The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Title: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Author: Jonas Jonasson

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: April 2014

Source: All Books

Rating: 4.5/5

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On June 14, 2007, the king and the prime minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the royal castle.  Later it was said that both had fallen ill, but the truth is different.  The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto.  Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plan despair.  But Nombeko takes a different path.  She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the the position of the chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world’s most secret projects. (Goodreads)

Jonas Jonasson’s novel The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is probably one of the best books I’ve read in a while.  It’s my first Jonasson novel, I heard about it after my parents saw the film based on The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, and raved about how fantastic the story was.  I figured that if the film was great, the novel must also be amazing, but instead I found this thrifty find for only a few dollars at All Books, one of Ottawa’s best independent bookstores — and boy, am I ever glad I read it.

First, I will begin with a word of warning: the suspension of disbelief is absolutely crucial.  Jonasson’s characters are all well-rounded, believable (albeit still exaggerated) characters — there is no doubt that truly gifted and intelligent people can be born into horrible situations, that a potato farmer is a long-lost descendent of a baron, or that a man can exist without legally existing on paper — Jonasson’s story is somewhat based in realistic and truthful circumstances, however, it is the wild and crazy adventure on which these characters embark that force you to simply forget reality in order to fully enjoy this outrageous story.

I feel like I’ve recently read a few novels in which multiple storylines intertwine and converge into one, but I don’t think any of them have done it as well as Jonasson has in this novel.  Jonasson’s talent really shines in creating such diverse and intriguing characters with such fantastic and rich backstories, throwing all of these characters together, and letting the story unfold and tie up all loose ends in an extravagantly complex plot.

Unfortunately, despite how much I loved this book, I cannot give it a full 5/5.  Instead, choosing a 4.75/5 because I did find the beginning of the novel a little long-winded and difficult to get through.  However, despite its laboured start, this was an amazing novel and I think it will stick with me forever — it is truly such an amazing and creative piece of literature.

The Splendor Falls

Title: The Splendor Falls

Author: Rosemary Clement-Moore

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 2011

Source: from a friend

Rating: 3/5

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Goodreads

Devastated by a freak accident that has left Sylvie Davis recovering from a broken leg, the now-retired professional ballerina escapes the bustling city of New York, where her mother has remarried a psychologist who over-analyses every aspect of Sylvie’s life, for the southern comforts of Alabama, where she is enlisted by a distant cousin to help renovate the family home she never knew.

Mystery abounds when she arrives at Bluestone Hill, as Sylvie is haunted by the house’s long forgotten past and its ghosts.  Hoping to regain her sanity by moving to Alabama for the summer, Sylvie instead finds herself attempting to understand the house’s past, while also attempting to uncover the mysterious Teen Town Council led by the local teenagers.

Following the brief synopsis above, I would like to begin by stating that although I felt annoyed by some aspects of this novel, it was a quick and easy read and I rather enjoyed uncovering the supernatural mystery with Sylvie.

The beginning of the novel finds her struggling with the trauma of her accident, as well as dealing with her mother’s new marriage and the imposition of a new family she barely knows.  I found Clement-Moore’s use of the supernatural, in regards to Sylvie to be quite interesting — the concept of being able to see the past unfold before you while you are still in the present, is one that I felt was intriguing and definitely important to the plot.

I felt that Sylvie, despite her training as a professional ballerina, was a typical teenage girl.  She meets the brooding, mysterious, and witty Rhys Matthew from Wales, and the too-good-to-be-true Shawn Maddox, whom immediately become her love interests.  Unfortunately, despite Sylvie’s best efforts to stop any feelings between her and either boy, there was the mention of strange magnetism and allure every time she saw or interacted with either of them, which became increasingly more annoying as the novel went on as they made me feel as though their message, although possibly unintended, was that “girls can only gain respect and validation from boys and that she must choose one of them”.

Apart from the icky feeling I got from reading those passages, I also felt that the second half of the novel became repetitive.  For several chapters, Sylvie performs the same daily routine almost page after page, and reading about her dependence on her dog Gigi, also became more and more annoying, and unnecessary, as I read on.

Overall, the novel became increasingly better as the supernatural mystery at Bluestone Hill developed.  I found myself truly intrigued in the house’s secrets and found myself excited for Sylvie to uncover the truth.  I found myself extremely interested in the historical fiction included in the novel, and I was always looking forward to Sylvie’s visits to the archaeological digs, as well as her her conversations with Rhys’ father and coworkers about the history and mythology of Bluestone Hill and Maddox County.