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The Pattern Scars [Paperback]

Caitlin Sweet
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 10 2012
Nola is born into poverty in Sarsenay City. When her mother realizes that Nola has the gift of Othersight and can foretell the future, she sells her to a brothel seer, who teaches the girl to harness her gift. As she grows up, she embraces her new life, and even finds a small circle of friends. All too soon, her world is again turned upside down when one of them is murdered. When a handsome, young Otherseer from the castle promises to teach her, she eagerly embraces the prospects of luxury beyond what she can imagine and safety from a killer who stalks girls by night. Little does she know that he will soon draw her into a web of murder, treachery, and obsessive desire that will threaten the people and land she holds dear, and that she will soon learn the harshest of lessons: that being able to predict the future has nothing to do with being able to prevent it.

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The Pattern Scars + The Haunting of Hill House
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing and heartbreaking Feb. 29 2012
By Lorina Stephens TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It would be very easy to wax poetic about Caitlin Sweet's, The Pattern Scars. Deservedly so. From the first sentences Sweet demonstrates her craftsmanship by translating the reader into a richly and perfectly realized world, populated by people who are very human despite extraordinary and sometimes dark abilities.

With astonishing subtlety, Sweet presents a relationship between a clairvoyant girl who is employed as a seer in a brothel, and a psychopathic and megalomaniacal seer who holds the trust of his lifelong friend, the king. What unfolds is a horrifically mesmerizing tale that is haunting and heart-breaking, and in the end even hopeful.

Throughout the novel the pace vibrates with tension, married to elegant yet simply drawn prose, spare on detailed description, allowing the reader to fall into the action. In fact, the only descriptions of significance are those of the seers' eyes, which brilliantly serves to heighten the importance and power of the characters.

If you are of a tender heart, as am I, it is a novel that will make you weep, and one you will return to time and again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Author Oct. 10 2013
By squirly
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very well written and a very interesting story.
The actual book publishing, art covers are next to none.
You feel like you do not want to bend it!
Will not say anymore ........You should own one
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my thing, but well written Sept. 21 2011
By Wolfy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
3 1/2 Stars

This is one of the most somber stories I've ever read. It took me an extensive amount of time to get through this book, probably because of its somber tone. Well written, but if you like your stories to have some glimmer of hope or happiness, you've come to the wrong place. This is a standalone book written in 1st person POV, about Nola, a common girl who has a strong talent to see into someone's future.

After being sold by her mother to a brothel for that purpose, she finds that her path is not destined for happiness. Without giving too much away, Nola spends almost the entire story as a magically mute slave, to a very sadistic and sick master seer. He uses her talent in a very twisted and forbidden way, which leads her to a path that she can never return from. The characters are three dimensional, but utterly unredeemable, which went along with its somber non-HEA tone. There is a just sliver of romance, between Nola and her childhood friend that comes back later to find her enslaved but unable to say so. No sex is described, but there is a fair amount of violence and gore, not YA.

If you like your books on the darker depressive side, then this one might be for you. But for me, it was out of my comfort zone, and not exactly satisfying, to say the least. Still well written and constructed, which were the only redeeming factors, besides its unpredictability.

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but not disappointing. Sept. 23 2011
By rameau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Shall we begin with the warnings? If any of these (spoilerish) elements disturb or trouble you in any way, you should probably run back to reading The Princess Diaries or something equally scary: abortion, abuse, blood play, child abuse, cutting, death, dead babies, lying, murder, necromancy, paedophilia, physical abuse, psychological abuse, prostitution, rape, scars, slavery, zombies.

Now that all of the sane, self-preserving, healthy people have moved on, that just leaves the creepy mentally disturbed people like me.

This book was a slow read for me. There was something about the story and the writing that told me right away that I need to take my time and pay attention to the words. Maybe it was because the narrator reminded me of Fitz Farseer in Robin Hobb's trilogies The Farseer and The Tawny Man. Like Fitz, Nola is telling the story of her life from some point in the future and she starts from her childhood, if you can call it that.

It turns out that being poor in Sarsenay City can mean growing up with a mother who'd rather be pregnant with another mouth she can't feed than endure her monthly bleeding. It can mean that a girl will be sold to a brothel for few coppers and not because mother needs to feed her other babies. It can mean simply growing older only because the brothel is where a girl can earn money.

And all that without the burden or gift of Otherseeing.

***
"A seer's place is apart - and if you forget this you'll be flogged. It's not your flesh that matters, after all, and I won't fear you as the others will."
***

Who could have guessed that these words spoken to an eight year old would turn out to be just as true as they were false? But of course she doesn't get to stay in that innocent place with Bardrem and Yigranzi for too long.

Nola leaves the brothel when her friends, and other seers, die and she believes her life to be in danger. There's a serial killer loose in the city and she isn't safe as long as any of her customers could be the faceless murderer. So, when a stranger from the castle offers to protect and teach her, she leaves thinking of fancy dresses and gems and luxurious life of the castle. She gets those things, in time, along with a last glance to a young, beautiful and innocent girl.

The horrors she has to witness and do are unimaginable. Or were right up until the moment I read this book.

I'm not as strong a character as Nola was, because I would have walked of a balcony long before that ceased to be an option for her. She's not a weakling, but she isn't strong enough either - she gets out of breath for just walking down the corridor on few occasions. She doesn't really care when she hurts people's feelings, like telling her eager-to-please maid she isn't needed, but that's only understandable since hardly anyone cared about hurting Nola's feelings. She wasn't taught to think for herself and because her mind has been twisted by a morally corrupt man, she can't see a way out.

And just as there wasn't an escape for Nola, there was none for me. I couldn't stop reading even when I knew I was making those micro-expressions of disgust non-stop. I had to keep going even when I was tired or yearning for something fluffier - yes, I ran for fluffy fanfiction in the middle of this book - and I had to see how it all ended.

Caitlin Sweet doesn't disappoint. The ending she chose, although we could have a serious discussion about the method of delivery, was the only one possible for such a story.

*I received an Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.*
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing Feb. 11 2012
By Shaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Absolutely mesmerizing. The writing is so beautiful in this book, it seemed to cast a spell on me. I could not put it down, even as I cringed in horror at parts of it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of the most depressing books I've ever read Aug. 8 2013
By Sneaky Burrito - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I picked up The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet at Barnes and Noble because it was a very pretty book (I like the cover, though it's somewhat generic and unrelated to the book, and I like the internal artwork, which is more relevant to the book). Also because I'd enjoyed another ChiZine Publications book, Isles of the Forsaken by Carolyn Ives Gilman.

Brief bit of plot summary/introduction: The Pattern Scars is the story of Nola, an "Otherseer" who is sold to a brothel at an early age. It's almost all first-person narration except for the epilogue. She's not meant to be a prostitute, but more of a diviner or seer (fortuneteller is not precisely the right word). She undergoes some training, a former Otherseeing student working at the brothel is murdered, and Nola is spirited away by a man named "Orlo" who is an Otherseer for the royal court and who promises to protect her. She befriends (perhaps falls in love with?) a kitchen boy at the brothel; his name is Bardrem and he's also a poet. Both of them desire to work in the palace one day. Eventually Nola gets her wish.

There's not a happy moment in this book -- it's a real downer, honestly. Nola has almost no triumphs and the few small ones she achieves are extremely short-lived. I actually found The Pattern Scars to be so depressing at points that it was difficult to finish. We see rape and murder and lying and deception and necromancy and bloodletting and animal abuse and Nola is not a particularly sympathetic heroine. The reason I find Nola unsympathetic is that even though we know she's being manipulated by (and was cursed by) Orlo, she participates in and/or sanctions some of these activities, and doesn't fight back. I get it, that there are some things she can't do, and other things she's magically compelled to do. Without giving too much away, I was particularly uncomfortable with her interactions with the servant Laedon.

Anyway, back to Nola: in addition to Laedon, there are some other incidents that make me question her good nature. I realize Nola's situation is bad, I do. One option that doesn't seem to be considered, when she is at rock bottom, is suicide. (I know, if she killed herself, there wouldn't be a book.) For what it's worth, her actions at the end of the book seem illogical to me, as well.

Anyway, long story short, it's hard to root for a heroine who isn't a very nice person herself, and who does things that don't make sense to me, and who never seems to catch a break. Like ever. And there is no one else to root for, no hope, no moments of levity, and that made the book hard to read, at least for me.

Caitlin Sweet's writing is decent. I enjoyed her passages of narration quite a bit, the dialogue not as much. There are a few "-ly" words and impossibilities (someone "scoffed" a sentence at one point) but mostly the speaker attributions are okay. The real problem I have with the dialogue, though, is that a character will say something -- usually short -- and then there will be a paragraph about Nola's thoughts and feelings or actions people in the room are taking. So the conversations all seem to take an extraordinarily long time.

One thing I had a hard time with was the dog, Borl. He gets rather violently abused in a number of passages. Some of these were quite difficult for me to read. I definitely couldn't write them. Animal abuse is a touchy subject for me (I have a lot of pets). So just be forewarned.

There's also a bird, Uja, though all she (?) does is get out of her cage periodically, unlock a few doors for Nola, scrape her beak to draw blood a few times, and then fly back to the islands she came from. She didn't really add anything, in my mind.

The other feature of The Pattern Scars that didn't do anything for me was the way the story was told. Every chapter starts with a scene of present-day Nola, writing about the fact that she's writing her own story, recording her version of events. Only, the present-day Nola isn't that far past Nola at the end of the events leading up to Nola-as-chronicler of these events, in terms of timeline. She's not older and wiser. She doesn't have new insights on events. And it would have been easy to arrange the end of the story such that these sections didn't appear. If they had added something to the story, I think I'd feel different about them.

Switching topics yet again, the bad guy is so evil and one-dimensional as to be a caricature. (The fact that he came from a humble background is not enough to redeem him, in my mind.)

As for magic, it starts out as Otherseeing, which as I've said, is a bit like divination, but Otherseeing morphs into something else, where there's another world (of sorts) that Otherseers can get to, and from there, the truly powerful can manipulate people's lives, even bring them back from the dead.

I'm ambivalent about this book, in the end. I wouldn't call it bad, not at all, I just don't think it's really my thing. I DO like dark fiction, but perhaps not this dark. However, The Pattern Scars is mostly well-written and I would still give Caitlin Sweet's books another chance in the future. 3.5 stars for being seriously depressing, but I'll round up to 4.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not an upbeat book, but a good book Oct. 23 2013
By gcnp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to admit, I don't especially like fantasy books, but I really like Peter Watts, who writes sci-fi. Caitlin Sweet is married to Watts, and I figured Watts wouldn't marry just anyone, so even though I don't typically go in for fantasy I thought I would read one of his chick's books out of some weird creepy kind of fan loyalty. Anyway, regardless of the weirdness factor, sometimes, it doesn't matter how or why you got to a particular place, it only matters that you arrived, because you find you had a great time, or learned something important, simply because you went there.

A lot of modern books feel like the author never really had a plan, didn't really have anything to say, and didn't know how they wanted to book to end, so it wanders around for 400 pages or so and kind of finishes up because, well, books have to have an ending don't they? But they never really say anything and the ending doesn't makes sense. This book was NOT like that. It is great. Dark, unexpected, complete. The heroine is complex, you're sucked into wanting to alternately hold her to comfort her and then put her on trial for crimes against humanity. The ending is satisfying intellectually, but don't expect a world with unicorns and rainbows at the end. Do expect a well-written, internally consistent, novel written by a very talented author.
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