Ringer by Lauren Oliver

ringer

4 out of 5 stars.

This review will contain spoilers for the first book.

I received an ARC of this work.

This is a conclusion to Replica, by the same author. Gemma finds out that her father was involved in a human cloning project that is exploring diseases by breeding and infecting human clones. Lyra is one of the clones being experimented on. Lyra escapes and runs into Gemma and they both start exploring the history of the experiment and what it will take to shut it down.

The first neat thing about these books is the weird formatting found in both. Half of the book is the story told by one character, the other half (turn the book upside down and over) is told by the other. Both stories cover the exact same time period, and often share the exact same scenes, but from different perspectives. Most multiple-perspective stories run one story, with the different characters describing what they are experiencing in sequence. This book takes it parallel. You can either read one side completely then switch to the other, or read one chapter, then read the same chapter on the other side, then do the same for the second, third, etc. I used the second method, wanting the exact same scene from both narrators really close together to compare.

This book was almost more engaging than the first one because the stories start to diverge quite a bit. In Replica, most of the scenes were duplicates because the girls’ spent a lot of time together. In this sequel, their paths are not crossing nearly as much so you are getting less duplication and more action in different places.

As someone with two university degrees in philosophy, I love books like these that really explore what makes someone human or worthy of moral consideration. Having discovered that cancer cells have human DNA, just looking at genetics is out. So, what is the criteria?

Gemma is very sure of herself as human because she was raised by parents, is loved and accepted, and shows the same self-reflexive intelligence that characterizes most of our species. Lyra, a clone, is also loved and valued by other clones and a couple of staff members, and is very intelligent. She is missing being raised by parents, but I am assuming we are past the point of not caring for orphaned or abandoned children, so that should not put her out of the race for human-hood. We cannot use intelligence as the criteria because Lyra cares for those other clones who are not as clever and we have (largely) stopped abusing people with learning disabilities. Being a clone is a stupid criteria because Lyra thinks, looks and sounds human. If we cared about how people are brought about, we might draw lines between people delivered through c-section and those through a natural birth and I can’t see anyone getting behind that.

In the end *spoiler alert*, the only human Lyra seems comfortable with killing (mostly in self defence) is one who is insane to the point of being comfortable with killing others. Lauren Oliver’s criteria for human-ness seems to be the ability to be empathetic towards others and forming meaningful relationships that are not just based on self-interest. I think this is something that most people would agree with. Nowadays, the only people we seem somewhat comfortable in killing are those we have to kill in self-defence or defence of others. They are usually people who have a history of refusing to treat others with anything like respect or consideration of their lives or comfort. Of course the neat thing about that being the criteria is that we have some of the higher species displaying these traits. Some species of apes appear to display moral behaviour and empathy, so maybe Oliver would count them as being worthy of moral consideration. Who knows?

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One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

one dark throne

3 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this book.

This is the second book in a series debuting with Three Dark Crowns. This review contains spoilers for the first book.

So this is the second in a quartet. We have now reached the meat of the story: the combat between the three sister/queens that will leave one of them alive to be crowned. Katherine can strike with poison, Arsinoe with her bear (kinda) and Mirabella with her elements.

Throughout the first book we saw the strongest queen, Mirabella, growing reluctant to kill her sisters, but now that she bears scars from Arsinoe’s bear, all bets might be off. Katherine managed to come back from being thrown to her death down a bottomless pit and has grown weirdly ruthless and Arsinoe has now discovered she is also immune to poisons, so they might have been mixed up at birth.

My biggest complaint is still the one from the first book: I cannot seem to keep all the characters straight. There are a bunch of love interests and political figures and relations and for some reason I struggle to identify them all. This book would REALLY benefit from a character guide/family tree in the back. Who is courting who again? How is Jules’ family structured?

This book definitely leaves a lot of ends dangling, so I am very glad they decided to make this a quartet instead of leaving it here. The queens getting mixed up at birth still remains quite unresolved and I want some more exploration into the relationships between the three. This book has Mirabella and Arsinoe getting more entwined, which I appreciated, but Katherine still needs to be explored. She has gotten a lot darker and more confusing in this one and I want to see that resolved.

I also thought more of the fighting between the queens would be direct combat, but, like the first book, there is still tons of political maneuvering. Different sections of the kingdom definitely have reasons to back one queen over another, so some of the higher-ups of various organizations all have their plans and plots about how things should play out. The queens are also being courted by various mainlanders looking to be king-consort, so they have maneuvering to do as well. There is some face-to-face fighting, just not as much as I expected.

This books is a solid second in a series. It just REALLY needs a character index.