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The Trilogy of Two

Review

The Trilogy of Two

 Set in a strange crevasse between fantasy and dreary post-apocalyptica, THE TRILOGY OF TWO follows two prodigiously musical twin girls, Charlotte and Sonja, as they survive on the Outskirts, endless wastelands of garbage where the seas used to be, in a traveling circus. As of late, the girls’ performances have caused strange experiences, including but not limited to levitation and making it rain inside the circus tent. It becomes clear that the girls have magic in them, and when they begin to be chased down by a mysterious Richer (someone who lives in the gargantuan cities with piles of money whose heights are only matched by their skyscraper homes), the girls realize that their lives and their past have much more to them than they could ever have imagined.

 Discovering the truth behind some of the people nearest and dearest to them, especially their adoptive mother, Charlotte and Sonja plunge into the Seven Edens, secret, beautiful, mystical worlds frothing with magic and mythical creatures that serve as protectors of the ways things used to be. It is prophesized that the girls will play the most critical role in the war against the Contessa, a megalomaniacal magnate who wants to engulf the world in smoke and steel. But how can they? The Contessa’s son has stolen their Talents, and with them, their magic has gone. But has it, really?

I admit, I had a bit of a difficult time putting together this summary because the world-building is massively expansive in this story, and it is full of many intricate layers and details. Sometimes it was a bit overwhelming, but for the most part, it was wildly imaginative, and I very much enjoyed being swept up in the odd but lovely chimeric genre of the novel.

What I appreciated the most was that not everything was spoon-fed to you or laboriously laid out in tedious, long-winded explanations, at least pertaining to the post-apocalyptic elements of the story. I loved being left to fill in the gaps of how the seas disappeared and how the cities swallowed the planet, and I had just as much fun as the author imagining why all of the sociopolitical constructs were the way they were. The fantastical elements had much more explanation given to them, and while they weren’t executed poorly by any means, they weren’t always the most exciting or original.

There were so many things I hadn’t seen before, but there were just as many that I had. I sat on a pendulum swinging back and forth between fresh ingenuity and material I had seen a million times. When I was in the middle was the worst; I was enjoying the story greatly but I also wasn’t feeling that spark, that little firecracker going off in my stomach that screamed, “Wow!” Though I could see the (bright) reflections of their inspirations in all the creature-inhabitants of the Seven Edens and the idea of harvesting magic/Talent/something similar for unspeakable evil is something that’s definitely been done before, I still stayed in the story because there were many small details here and there that added exciting original flavor. But I still found myself not totally in love with the book.

Charlotte and Sonja are some of the most well-crafted characters I’ve seen in a kids books in a while.

Another thing that bothered me was the forced love interests for the twin girls, which happened mostly in Act 2. Charlotte and Sonja were fascinating characters. They were so painstakingly fleshed out, and the results seemed almost entirely effortless. I felt very connected to the girls. I supported them, cheered for them, disliked them when the story called for it, but always in the end wanted them to win and be happy. They were realistic, especially given that the author didn’t fall into the twin trap of making them weird or indistinguishable from the other. Their dynamics as siblings were palpable and ever-changing, and their relationships with everyone else were vibrant and gripping. Except for when romance showed up. For Charlotte, I liked that she seemed to keep falling in love with boys --- a very normal thing for a 12-year-old. But the second boy she falls for was so obviously a secret villain, and especially since Charlotte was clearly an intelligent and fierce-hearted girl, I had no idea how she was unable to see past that. I could buy her starry-eyed glaze of first love, but when a guy is so obviously evil, and when she is a character very attuned to evil as it has taken much from her, I had an impossible time believing she’d be so swept up in him and never once question his motives.

But what happened with Sonja was even worse. There were rampant problems with consent in her extremely forced relationship with an important secondary player, Wolf Boy. At many times, she expressed that she didn’t like him, and yet he would say and do things romantically towards her that she would try to deflect. In one scene when he didn’t let go of her waist after she expressed her distaste, major red flags went off in my head. He also said, “You look nice when you aren’t talking.” I don’t care if he’s trying to make a joke about the fact that for once she’s not making remarks at him; that is not something you want to expose to young girls as an acceptable way for a boy to speak to you. I felt a bad taste in my mouth after reading that line.

Sonja is so strong and defined, and to see her shoved into a relationship with someone who did not always respect her or her boundaries upset me greatly. By the end, there was no clear discernible reason why she started falling for him, just a change of heart, which to me said that she changed her mind because the plot called for it. I thought it was just unnecessary and not a great relationship to put into the hands of young readers. And that’s not to say that Wolf Boy as a character was leery or seedy, not at all. I liked him, but the few flaws that he had ended up being problematic, and affected a character (possibly my favorite) in a way I did not appreciate.

I also wasn’t surprised by the identities of the twins’ parents, and there were a few writing choices here and there that were a bit indicative that this was a first novel. I know I seem like I’m focusing on the negative, but that’s because I really wanted this book to be amazing. I was so delighted and impressed by the world-building, and Charlotte and Sonja were two downright incredible characters --- along with many of the other people surrounding them --- that when these problems arose, I just got mad because I knew the story could be so much better.

Overall though, I did have an enjoyable time reading THE TRILOGY OF TWO and I think Charlotte and Sonja are some of the most well-crafted characters I’ve seen in a kids books in a while. As I’ve said, the world is fascinating, and the accompanying artwork is just astounding. The pencil sketches, done by the author herself, are breathtaking, and I’m amazed by this multi-talented artist. THE TRILOGY OF TWO has its problems, but in the end, I think the story will dazzle many children, and it’s great to see so many strong leading female characters in one story. I do recommend this book for all of its good parts and its less than good ones. Charlotte and Sonja are the types of characters that will stay with a reader long after the book closes, and I know that is certainly going to be the case with me.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on November 3, 2015

The Trilogy of Two
by Juman Malouf

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2015
  • Genres: Supernatural, Young Adult 10+, Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0399171142
  • ISBN-13: 9780399171147