I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in late 2011, and started reading this second in the series immediately after finishing the first. I was initially very eager to finish the series, but this book is slower paced and gave me an opportunity to reflect on the series so far. This book, much like the other book, is very focused on hate and violence against women. I understand that Larsson was trying to make a point with the anger, but it is vicious and hard to read.
The Girl Who Played with Fire picks up about a year after the previous book ends, and begins with Lisbeth Salander travelling alone. Her story and that of Mikael Blomkvist progress independently throughout the novel, for the most part. They only really interact indirectly but for the times when Blomkvist rushes in to save Salander, by himself or with the assistance of her former guardian/father figure. It is infuriating, really – Salander is an interesting character, she and the other characters are careful to emphasize her strength and fierce independence, but throughout this book Salander has be be rescued repeatedly by the boring and unremarkable Blomkvist. There are a few other female characters, but much of their character seems to be illustrated through discussions of their sexuality. A few of the male characters are also primarily defined in terms of their sexual behaviour (particularly as much of the story relates to the sex trade), but not to the same extent as the cast of supporting female characters.
I am uncertain if I want to finish the series. I really enjoy Lisbeth Salander and would like to see where she ends up and learn more about her history, but the story itself is kind of boring while simultaneously angry. It is full of cliches, plodding espionage and crime plotlines, and saddled with a bland leading man.
This book was so highly recommended in CBR III, it was the first novel I read in 2012. I loved it, and have recommended it to several people in the weeks since I finished it. I have been thinking about it a lot since I finished it, as well.
The novel is a love story tangled in a magical duel, father figures battling with proteges as a means of figuring out which magical method is superior. It sounds silly, but the novel makes it seem very immediate, as the magic is not really illusions as we commonly think of it, but instead manipulating the fabric of the world. Marco and Celia are the current combatants that are trying to best each other, but of course they fall in love during the creation of the circus that serves as an arena.
This novel is very sensual, in that it has detailed descriptions of scents, costumes, circus tents and acts. It uses black, white and red imagery repeatedly, and I could not help but wonder how the strong visual imagery would be depicted in a film. While most of the numerous supporting characters are not very complex, the willful and selfish malevolence of Celia’s father and Marco’s mentor is tangible, and Celia and Marco themselves are intelligent people who take a great deal of pride in their work, making each exhibit a declaration of love in addition to a wondrous accomplishment and a stage in the battle.
I have seen online that the movie rights have been sold to the makers of the Twilight franchise, and that there are comparisons of The Night Circus to both the Twilight series and the Harry Potter series. I don’t really think those are useful comparisons – the writing is quite complex and clearly intended for an adult audience, and I am not sure the book lends itself easily to a series. The only real complaint that I have about the book is that some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, particularly that between Celia and Marco while they are circling each other; they are relatively young and should be using language that flows a bit more smoothly and perhaps with a greater sense of romantic urgency. However, the book is a wonderful read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.