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Love triangles in stories have been around for a long time. And I usually don't bat an eye when one comes up in those stories. Classic literature examples are usually well developed, believable dilemmas that add to the heroine's (or less often it seems - hero's) journey in the narrative. What I find interesting in some of the classic literature examples I can think of (Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet) is that it is very clear who the heroine loves the most. And depending on her decision there's tragedy or bliss. (Um, but in the above named examples it's tragedy both times) Young adult novels today have quite a bit of love triangle dependent plots and while I can get cranky when a perfectly lovely romance is developing between two characters and a character from left field gets thrown into the mix just to highlight the heroine's indecisive and weak-willed nature (You guys, but I do love Twilight), there's something about my chosen topic book, Shadow and Bone, that makes me pause. Because it is clear who the heroine loves the most. And that person is definitely worthy - nice, but not bland, very passionate and romantic and of course he doesn't hurt in the looks department. But there's that other guy, the Darkling, who is just so darn interesting. And somehow I'm rooting for both guys. How did this happen? Let me tell you.
(I'll try not to be too spoilery here, but it is better if you have read the book. Because it's really good.)
Alina Starkov, Mal Oretsev and the Darkling (real name yet to be revealed). Here's the thing about all three of these characters. They are all likable. Alina is surprisingly not whiny or bratty - lovesick and vulnerable, yes - but her character isn't the reason she's in this love triangle in the first place. (Second place and third place - as in 2nd book and the as yet unreleased 3rd book might be different.) The fact that this romance first started off as Alina's unrequited love for her best friend and Mal's realization of his feelings for her later in the book gives the triangle a different kind of structure. Alina isn't sure of Mal's feelings at all in the beginning, and then to realize that her love for him is strangling something important inside of her which the Darkling can develop and encourage is an entirely new dilemma. Alina's relationship with Mal was hurting her physical well-being but she still loves him deeply. Is Mal able to accept Alina for who she really is? Or maybe the Darkling could be better for her in that respect.
So Alina is a pretty strong, relatively decisive character, and Mal is actually exceedingly romantic and charming; how is the Darkling likable? He's the bad boy in the love triangle but is there any love triangle where the bad boy is not delicious? I mean as long as he's not kicking puppies, he's hot. And bad boys, when they are charismatic and magnetic, are very attractive indeed. Likable may not be just the right word, but I definitely like him in the story. So what is it about the Darkling that makes him such a good candidate for Alina's love? And makes me hope for two kinds of ending scenarios for this series, one of which will not happen? For me, I think it's less about what he can do for her, but what she can do for him. Love can be redeeming - if love can banish the brooding (brooding is most always a direct symptom of being the bad boy in a love triangle) and hidden hurt that defines the bad boy character - then who wouldn't want
Capt Von Trapp: Lovely. . . charming, witty, graceful, the perfect hostess. . . and, you're going to hate me for this. . . in a way, my savior.
Baroness: Oh, how unromantic.
No Baroness. In this and in your estimation of Maria, you are wrong. It is very romantic to be the only one who can redeem a damaged soul. Especially if that soul is suave and seductive. (I'm talking about the Captain and the Darkling now I think. And the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera musical too. Can you imagine the Darkling singing "Music of the Night"? I CAN. ...I digress.) But with the Darkling there is more to his character because he is so mysterious. His motivations, his past, his true feelings are all cloaked. Does he truly think he is doing good? Does he even truly love Alina? Can Alina help him at all? All these questions make him such an interesting triangle participant because he such a wild card and there is a level of suspense in what Alina's decision will mean. Many love triangles have a pretty clear outcome, were the protagonist to choose one guy over the other. And most cases, especially in YA, the outcome IS that she will end up with one guy or the other, happy ending, Le Fin. But in this book, that choice might just be the means to the end, an ending which is still very unclear. It is very clear though, that there will be tears and I should probably get that order of a truckload of Kleenex in soon.
So there it is. This series is not yet finished, so it was great to work out my thoughts on the story before I know where it is heading. Mal is a great choice for Alina because they have a strong connection, and I feel like he is better for her in the long run, and will be her choice in the end. (But I don't want to even begin to talk about what Book 2 did to this triangle!) But maybe the Darkling needs Alina more, and it does seem like he understands her better than Mal does. Sometimes Love Triangles are not always just about who the main character loves the most. In this case I think Alina has to choose between her love or what is best for her well-being and/or the well-being of Ravka. It's a difficult choice with so many pros and cons on either side. It's a real dilemma of a love triangle, and I love it. And either way I don't think I will be upset with the ending because I'm rooting for both. But if this series turns into a Love Quadrangle, so help me God, I'm done. Although I really like Sturmhond! ...Oh no.
|My fancasting, although there is a movie deal in development, hurrah!|