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Broken Aro (The Broken Ones) Paperback – September 25, 2012
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
Open your eyes to darkness. What do you see? Does the darkness frighten you? Now imagine the darkness being the cargo hold of a slave ship. Your city has fallen. Your family is most likely dead. You don't know anyone around you, and some of them aren't even human. Giving up would be so easy to do, but not for Arowyn Mason. Not after being raised in a military family with seven brothers. Every grea...
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I was highly disappointed in seeing a female protagonist with so little agency. On her escape from her home, she is excitedly fitted out with her favorite belt of knives, but gets taken a slave without once attempting to use them. Her first real action is to act the healer and nurturer of one of the male characters, Prince. After that, her role is regulated to cook and seamstress, an object of male jealousy, with the most action she gets making her the victim of any real encounter. Like any continuously victimized character, she's seen to cry a lot, needing to be, and wishing only, to be taken care of by the many male characters for whom she plays restrictive female roles: little sister who needs protecting, stand-in mother who needs protecting, possible lover who yearns for strong male arms to hold her. In another scene, where she mentally faces off against the most dangerous of magical creatures, a Dragos, we see her standing on top of the walls of her own mental fortress, her favorite bow from home appears within her hands and it feels right, as though Aro has found herself and her agency. It's a powerful moment, almost. She takes the attack without once fitting an arrow to her bow. The encounter, another example of where the character could have made a step towards independence, growth, and strength, ends in just another case where the male characters must come and save her just in time to find her mentally "raped." There is a promise throughout the book that Aro will become someone important, even powerful, but for all the talk the book and character does about wanting to be strong and fight rather than just be married off, the character never actually acts on these supposed values. There's a wonderful moment, right before the near-rape scene, where she fights off 6 slavers with her bare hands only, her fists left badly swollen and cut after the ordeal, but the moment the slavers discover she's a woman (up to this point they assumed she was a boy), all her power is gone. She's held down, fondled and then rescued. What's exciting about Aro's character, in theory, is that she's a woman who wants to empower herself. What's disappointing is that her femaleness continuously gets in the way of that power, not because that's how the world sees her, but because the moment she's identified as female she herself seems paralyzed by it. She is already, and continuously, placed only in the supportive and nurturing role of a wife before it's even been decided which character will ultimately be her "king."
Yet, you say, the book is called "Broken Aro" and for good reason. The entire prophecy that will lead us to Books 4 (and maybe 5) surrounds Aro having to be broken. We get this wonderfully true response from the character after her near rape in which she becomes angry and lashes out at everyone around her. Her "fury" only seems to diminish when she's allowed by the male characters to continue her martial training. For me, this becomes another moment of hope, that Aro's brokenness will lead to her own self-determination and strength. But despite all her training and work towards a more empowered character after this moment of breaking and rebuilding, she still remains the victim, always injured and always protected by male characters who themselves never seem to be harmed during these same dangerous and outmatched encounters.
And yet, I kept reading. Yes, I felt that some of the sibling-like exchanges were a bit overly cheesy and that the narrative seemed too unaffected by the drama demanded by its own settings (the scenes in the slaver's cargo hold, even with rape victims screaming in the background, characters laughed and joked with one another as though it was rather homey, without there ever being a sense of an ever-pervading oppression). But, the magical geography of this world is so interesting. I'm intrigued by worlds that have mankind developing side-by-side with the magical races. Many fantasy books show that the magical races begin to die off the moment man begins to strengthen. But this book offers hope for those magical races. It offers a greater conflict than the personal ones Aro encounters, the conflict between the dying off of magic as represented by the sanity that has taken most of the Fey, and the possibility of man not meaning the demise of magic. There's ever this sense that a greater danger, the mad Fey, are prowling just inside the treeline. There's that wonderful moment where Kei's struggle with being sane or slipping into that same fury permanently that has claimed the rest of his race becomes a metaphor for the rage that Aro feels within herself against the men who have harmed her. I suppose what is most motivating me as a reader is the possibility the next books promise. We have yet to see the hordes of mad Fey. We have yet to see the political world of the Elves and condescending treatment of man by Elves, who see humans more like pets. We have yet to understand the Were culture, only hinted at by a brief encounter with one as it tried to warn Aro away from the slaver's camp. There's the long-standing question of what has happened to Aro's brothers. And yes, there's even the surviving hope that broken, weeping Aro will step out from behind the protective arms of her new family and begin to take control of her own world, one devastating failure at a time towards those small yet character-blessing successes.
MBC content rating: moderate, for violence, but I didn't feel it was more than mild+, and I didn't notice any language.
This is the story of Aro. We are thrown right into the action two or three pages into the story. And it doesn't stop. That's a refreshing change of pace, as in most stories I've read the action doesn't start until at least one third of the way into the book.
I read this in one sitting. Feb. 7, 2015, to be exact. Which was a surprise since I can hardly ever read during the daytime due to constant interruptions.
The story keeps you interested, and I could not, for the life of me, figure out what was going to happen. I'm glad that there are other books in the series, as I will be purchasing them as soon as I have the chance.
You really have to feel sorry for Aro because she is a character that loses so much in such a short period of time. In the world she lives in, being a girl can be a weakness, and it is one she aims to hid for as long as possible.
Although I loved Aro, I found that she needs some growing up to do, and I hope to see that development in the following books. There is a sort of love-triangle going on here, but I'm wondering if it's only in my imagination because it is not a prominent part of the plot. I'm really hoping the next book in the series is as good as this one.
I liked all the characters, except for Kei and Damon. Kei because I don't necessarily trust him or care for his character, and Damon is just a big pain. Why are all ancient beings so vague and cryptic? I guess they've lived so long they have to have their kicks somehow, right? Except Damon is all that plus a jerk.
This is a very promising series and I hope to check out books 2 and 3 soon.
Broken Aro gets 4 out of 5 Platypires from me!
Most recent customer reviews
No cliff hangers, either! Thank you!