card, only by “free” they mean someone else dies or gets otherwise eliminated.  How did that happen?

Dear Mattai: Ya know, if Jews could just sabotage anything they want…I can’t even finish that.  Whatever, this episode needed some fire and I’m in favor of Jews living equally anyhow.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×7 (Lucrezia’s SPOILERS)

Glorious, bloody brouhaha.  Bring it, Borgias!

 

Dear Rodrigo: Again, I love the hat!  Also, how you make Vanozza laugh about Farnese now.  It’s all very full-circle.  Send Giulia some honey as a wedding gift.  (Also, apparently her husband she was staying away from and needed punishment for avoiding originally died sometime?)

Dear Cesare: I LOVE how without saying it you still Told Dad Off for not giving you more power and trust in the first place, because then he could’ve kept some control and now you’ve got another leader-type to satisfy better.  How nice of you to warn Machiavelli.  Was expecting you to point out that last time you guys had Benito it didn’t help with Caterina at some point, though.

Dear set people: Last episode we heard that giant statue was of a bull, why was there a horse head this time?  Eh?

Dear Lucrezia: Never trust people who care too much about their lap dogs.  It’s just a good rule of thumb.  On the other hand, we can totally overlook that lack of a nemesis thing for awhile, cause now not only have you got one, but he’s another king of Naples you get to fight with!  Excellent!

Dear Alfonso: Stop whining.

Dear Rufio: Don’t you dare call yourself Michiletto’s double, you are not good enough for that.  Fuck you.

Dear Michiletto: What were you about, letting Cesare just wander into an obviously infested house?

Dear Frederigo: Thus far, you are an excellent nemesis.  Do not let me down.

 

The Borgia Bulletin 3×6 (RelicSPOILERS)

This episode is building, all plot, and only one thing made me take the time out to review it instead of going straight on:

 

Dear Pope Alexander VI, BEEKEEPER!!: This should totally be the new thing-everyone must buy my personal honey or no forgiveness!  All crusaders must pay for a stock of my honey-it’ll keep you blessed in the Holy Land!  Unforgivable suicide, you say?  Bury them with my personal honey and I’ll make it Purgatory!  Keep coming back and anointing their graves with Vatican honey and they’ll get to Heaven just as soon as I get some Treasury fullness!  Plague around and people dropping like flies?  Get Vatican honey and I’ll let you fly away like bees!  See, Rodrigo?  I’m coming up with money ideas for you-wear the beekeeper hat more and I’ve always got your back.  Ahhhhh, I am satisfied.

But also, now that I’m here, Dear Cesare, your time has finally arrived!  Am so glad to see you enjoying it so thoroughly.

Also, Cardinal Newbies, just HAD to battle it out for who has the best “spear” already, eh?  And try to be as sneaky as your predecessors.  *shakes head*  Perhaps you learned nothing from the Banquet of Chestnuts, but in case you forgot-secret writing is Always Problematic.  Battles of Spears always have Losers.  Also, if the Pope wants relics, he’s gonna get relics, don’t stand in his way, fools.  (Cardinal Sforza is a whole different thing, just because he got to deny the Shroud of Turin doesn’t mean you Cardinewbies can go around trying to deny him things.)

Dear Overly Symbolic Fireworks: I think you should be an option on all TV shows now.  Need to liven up a bittersweet love scene?  Get the Overly Symbolic Fireworks in-it’ll be festive without losing or mocking the drama!  Need to keep the flames going between a couple who haven’t got enough screentime for anything sexy?  Fireworks activate!  Endless possibilities, you guys, endless.

Dear Michiletto: Of all fictional characters, I would most like to have you help me babysit children.  Also, I reeeeally want some kind of crossover where you get to hang out with Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelson version), because you would be his perfect friend.  Of course, he’d probly be sulky that his perfect friend is gay, the opposite of fancy, and actually liked having a master, but let’s be honest: He’ll want to eat you, you’ll want to fuck him, you’ll ENJOY his mindfuckery and he’ll enjoy your torture-it’s just a match made in Heaven.  Plus, you’re both masters at being behind the scenes, quiet persuasion, and the quiet speeches.  Yeah.  This is happening in my head now.

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