Title: The Legend of the Blue Eyes
Series: Blue Eyes Trilogy, #1
Author: B. Kristen McMichael
Published: Lexia Press, March 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Arianna Grace liked her boring, Midwestern, teenage life where she ignored the many unanswered questions of her childhood. Why were her parents dead? Why did she not have family? Where was she raised until she was five? When someone offers to explain it all, Arianna thinks she’s just getting answers. Instead, she is thrown into a world of night humans who drink blood.
On Arianna’s sixteenth birthday, her world is thrown upside down when she changes into a vampire. Night humans, or demons, as some call them, live in normal society. Learning all of the new rules of a world she didn’t know existed might be hard enough, but it’s further complicated by two former-friends that now want to help her take her role as the successor to her grandfather.
There is a war going on between the night humans. Sides have been taken and lines are not crossed. Four main clans of night humans are struggling for control of the night. Divided into two sides, clans Baku and Tengu have been at war for centuries with the clans Dearg-dul and Lycan. That is, until Arianna Grace finds out the truth; she’s the bridge of peace between the two sides. But not everyone wants peace. With the night humans divided, Arianna is now a pawn in the war between them. She must choose a side—her mother’s family or her father’s—and for once in her life, decide her own fate.
You know, if you took the boredom out of the equation, this book would be the literary equivalent of thrush.
Recently, I’ve noticed this trend: the longer the Goodreads synopsis, the less I’m going to enjoy the book. And you know all that plotty stuff described in the last paragraph of the synopsis? Yeah, none of that shit happens.
And, hey! Two eye based titles in a row. It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter.
So, at first, I was going to give this book two stars: the ol’ “it was okay” rating. Because really, the book was inoffensive. I’d read worse. It was making mistakes, but it hadn’t done anything to really get to me. But as I kept reading, determined to finish the book after all the books I’ve had to DNF recently, I just had to drop it down to one star. This book commits a number of crimes, but I decided to approach this review in the way that I did because it commits one which is worse than the others.
This book is egregiously, mind-meltingly BORING.
This book made me nostalgic for my pre-reviewing days. For my pre-caring days. For the days when I could read without analysing anything. When I could move on to the next book without dwelling. But alas, I am here.
Though, I do remain nostalgic, so who better to co-review this literary crime with me than GIFs of the Nostalgia Critic. Sure, I got no official connection to him, but it’d be nice to give my GIFs a theme for once, so let’s go for it.
As you can see, he’s positively ecstatic to be here. Thanks for the help, GIF Critic! I’ve got so much to say about this book, I’ll need some reaction GIFs—and some headings—to help me organise my thoughts.
So! Critic, take a good look at the opening of the book for me, will you?
Sixteen is an age of freedom, when you finally get to drive a car. Sixteen was the age my life chained me to a fate I did not know existed. – Ari
Yep. You saw that right. This book opens with a quote from the protagonist, Arianna.
Really. Why. Fine, open your book with a quote if you like. Make it relevant. Make it pretentious. Go all out. But why does this book quote the protagonist? It’s not like the book has a meta framing to it like it’s one of the characters within the book is retelling events directly to us. No, instead, the book starts right out with something that makes absolutely no fucking sense. And it’s unnecessary. Make your quote thematic, hm?
Here, the Critic will demonstrate:
Thanks, Critic. The theme of our review is established.
After the book starts with one writing crime, it properly starts Chapter One with another.
“Auntie, I’m leaving now,” Arianna called into the busy diner kitchen from the stairwell.
That’s the very first line of the book. I’ve got to repeat a couple things. One is that you’re more than allowed to break the so-called rules of writing if you know what they are, and the other is that one of these rules of writing is that you shouldn’t start with dialogue. It’s one thing to deliberately disorient your reader, it’s another to give them a floating head in the middle of nowhere and expect them to catch up with you.
I’m not sure I ever quite caught up with McMichael. But I wouldn’t have as much content for this website if I had, right?
Mary the Sue
Welcome, everyone, to Exposition: the Novel, starring Mary Sue.
In this fine tale, Arianna Grace (isn’t that an As the World Turns character?) finds out that she’s a vampire! And if that isn’t enough, she’s also a demon! And she’s super rare because she’s both! And she’s heir to a hugely powerful family! And she’s foretold in a prophecy! And she’s the most powerful ever! And she’s … Fuck, her eye colour is the focus of the title. Were you expecting anything other than a Mary Sue?
It’s almost funny. I didn’t think that they still existed. I thought that your classic Mary Sue was dying out. But Arianna Grace is the quintesential Mary Sue. She’s smart, beautiful, more powerful than everyone around her (and more powerful than she needs to be), and has people falling in love with her left and right. No prizes for guessing what shape the love in this story is.
Now, as the synopsis tells us, Arianna is special for a very, uh … Well, it’s a reason. Due to being the child of a purebred dearg-dul (vampire), she’s a purebred dearg-dul herself. And, due to also being the child of a purebred baku (demons that feed on emotions) she’s also a purebred baku. Now you might think “Um, isn’t she, you know, a dearg-dul-baku mix?” But no, because being a purebred has nothing to do with the makeup of your lineage, like pure-bloods in Harry Potter. No, being purebred is a gene! It’s like the colour of your hair!
My sentiment exactly.
Oh, and, there’s something in there about Arianna being SPESHUL because she’s the only one whose eyes are blue when she changes into her night human form because of … I don’t know, food colouring in the dirty toilet water she consumed to make herself braindead. It kind of seemed like an unnecessary addition to me, but … okay.
Basically, Arianna being both dearg-dul and baku serves only to make her Super Speshul. And it’s not actually necessary. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with making your protagonist le special. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with making them the chosen one. Harry is the chosen one. Buffy is the chosen one, and I’m more than happy to discuss how much I love her. But Arianna is the double chosen one. She’s speshul, you guys.
I’m going to discuss this later, but this book just loves to steal conflict from itself, and this is an example of that. Arianna is BOTH a purebred dearg-dul and a purebred baku, and the most powerful of both groups? What does that leave me to be scared of? Not only does she literally have a protection detail, one of whom is the bear unrivalled in strength Molina, but she’s the mostest powerful ever? Any threat to her is pretend. Any conflict is pretend.
It’s sad because the story might have been served better without it. For example, just off the top of my head … in the book, they do state that Arianna is a big deal not only because her parents were on opposite sides of the war, but because dearg-dul and baku just don’t breed. So how about instead of her being the mostest powerful purebred, she’s the only mix of the two? The powers of both, and the strength of neither. Understanding both, and hated by both. There could still be a prophecy, but this way there might be some real conflict.
But, is there any?
And, in true Mary Sue fashion, Arianna doesn’t actually contribute anything to what’s going on. See, she has this protection detail, and they do everything. They protect her. They carry her around. They guide her to and from places. They give her orders—that she pretty much always follows. And despite her being the mostest powerfulest ever she’s still untrained or whatever, so she never gets to fight anyone or do anything interesting. So she just sticks her thumbs up her butthole and waits for the other characters to do shit for her.
And they do. Without question. Because they love her. This book barely even bothers with the Mary Sue tradition of people who hate the Sue for no good reason.
I’m not going to discuss this in too much detail, but Arianna is meant to be sixteen, and she has the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old. It’s exhausting.
Plot, What Plot?
The Critic is confused that I even bring up plot because he thought there wasn’t any. And he’s right. That’s why this tag. In fanfiction, this tag is often attributed to a fic that’s pretty much just porn. But compared to this book, porn has the plot of an epic fantasy novel.
So we begin with Arianna knowing nothing. She doesn’t know a thing about her dead parents, or much about how she came to be living with her aunt and uncle. Towards the beginning of the book, Arianna becomes a vampire. Towards the end, she also becomes a demon. In between those two events, pretty much fuck all happens.
I actually marked the spot when I got a hint that actual conflict—and therefore actual plot—was starting to show up. Chapter Seventeen. In a book with thirty chapters. Before that, nothing fucking happened. Or, more accurately, stuff just happened. And stuff just happening is not the same as plot.
So, Arianna becomes a dearg-dul, and she gets taken to her grandfather’s home to be assigned a protective detail, and to learn the truth about her people. She was kept with her aunt and uncle, in ignorance of her destiny, but now it’s time to learn the truth and save her people from—wait.
Now, you might be starting to think that this sounds a little bit like, you know, every coming of age story ever. But unfortunately, it isn’t, because what I just described doesn’t actually translate to a plot, because as I said, Arianna does about as much to end the war as a prosthetic ball would, plus there’s some other stuff I’m going to be talking about.
It Sure Is Exciting … Over There
A large part of this lack of plot is due to the rule that I’m sure you’re familiar with. You know, that you should always tell rather than show? No? Never heard that one? Well, that’s pretty much this book’s mantra. This book basically consists of characters telling us that stuff has happened, but we don’t see the action of the stuff happening. This character fainted … before you got here.These characters fought … while you were sleeping.Your grandfather committed many evil acts that turned the taste of his blood sour … before you knew him. And, worst:
“Molina, Devin,” the man called. “There’s been a rebellion.”
A rebellion? Why, that could take up an entire novel. Too bad that all we see of it is a brief shot of the aftermath in the last couple chapters. And, considering how bloody it supposedly was, everybody is remarkably coherent. And continuing her impression of tits on a bull, Arianna continues to be useless as she actually spends a good chunk of the novel just … sleeping. Yeah, a lot of shit basically happens while she’s having a nap. Because blood makes her drunk, so she acts like a six-year-old. And it’s haha funny jokes, apparently.
As a side note, do Nostalgia Critic GIF continuity errors count?
In fact, I started laughing because I noticed a few chapters in that at the point in the book I was at, there had been like one exception to the rule of: Chapter ends with Arianna losing consciousness, next chapter begins with Arianna waking up. Plot is action. Plot is characters doing things. And your protagonist should, in fact, do the most “onscreen” things. A bunch of characters we hardly know (because, oh yeah, everybody also acts and sounds pretty much identical, despite McMichael telling us otherwise) telling us that stuff is happening in other scenes is not a plot. I spent this whole book wanting to be somewhere else.
Inch High Hurdles
The other problem with this book’s plot—and the other reason that this book is so god damn BORING—is that nothing is an obstacle. While a few people come up and say they’re going to cause problems for Arianna, her grandfather, and her protective unit, these characters don’t in fact actually do this. For example, this vampire dude Michael who’s supposedly out to seduce Arianna or … something. He doesn’t really try.
And I couldn’t point to an antagonist. We’re constantly told that there are dangers out there from which Arianna needs protecting. These dangers never actually emerge.
It pretty much boils down to there being no real obstacles in this story. When Arianna becomes a dearg-dul, they go on about how she needs to drink blood or else. The or else never actually happens. She’s able to drink blood from love interest and bodyguard Devin, and the only drawback is that she gets blood-drunk and starts acting like a six-year-old. And the one time that he’s not around, she drinks from the other love interest, Turner. And the one time that Devin suffers because he’s lost too much blood, it’s another case of “This thing is happening, but it’s happening elsewhere and you don’t need to worry about it.”
Nothing is actually an obstacle.
“We have to hurry because we’re running away and if you’re protective unit find us then—oh no they’ve found us never mind.”
“It’s really difficult to adjust to my new life here. I’m missing my aunt and uncle. I’m homesick and—Oh, you’ll take me on your private jet to stay with my aunt and uncle three days a week? Cool!”
“Trish and Mary Ellen are my best friends and I’m scared because I don’t know how to tell them that I’m a night human—Oh, you guys have night human relatives too? Saves me some trouble.”
Seriously. After some agonising, it turns out that there are tengu and other night humans (which is the dumb name for the paranormal creatures) in their family, they just promised Aunt Lilly and Uncle Dean that they wouldn’t tell Arianna, for some reason. This 1) removes yet more potential drama and 2) is dumb.
This whole book is so dumb.
Goal + Obstacle in way of goal = Plot
The goal in this book is given to Arianna, which is fine, except she never quite manages to make the conscious decision to follow that goal until the end, instead letting herself float from scene to scene. And due to this book’s apparent inability to create conflict, this story does not equal a plot.
Sure, we’re told that she’s in danger. None is shown. We’re told there’s a war. We aren’t shown any of the fallout. We’re told … Okay, I think you get the picture.
Also contributing to this is the fact that the love triangle isn’t even a love triangle, but I’ll get back to that later.
Exposition: The Novel
There’s a third element to the book’s problem, and I realised what it was about two-thirds of the way through. I’m amazed that it took me so long, but I’m also kind of not, because it’s a subtle kind of problem that hides behind the writing and the useless protagonist and all the pretty dresses. (Ugh.)
The “plot” of this book is essentially its exposition. And exposition is, of course, a part of storytelling, but it’s not storytelling in and of itself.
But after a while, I started to realise that exposition seemed to be all that the book had to offer. After the opening, Arianna met Gabriel, who began to tell her about her true identity. Then Arianna went to her grandfather’s home to learn the rest and … yeah, that’s it.
I’ll allow Critic to offer you his reaction to the following events:
Arianna wakes up at her grandfather’s home, and her protection unit starts expositing at her. About herself, and the world of the night humans.
She meets her grandfather and he exposits.
She meets Devin and he exposits.
She then gets sent to a school which will EXPOSIT by teaching her all about the night humans.
Then, after she meets Turner, he sets out to tell her more, before talking to her about—
Well, unfortunately, Critic, they don’t. We’re in the last fucking chapter of the book and characters are expositing at us. And you know, I think the worst part is that all the exposition is through dialogue. Because all this book does is TELL us stuff.
SHOW US SOMETHING!
There are other ways to seed in exposition than lectures from characters, you know. And if your character isn’t an elderly, bearded wizard, then people’s patience for exposition is going to be at a minimum anyway.
The Love Line
It’s a classic, isn’t it? The love triangle? While they are everywhere, and they can really steal from the main plot, if done well they can really add something. So let’s take a look at the romance in The Legend of the Blue Eyes, shall we, Critic?
So. Yes. There are two love interests in this book. The first is Devin, a human on Arianna’s protection unit. (And yes, she’s so useless that despite her being a powerful spushul blue-eyed night human, a regular old seventeen-year-old human has to protect her.) The second is Turner, a noble with lycan heritage which never really becomes all that relevant.
And he might be another kind of night human. I don’t remember. Also, I don’t give a shit.
The thing is … the thing is that in this book it’s not a love triangle. A love triangle requires that one party struggle to choose between the other two, and/or there be conflict between those other two parties. In this case, however, NOPE. Arianna has a brief, childish monologue in which she goes “Oh noes, who do I choose?” like how I imagine a thirteen-year-old would agonise in her diary, but then the boys both agree that she can date both of them.
He always was the only man who could out sarcasm me. And I think that GIF about gets it.
Look, she can date two guys. Wonderful. Good for her. But the conflict was set up and dropped and that’s just not how you tell a story. You can’t be so afraid of anything bad happening to your Mary Sue that you won’t even let the first guy get jealous when the second kisses her. That’s so … boring.
To make matters worse, the romance doesn’t even have the decency to be a romance tumour. No, it doesn’t take over the “plot.” It just sits there, almost happening. But, because she has to date a purebred because of tradition (which could be conflict but it isn’t and god I am so bored) they both say they won’t ask her to be her boyfriend (which … are we sure they’re seventeen?) so, yet again…
NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENS!!
Yeah, that’s about how I started to feel, too. This would be a very different review if I had just had the balls to DNF.
That’s … Rapey
This section of the review contains a discussion of consent and implies rape/sexual assault. Please skip to the next section if you don’t wish to read such content.
The Critic GIFs will not be making cheap jokes for me for this section of the review. I wanted to take a step back for a moment and examine an aspect of this book which … really bothered me.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for young adult books to contain aspects which are … a little bit unintentionally rapey. Or they’re intentionally rapey, but they’re framed in such a horrible way that doesn’t end up doing the story any favours. This book contains an aspect which is, I believe, unintentionally rapey. I think, sadly, that the author didn’t underline the issue with it as much because the victim in question is male, but I might be imagining that.
Here, I’ll explain what I’m talking about and you can make your own assessment.
Once Arianna is revealed to be the heir of the great Lord Randolph, she starts getting a large number of marriage proposals, which is great. She also gets a number of proposals from people asking to be her custodian. Essentially, a custodian is a lifelong bodyguard with a mental connection to the person they’re guarding, and these custodians are incapable of disobeying orders. They are incapable of saying no.
Turner, who is sort of casually dating Arianna, in the sense that they kiss and do childish romantic things (for a sixteen-year-old, she’s remarkably unaware of sex in any capacity of context), asks to be Arianna’s custodian, and Arianna says yes. I hope that I don’t have to highlight the ethical problems inherent in dating someone who can’t say no to you.
Sure, there is one brief conversation about how someone with a custodian needs to be responsible for that custodian, but I couldn’t make the bad feelings about the whole thing be quiet. It just rubbed me the wrong way.
On A Technical Level
Returning to the land of the living, I physically struggled to read the writing. It read like an early draft. So it wasn’t even like it had to be all that bad. It just needed a punch up in some areas.
There were some typos and errors. Okay, a good few typos and errors. More typos and errors than even my writing contains. Name switches, random changes in point of view, etc. In fact, the random point of view changes really bothered me, because they could be for sentences, paragraphs, or any section in which Arianna was taking an “I’m too useless to scratch my own vag” nap. If different chapters were told from the points of view of different characters, and the book hadn’t established itself as third person limited, Arianna’s point of view, then I wouldn’t mind so much.
OH. And this book also preyed on one of my personal pet peeves. I swear it was on a mission to find every single alternative to the word “said.” If you’re a new writer, and you don’t believe people when they tell you that doing that is distracting, please trust me now. It’s so distracting. I reached a point when I stopped every single time because it was automatic that my eyes snag on an obvious dialogue tag.
To compound this issue, McMichael kept using words that didn’t actually make any sense. Not only were they unnecessary dialogue tags, characters were also explaining what they weren’t explaining, adding what they weren’t adding. Actually, I took a screenshot of what I thought was the best/worst example.
And you see, I just…
What were they adding? That wasn’t … that’s not what “adding” means?
Other than that, I guess … pretty bland. She did, he did, she thought. Nothing to really spice it up. A real laundry list of actions.
Actions, not plot.
From My Notes
As I was reading, I made a few notes of things that really stuck out to me. And here they are:
If you’ve already introduced Uncle Dean in the previous paragraph, then why does he have to be “a large man” in the next one? Especially as, in the next sentence, he’s “her uncle” again! Yes, we can pick up on context clues to work out “a large man” is Dean, but we can also pick up on enough context clues to be confused and think it could be someone else—since, if it’s Dean, why not just say that it’s Dean?
I all seriousness, how the fuck does one pretend to frown? One can frown jokingly, frown and not really mean it. But, whether you’re acting or otherwise, the facial expression that you have is the facial expression that you have. If she’s not seriously frowning, there are far less awkward ways to convey that in the text. (And, shit. Less awkward ways to phrase that previous sentence.)
I’ve fallen in love. Give me cheesy, pre-Matrix action movies with minimal or no romance ANY day of the week.
You know, I will admit it: I wasn’t expecting this book to turn into Mary Sue Freaky Friday. I was kind of hoping that someone had proofread it, though.
So, there’s technically nothing wrong with this, but can you imagine having to pretend to be married to your sibling for so long? Actually, there is something wrong with this. Why couldn’t they just carry on acting like siblings? If they were her aunt and uncle, they’d still be her aunt and uncle if they were siblings. That is, in fact, what aunts and uncles are.
It’s like McMichael was trying to think of the most awkward way to introduce the name of Arianna’s mom, Tiffany, when she wrote this sentence.
Jesus. And I thought that Arianna and Molina were just friends.
Oh, he agreed with her question, did he? He found it agreeable? Good for him! And why the hell didn’t she just ask him? What is it with this book’s constant need to question over ask?
Yes. YES. The Legend of the Blue Eyes actually did it. It actually replicated one of literature’s most infamously ridiculous dialogue tags.
That’s right! McMichael done pulled a Paolini!
Yeah, you’re right. That’s not a thing to be all that excited about.
This book doesn’t tell a story. It tells the very dull, very blandly written lead up to a story. And it’s a shame because it’s not like there was no potential in the idea and the characters. But, sadly, when reading the book, all I could think of was all the ways in which that potential wasn’t met.
And, for every god damn second, I was so. VERY. BORED.
But don’t worry, I’ve suffered through it, so you don’t have to!
Thank you so much for reading this review. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it on social media. Get the word out about this sarcastic, book reviewing bum. I’ll also read and review the rest of the trilogy if you guys are interested, but only if you’re interested, so let me know if you are and I’ll read the second book soon!
And, since you’re here, why not check out my last review of a book with an eye themed name: “The Silver Eyes”?