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The Pattern Scars Paperback – Sep 15 2011
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About the Author
Caitlin Sweet's first fantasy novel, A TELLING OF STARS, was published by Penguin Canada in 2003. Her second, THE SILENCES OF HOME, was published in 2005. Her one and only short story, "To Play the Game of Men," was included in Daw's Ages of Wonder anthology in 2009. She lives with her family in a magic bungalow in Toronto. On the Web, you'll find her at: www.caitlinsweet.com.
Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.*
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.
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.
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.