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The Society of S - Susan Hubbard
I first read this book a few years ago after I rented it from the library and loved it. It was not until a couple of weeks ago that I found out that The Society of S is actually part of a trilogy, the third book only coming out last year (2010). Due to finding this out, I decided to buy The Society of S and reread it in the hope of going on to the two sequels; Year of Disappearances and The season of Risks. So far I have not read the sequels, and am awaiting the second book to arrive through the post, though this alone goes to show that I really liked this particular book.
SOCIETY OF VAMPIRES
"Will S be lucky for Ariella"
What if everything you knew about your family was a lie? What if, when the lies begin to crack through, beneath them lay a truth so dark and deep, yet at the same time, so compelling, that it pulled you right inside?
Ariella's mother vanished the day she was born, leaving her to be raised by her extremely overprotective father and a small host of 'friends' who each seem to take on a different role, yet only one of them who really seems to care; the housekeeper. After living a life stuck at home, Ariella and the housekeeper persuade her father to let her go out and meet the housekeepers family, and spend time with children her own age for once. It soon becomes apparent, though, that Ariella's life is anything but usual, and she starts questioning her lifestyle. Why does her father forbid her from going out? What is being delivered to the house every day and what are the strange smells emanating from the kitchen?
Soon, Ariella's life begins to twist out of shape, and after discovering the internet which begins to paint a clearer picture of the mystery of her father and herself, Ariella goes on the road in search of her mother. The trip, though, is set to be a fateful journey though soon, she begins to uncover the secrets which have kept her family apart and Ariella has to come to terms with the situation as well as her own nature and its chances of survival.
The Society of S is set in a variety of places, mainly in America though also touching on England and Ireland, and is a story which explores the coming of age amongst a whole other array of stereotypes which are flipped on their heads with the inclusion of vampires, crime, mystery and murder. Although in a nutshell, the story does focus upon vampires in the modern world, it has been quotes by the author that she prefers it to be looked upon as the coming of age story, the difficulties in growing up, self discovery and love and friendship. A vampire story, though, does sound much more interesting!
The story takes place a little over a year and so Ariella turns from the tender age of twelve into the beginning of her teenage years. I found this difficult to digest as not once did the character feel like a twelve year old. This is easily explained by the rigorous education and knowledge which is taught to her by her father, and the upper-class speech and home life that she is used to, though I do feel that perhaps twelve was too young to make this character. There are also many moments which are more adult focused (though nothing as adult as sex) which makes me feel that this is certainly in the wrong category when it is put into a children's section. A young adult/teenager into adult would be more suitable. From reading the synopsis' of its two sequels, I believe that the author may have made her twelve/thirteen to allow room for her character to grow in the next two books, though in my opinion, perhaps fifteen or sixteen may have been easier to digest.
Ariella's character, as with most of the main characters as well as some smaller characters, are well explored and projected with the right amount of emotion and feeling. We get to know more about Ariella's thoughts and feelings as this story is written from her first person perspective, though through her research and discussions with her father, we are able to build a whole picture of the rest of the characters also.
On to the vampire part of the story. This, I must admit, is dimmed down from even that of the popular Twilight books. It is a much softer approach to vampires and only a few moments in which we see the side of this race in the scenes we know best with blood and gore, and even these scenes are mild, yet still extremely captivating. It has an air of grace and beauty about it, above the devilish undercurrent of what vampires are. The lore according to this story is certainly not as violent, though the drinking of blood and light sensitivity is still included. There are a few added qualities and vampirisms which are new and fresh to my knowledge of reading, though nothing drastic. It is more in the way that vampires are portrayed through the eyes of Ariella and the stories of her father which bring the sense of whole to the vampire lifestyle, rather than the action of the main storyline. It all seems a lot more grounded compared to a lot of fantasy based stories I have seen on television or in movies, and also more realistically portrayed than vampires in many books I have read. Science and rules are used to explain vampires themselves and their way of life, and although the vampires possess some variations of super powers such as hypnosis, invisibility and mind reading, the use of these powers are not overused or completely out-of-this-world. In fact, I can quite easily see our own world surrounded by these vampires and we wouldn't even realise. The author paints such a vivid and believable side to vampires which really pulls the reader in. Enough about vampires, though, as technically this story is not based upon them - just an underlying current and base for the rest of the story!
The story is separated into three main parts, each with a blank title page announcing this new section. Whilst I do not think this is overly needed in this story, it does allow pause for thought with each new section depicting a different part of Ariella's jouney, both in finding her mother and also in finding herself. The first part is the largest and has a lot of descriptive informative sections which introduce the characters and situations. It is also by far the longest time period of the story. Although full of descriptions and information, it does not read as useless information, or in fact tedious by any means, as it is written so perfectly with a lot of thought and feeling which left me hanging on every word. The only descriptions in which I did feel were a little overused were the small sentences describing such items as a door or garden porch; unnecessary though not completely out of place. In any other book this aspect would have annoyed me, but in this story, apart from the overuse, the descriptions almost read like poetry. The second part is the shortest covering less than one hundred pages. Separating this section does seem a little pointless though it ends up working well as this section has a completely different feel to it than the other two sections, and in some ways, it feels as though the story is maturing alongside Ariella. The third section seems to be a little like two short sections rolled into one. At the beginning of this part it feels almost as though the story is winding down towards a close, yet soon after, the story picks up again and more drama ensues. A little bit of a mixture in terms of genre in this final section, though weirdly, it works perfectly. Perhaps this is to do with the grace and style of the writing.
As already mentioned, this story is written from the first person point of view of Ariella, though what makes this style special is the way that it is written. Although it flows like any normal story, it has the feel of a journal to it. By this, I certainly do not mean that it is written like one with short paragraphs and dated segments: it is more the conversational feel to the writing. The closeness the character that becomes apparent right from the start through her thoughts and outlook on her life, and a lot of the time it is as though she is speaking directly to us; telling us her story personally. I have read a few books written in the first person perspective, though none as engaging a style as this one. I can understand how some people may be put off at first by this style and feel of the writing, though I strongly suggest sticking with it. You will get used to the style very soon and you will not be disappointed. Not all of the story is written in this same style. It is as though there are two different parts to the story; the first as though Ariella is recounting her story to us and the second is as though she is living it at that very moment. These two styles flow into one another in a very poetic way and the readability is extremely relaxing.
The language used in the story is a mix of upper-class, well educated speech between Ariella and her father, and the more usual relaxed speech patterns. As Ariella progresses through her own story, we see her own speech reflect the changing of her character with subtle references to growing up and reaching out into the world as her own person. As already specified, a lot of the time Ariella seems a lot older than her given age of twelve/thirteen and a lot of this is to do with her language abilities. Apart from some language choices in which needed a dictionary to decipher, the language of the story telling and the character is very simple to read and almost poetic at times which makes it run off of the tongue beautifully. A lot of quotes are used within Ariella's education moments, mainly from Edgar Allan Poe, which are both interesting and thought provoking which really aid in the understanding of the world in which this story is set. It is obvious that a lot of research went into this book, without being overbearingly tedious.
The story itself is not overly long. It only took me a couple of days to read, though it is certainly not a quick-read. I quite often prefer longer books, though this book works well at the length it holds, and gives the exact right amount of emotion, story, feeling etc that is needed. There is limited amount of action and some may say that parts are a little slow though in my opinion, this works out brilliantly in this story as it gives the reader time to digest the information and understand the characters and story to the degree that they are able to empathise with them, even if they have a completely different persona.
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
So how does the ending of The society of S compare?
As already mentioned, it felt in the third part of the book as though the story was winding down before the cover was even in sight. Once the next burst of energy was out of the way, the final wind down came though this was relatively short. I felt that it was a little rushed, though not to the degree which made it terrible. Perhaps a lot of the next book may cover what I felt was lacking from the ending of this one. Hopefully I will find that out soon!
As for the ending being what I had hoped, I would have to say that in the main, this story ended up in a far better place to what I had expected. Everything was rounded up perfectly and once I had put the book down for the last time, I felt as though I had experienced an amazing story and had connected with the characters so completely which left me thinking of the story for hours after. Although not an edge-of-the-seat action story, this story certainly had drama and anticipation which kept me glued to the pages.
An excellent ending to a brilliant book.
This story was extremely captivating, and although perhaps not the best book in the world, it contained something absolutely brilliant which certainly puts it in the must read section. Although in some places this book seems to be ticketed in the childrens section, this is certainly not a young childs book and is more suited for young adults in to adulthood.
This book can be picked up from most libraries or bought for its RRP of £5.99 which is well worth it. I did try to rent the two sequels from my local library though for some reason these sequels were not in their database at all which was annoying, so I am eagerly awaiting the second book through the post from Amazon, where the third book can also be picked up from.
Do I recommend this book? Most certainly!
Themes to be aware of in this book include; Death, betrayal, violence, vampirism, desertion.
A/N: When looking at the different covers for this book and the two sequels, I found that there is a feel on one set of covers of the Twilight series of books. Do not be fooled into thinking that this book is anything like the Twilight Saga, though, as it is completely and utterly different.