Welcome to The Spoiler Alert!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn summary by Renee Ahdieh

     The book opens with General al-Khoury talking to his son on a balcony overlooking the city of Khorasan.  With a sense of foreboding in the air, they watch as rain begins to fall around them for the first time in a very long time as they are discussing Khalid, the Caliph's, fate.  Jalal, the son, is telling his father that he doesn't think Khalid will be able to withstand what needs to be done, and the general tells him that they and Khalid will do what they must to survive.  The preface ends with the words of the curse that foretells the book: "One hundred lives for the one you took.  One life to one dawn.  Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams.  I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold."

     Although Khalid is the Caliph of Khorasan (a Caliph is a title of an emperor in this world to my knowledge), he is not loved by his city, because every day he takes from the city a new girl to be wed to and then she is killed the next morning.  It is surprising then, when a girl volunteers to be wed to him.  Her name is Shahrzhad, and although she won't reveal her reasoning to the Caliph, she has volunteered so that she can get close to him and kill him to avenge her friend Shiva who he killed not long ago after taking her as one of his brides.  
     Shahrzhad has done this without telling her family and friends other than her father Jahandar.  He comes to see her while she's being prepared to wed the Caliph and offers her a rose from their garden.  He has magic in his heart but is not able to use it very well and tries to make it bloom for her but it withers quickly and dies before their eyes.  He is disappointed with himself that he can't even do this simple thing for his daughter that he's saying goodbye to, but she tells him that it was beautiful and she will never forget the way it looked at full bloom for that moment.  She asks him to keep his promise and take her sister Irsa to her lover Tariq's house and he tells her he will.
     The next chapter begins with Tariq's point of view.  He and his best friend Rahim are hunting with Tariq's falcon Zoraya in the desert.  When they return home, Tariq's father, the emir of their city (I think an emir is like a mayor) calls Tariq to his tent to tell him that Shazi (Shahrzhad) has sent a letter to them from Rey, and the letter reveals to them what she has decided to do to avenge Shiva, who was Tariq's cousin and Shahrzhad's best friend.  Tariq goes against his father's advice of telling him he can't do anything now and leaves with Rahim to try to rescue her somehow.
     We then switch POV to Jahandar and Irsa who are on their way to Tariq's family's house.  Jahandar stops by the old library in the city to retrieve a book from inside, and although Irsa doesn't understand why they are doing it at the time, it turns out the book is full of magic spells and instructions which will help Jahandar become more powerful as he hopes he can rescue his daughter too and not leave it all up to Tariq.
     Back at the palace, Khalid comes to Shahrzhad (I am going to call her Shazi from now on) and they are intimate (not by Shazi's choice of course, but she doesn't fight him because she has a plan to live through the night and be the first of his brides to see the sunrise).  She wagers a bet with the Caliph when they are done.  He wants to know why she volunteered and she says she will tell him if he lets her tell him a story first.  He agrees, and she tells him the story of Agib.
     Agib was a talented thief who became too cocky in his ability and was eventually caught stealing from the emir and chased through Baghdad.  In a panic, he boarded a small ship and asked if they needed hired help and luckily they did.  They took him aboard and he was able to escape the city that way.  
     A storm came and the captain of the ship was killed.  The crew began looking for land as they were now hopelessly lost at sea and they finally see an island in the distance: the Mountain of Adamant.  It is rumored to have such high iron content that when ships get near it the very nails inside the ship are pulled from the hull like a magnet and the ship will sink before it ever reaches shore.  
     Desperate, the crew see no choice but to go there.  The rumors are true though and the ship begins to sink while still far from the island.  As it splinters apart, Agib grabs a nearby metal pot and hangs onto the floating mast to survive.  The metal in the pot eventually pulls him to shore and he finds an old chalice nearby.  It is marred with age and rust and he swipes his sleeve across it to clear it and a genie comes out.
     At this point, Shazi stops the story as the dawn has come, and when Khalid tells her to continue, she says that she cannot today as the tale has just begun, but that if he will let her live for one more day she will finish it.  Khalid is too intrigued to refuse and allows her to live that day.  When he leaves she breaks down in tears for she was unsure if her plan would work and feared he would kill her after that morning.
     She awakens later to find a handmaiden in her room that has been assigned to her by the name of Despina.  Despina and Shazi eventually end up becoming very good friends as they are both outspoken and not afraid to say exactly what they feel.  This first time they meet, Despina tells her that she's rooting for her (to survive, not kill Khalid. She has no idea that Shazi is there to kill him) and that Shazi has caused quite a stir within the palace.
     Despina tells her that she is allowed to roam the palace as long as the Rajput is with her (the best fighter in Khalid's guard who has been assigned to guard Shazi).  When she goes to the palace guard training grounds she meets Jalal and she asks him to train her to shoot a bow and says that since this is her last day she feels like she should learn something useful.  
     She is really a talented archer as Tariq taught her a long time ago, but she's faking so that hopefully she can talk to Jalal longer and find out a weakness about Khalid that she can use to stay alive longer.  
     She doesn't get much information but while distracted she accidentally nocks the arrow with much more precision than a beginner should have.  Jalal laughs and tells her that he has earned the right to ask a favor as his silence comes with a price.  He tells her that Khalid is not his friend anymore but not his enemy either, and that he is tired of the broken thing Khalid has become and he wants her to fix it and thinks she can.
     That night, Khalid again comes to her room and Shazi begins the story of Agib again...The genie comes out of the chalice and tells Agib that he is permitted three questions as he is the all knowing genie of the bronze chalice.  Agib accidentally asks him a question straight away as he is in shock and asks the genie what kind of questions he can answer.  The genie tells him that he has the answer to ANY question.  Agib vows not to be so stupid again and uses his second question wisely.  
     He asks the genie how to get off the island and reach his homeland without any further harm befalling him.  The genie tells him there is a boat at the top of Mount Adamant that can get him there after twenty days of sailing.  
     When they are out to sea the boat begins to sink and Agib is furious as he thinks the genie lied in saying that no harm would befall him when sailing home, but a larger ship appears and takes Agib aboard.  It is none other than the emir's ship who he had stolen from before, but after being gone so long the emir does not recognize him so he plays dumb.  
     The two strike up a conversation and the emir tells him that they were looking for an island rumored to hold a chalice with a genie and that he wants it because his most prized possession, a ring given to him by his late wife, was stolen in the market a while ago and he needs the genie to find out where it is.  Agib of course was the thief but he had dropped the ring in a panic while fleeing and has no idea where it is now.  
     He keeps silent and they sail for many months looking for the island, with Agib becoming a good sailor and also becoming great friends with the emir.  The emir gets sick and is dying, so upon reaching the shores of home again Agib decides to use his last wish to find the ring.  The genie tells him a mercenary has it and Agib seeks him out.  
     A huge fight ensues but Agib manages to get the ring and brings it back to the emir and finally tells him the truth, that he was the thief.  The emir tells him he's known all along but tells Agib that he must promise to never steal again and instead work to better himself and humanity.  Agib with tears in his eyes tells him he will, and upon the emir's death Agib finds out that the emir willed his entire estate to him as if he were his own son. Agib finds a wife and a great wedding takes place.  At the wedding is a magician attending, but he is not there for the wedding, he is looking for a boy named Aladdin.
     Khalid asks if this is a new story and she tells him it's not, it's a continuation of the same story.  The general comes to the room and knocks as it's dawn and Shazi once again begins to panic.  Khalid does nothing to prevent the general and his men from starting to take her but then he pauses and tells the general that he would like to introduce him to his Mountain of Adamant, his queen, as he's inexplicably drawn to her in ways that even he doesn't understand yet, but he needs time to figure his feelings out and that she is not to be taken.
     Tariq and Rahim have arrived at Tariq's uncle's house (Shiva's father, Reza), and Tariq begs him to help them rage a war against the Caliph and kill him for the wrong he's done.  Reza agrees and tells Tariq that he knows of wandering mercenary bands near them and that if they can get them to join their cause they may just be able to enter the city and overthrow the palace.  Tariq goes to find them to try to convince them to join.
     Shazi goes with Despina the next day to sneak into the guard tournament.  There she sees Khalid fight and realizes it is no ordinary man that she is dealing with but an excellent fighter who is second only to the Rajput. Although she doesn't want to admit it, after their conversations over the past few evenings she has begun to have feelings for the Caliph as well and is unsure of where to go from here.
     She doesn't have to wonder long as the next morning she is yanked from her bed and dragged to the courtyard where she is to be hung.  While dangling from the rope and trying to hold onto life she is cut down by Khalid as he has come to his senses and saved her after all.
     Khalid comes to her room and begs forgiveness.  She understandably doesn't trust him now, and he tells her that although he's leaving for a meeting in another country with their leaders, she has nothing to fear as he has ordered no harm befall her while he's gone.  She almost believes him until she starts to have her breakfast one morning and realizes her tea smells funny.  She tells Despina she thinks there's poison in it and it turns out there is.  
     Now Shazi doesn't trust Despina either as she is the one who always brings Shazi's meals (it's really the general who tried to poison her as he doesn't trust her and he knows of the curse and thinks they have to fulfill the prophecy and she must die, but she doesn't know that yet).
     Jalal comes and tells her a visitor is at the palace and has requested to meet the queen.  It is Khalid's tutor from years ago, a scholar they call Musa-effendi.  Musa tells Shazi the story of how Khalid was raised.         When his mother, Laila, was taken by the former Caliph to be his second wife, she had hope for her future and Musa came with her at her family's request as they were friends.  The Caliph however, loved his first wife very much and pushed away Laila as she was only there due to the country's need for another queen.  When Khalid was born, Musa thought things would be better, but the Caliph eventually found out that the queen was having an affair with a guard and slit Khalid's mother's throat right in front of him.  Musa was kicked out of the palace, and from that day on Khalid was on his own until his father's death when he was 14, and then Khalid was thrown into being a ruler when he had never even been taught how to be one by his father.
     Before Musa leaves, he gives Shazi a gift of a rolled carpet and tells her that he senses the magic in her and asks if her family has magic in it.  She tells him of her father's abilities but that he can't control them very well so he doesn't use them much, and Musa tells her that he knows the secrets of magic and that even though she doesn't know how to do anything right now, if she ever wants to harness her magic she should look him up and he will help her.  He leaves by saying that she should take good care of the carpet as it's special and when she's lost it will help her find her way.  Later on, she finally unrolls it and it curls up around her touch.  Despina touches it and nothing happens.  Anything else about the rug isn't mentioned in this book, but I'm sure it will come up in the second novel.
     When Khalid returns, Shazi asks that he go into the city with her like Aladdin did with the princess in their story, as regular citizens not of royalty.  He agrees, and they have a great time until a drunken man keeps trying to get Shazi to go with him and tells her that he could fulfill her dreams if she'll let him.  He eventually finds them again at the little outdoor cafe they are dining at and he tries to drag her away from Khalid forcefully, not knowing who they actually are. A fight ensues with the man and his friends and Shazi bargains with a boy for his bow and arrows.  She shoots the man who has a knife now directly through the wrist and makes him drop the knife.  The man and his friends retreat and Khalid knows now what an excellent shot she actually is.  She keeps telling herself to kill him, to do it now while she has a weapon and no one is around, but when he comes to her and kisses her and tells her that she surprises him more and more everyday and that she has become everything to him, she drops all pretenses of her revenge and kisses him back.
     A few days later Despina is very sick and Shazi tries to take care of her and demands that Despina tell her what's wrong as Despina says she doesn't want to go to the palace doctor and already knows what's wrong.  Despina is pregnant, and reveals that Jalal is the father but that he doesn't know yet.  Shazi asks why she hasn't told him, and Despina reveals that she's scared that maybe he doesn't love her, and that he is of the royal guard and is expected to marry better than a handmaiden.  It's shown later on though that kind Jalal loves her very much and doesn't care about marrying into other royalty, but at this time Despina doesn't know that.
     Eventually, a feast is going to be held where Shazi is introduced to the city as his queen, and Khalid tells her that his uncle, the Sultan to the country he goes to visit sometimes, will be coming.  
     It is no secret that Khalid's uncle doesn't like him and that he questions Khalid's validity as the true successor to the former Caliph of Khorasan due to Khalid's mother's affair.  That is why Khalid visits them occassionally, to keep tabs on his uncle, because although his force isn't strong enough yet to try to take down Khorasan and Khalid, Khalid has no doubt that someday he will try and is using the old adage of keep your enemies close.
     At the feast, Shazi meets Salim (the uncle Sultan) and immediately hates him, for he constantly taunts Khalid with veiled threats.  She also meets his daughter, Yasmine, who is the most beautiful girl Shazi has ever seen.  She is surprised when Yasmine pulls her aside and confesses her love for Khalid and tells Shazi that she had better treat him well, for if he doesn't want Yasmine, she at least wants him to be happy with someone he does love.  
     Shazi soon finds out that Tariq is at the feast in his father's stead, as all the emir's have been invited.  When Tariq comes to her room secretly later on and asks if she has a plan for taking out the Caliph, he begins to realize that Shazi may be falling in love with Khalid and he decides he needs to get her away from this place as soon as possible as he's sure she's been brainwashed here.  When he kisses her before sneaking back out, she kisses him back as she does still love him also, but she knows that she somehow must tell Tariq and all of her family soon that she has failed them and fallen in love with the man she is supposed to kill.
     Khalid has become wary of Tariq as he sees how he gravitates toward Shazi, and Khalid tells Jalal and the general to find out everything they can of Tariq and his family.
     Tariq has managed to get the mercenary leader, Omar, to join their cause, and he goes back to him and his uncle with what he has found out after the feast.  He doesn't reveal that Shazi is in love with Khalid, but just tells them that they need to get her out of there soon and blames it on jealousy, saying that he has seen how much Khalid loves her.  Jahandar shows back up and asks Tariq to allow him to help.  Tariq knows Jahandar is a weak man but out of pity tells him he will allow him to help them when the time comes.
     Shazi awakes in the night and is attacked by men in black cloaks, the Fida'i, trained assassins who try to kidnap her.  She fights back along with Khalid and the Rajput and they manage to defeat them.  Khalid takes her to his room and bandages her wounds.  They start to become intimate when a guard knocks on the door and tells Khalid that the general needs him as they've figured out how the assassins gained entry into the palace.  Khalid asks her to stay in his room and he will be back.  
     While he's gone she can't help but snoop, wanting to know still after all this time what it is that made him kill the other girls since she knows there's a reason for it, as Khalid is not just a monster like she first thought. In one of his cabinets she finds dozens of letters to the families of the girls; his apology letters telling them how sorry he was for their loss.  She knows they were never meant to be seen by anyone but Khalid, but now that she's seen them her heart breaks, both for herself and Khalid.  Herself because even after knowing it was true, until this moment she wanted the killings to really just be rumors so that she wouldn't know she was in love with a killer, and Khalid because she knows there's something he's not telling her, but the grief in the letters shows her enough to know he didn't kill willingly. 
     When Khalid returns he lies down with her as she's asleep on the bed and she wakes up and tries to talk to him, but he's acting weird and soon he's sitting on the edge of the bed doubled over in pain.  Shazi calls for the general and he rushes in with the palace magician who creates an aura around Khalid's head that eases the pain for a while.  Khalid finally tells Shazi the whole truth.
     When he became Caliph, there was pressure from Salim for him to marry Yasmine and join their families together.  Khalid wanted to marry for love and not be forced into a marriage, so he found a girl in the city who intrigued him by the name of Ava and married her.  She was smart and from a good family, but he realized he wasn't in love with her too late.  He still wanted to make her happy, but he could tell that she was devastated and she ended up killing herself in her room.  
     After her death, Khalid received an invitation to her father's home and wrapped in guilt he went to meet with him, not knowing what the man wanted but knowing that he needed to try to console Ava's family.  When Ava's father came to him, he cursed Khalid with the curse aforementioned at the first of the summary.  Khalid tried to resist the curse at first, but all of Khorasan began drying up with no rain, there were diseases rampant, and a lot of people in the city were dying, so he realized he didn't have a choice.  He tells her that no matter what happens now because of this curse, he can never hurt her.
     The general goes to Khalid with the information about who Tariq is, and Khalid goes to Shazi's chamber.  He offers her a knife to kill him with and tells her that he deserves it and that he feels it's finally time to pay the price for what he did to her family, to Tariq, to Shiva, and hopefully end this curse.  He tells her that after she kills him, there is a secret door behind his dresser that she can go through and she is to take his horse and escape.  She of course is deeply in love with him and although she wanted vengeance for Shiva, she knows this is not the way and she makes him drop the knife and kisses him.
     Khalid tells her he has to go meet with the other emir's in the region as a small force is gathering at the border of Khorasan and Parthia and the emir's want to discuss a strategy should the need for one arise as they fear it's the makings of an army.  He tells her he will be back in two weeks.
     The next chapter starts with Jahandar on a hill overlooking the city.  He has gone to the dark side so to say and is following the same dark magic path that Ava's father chose in order to try to save Shazi (not knowing she doesn't even want to be saved).  
      He slices a horse's throat to use the book of magic which he has now translated and uses the dark magic to bring down a storm upon the city.  Tariq and their small army are waiting at the gates.  Tariq, not knowing that Jahandar had become this powerful, rushes in to find Shazi when fires break out all over the city due to the lightning strikes.
    Inside the palace, Jalal rushes to Shazi's room to get her out of the palace as it's being struck by lightning and major damage is being done there also with walls even caving in, along with the fact that they've heard intruders have invaded the gates now that the storm has blown them away.  Shazi tells Jalal to go find Despina and he tells her that she must be his first priority since she is the queen.  Shazi tells him about Despina being pregnant so that he will go.
     Tariq climbs into her room to take her from the palace and the Rajput fights him but Tariq kills him.  Shazi is devastated as she is living two separate lives now and although she knows the Rajput would have killed Tariq and she loves Tariq, she was also friends with the Rajput.
     In the chaos, Shazi agrees to go with Tariq just until they get to safety, and then she will tell him in a calmer place about how she must go back to the palace and of her love for Khalid.  
     When Jalal is at the stables when they try to escape, in order to avoid a fight between Tariq, Rahim, and Jalal, she tells Tariq and Rahim that she can't go with them, that she is home and that she is staying there.     Not knowing that her father is powerful enough to bring about destruction such as this, she believes this is part of the curse and tells Jalal that she has to be here when Khalid comes back so that he can fulfill the prophecy and kill her like he's supposed to and that she will make him do it to avoid the city being ripped to shreds.  
     Jalal tells Tariq to take her out of the city, since he knows that Khalid could never do it and it's better to think that she ran off with Tariq than for her to stay and Khalid be tortured between loving her and destroying his city. When Tariq tells her that her father is waiting for her on a hill outside the city she tells him to take her to him.
     The book ends with two riders meeting on a hill near the border.  It is Reza and Salim who are bargaining to become allies to take down the palace, unbeknownst to Tariq.  When Salim tells Reza he can supply his cause with weapons, one of Salim's soldiers steps forward and in the moonlight a tattoo on his arm flashes; a scarab, the mark of the Fida'i.  Now we know that Salim is the one who sent the assassins to take Shazi that night.
     Khalid, now back home, stands on his balcony and writes a letter to Shazi before burning it, declaring in it that he will never regret loving her and that he knows he wouldn't have done anything different.

End of Book 1

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

     The Selection is now down to only 6 girls, with America spending more and more time with Maxon and everyone is under the impression that she is his favorite, including America.  Maxon is getting frustrated with her though, wanting her to declare that she wants him completely so that the Selection can end and they can begin planning their life, but she just keeps telling him she needs time, as she's still trying to sort out her feelings between him and Aspen.  Aspen keeps telling her that he will never stop fighting for her, but she's making it hard for him when Maxon gets all of her time and he only sees her in secret passing.
     Maxon tells America he has a surprise for her, and takes her to a hidden room filled with books and a computer.  He tells her his family are the only ones who know about this room and to keep it a secret.  He looks up Halloween and shows her all the information he has on it (her previous question to him in book one when he told her he could answer any question about anything) and pulls a book out of one of the shelves and shows her a journal entry about a family getting ready for Halloween.  He reveals to her that it is none other than General Illea's journal, and since he has to go he tells her that she can take it with her to read as long as it stays hidden and she doesn't show anyone.
     Later on, Maxon tells her he's decided to throw a Halloween party since it ihasn't been celebrated in so long and that he is inviting all the girls families to visit them.  America is ecstatic.  She begins thinking through everything and realizes the thought of another girl with Maxon kills her, so she admits her feelings to him and tells him she couldn't be without him.  Now he is the one who is ecstatic that she's finally revealed that she's not only there for the money for her family or some other reason, but because she loves him.
      Her family shows up and she has a converation with her dad about Maxon.  He asks her if she's happy and she says she is but that she's worried because she's found out that at the party one of the girls will be eliminated.  He asks her why she thinks it could be her and she dodges the question, but she's noticed in the past week that he had made time for all the other girls and he never once came to see her again.  Later, Marlee and America see Maxon walking in the gardens with America's father and talking.  America asks if he's been talking to everyone's father but Marlee doesn't know.  If he did, he didn't take the other fathers to the garden.
     At the party, Maxon dances with all the other girls and completely ignores her, so she begins talking to Aspen and gets confused once again as she knows she still loves him.  Maxon does eventually ask her to dance, and when he sees she's upset he apologizes and tells her he didn't realize she would see it as she did; that he was only spending time with the other girls in case she changed her mind about being with him to try to find a possible backup, but that it's only her for him, and he talked to her father for his permission to ask her to marry him and he was waiting until the morning and would announce the Selection had ended at that time.  America goes to bed happy about what the future will hold.
     The next morning, her handmaidens wake her up before the usual time and tell her she must get up and come downstairs.  Unsure of what's happening since they won't tell her anything she does what they ask and she's placed in a black dress and taken to the grand foyer.  All the other girls are there too except Marlee and America begins to get a sick feeling in her stomach, as she sees this will not be the happy announcement she expected this morning.
     The palace doors are opened and the girls are paraded outside and onto a platform with seats for each of them.  The whole city is there cheering for the girls.  America tries to catch Maxon's eye but he purposefully ignores her.
     Soon, America realizes what's going on when she sees one of the guards, Officer Carter Woodwark, a very kind man that she accidentally bumped into one day on her way to the restroom while in the Ladies parlor with Marlee, being led out in chains.  The cries of the crowd turn from cheers to dismay.  Marlee is led out behind Woodwark in chains also.
     An announcement is made that they have been caught in a state of intimacy and that this crime is punishable by death, but that Maxon and the king have agreed to let them live but that they will receive 20 lashes and their status will be reduced to that of an 8.  America realizes that this is what Marlee has been hiding from her all this time when she revealed she didn't want to win the Selection.  It was because she's been in love with Carter this whole time.
     When the lashings begin, America hears Carter comforting Marlee and telling her it will be over soon.  They begin to whip Marlee across her hands until they are bloody pulps and America can't take it anymore.  She screams for them to stop and tries to run to Marlee, but guards capture her and drag her back to her room.  When Maxon finally comes to her, she tells him that although she understands he didn't have a choice, she doesn't think she can be a princess and have to watch something like that again.  He begs her not to desert him, to give him time to fix it, and that things aren't always that way.  She reluctantly agrees.
     Later in the women's room, America is trying her best to hold it together although she misses Marlee and her family terribly and needs their advice (the parents were sent home after the beating had happened) when Celeste says that Marlee got what she deserved and is a whore.  America finally beats the crap out of her and they are pulled apart and taken to the hospital wing to be patched up.
     Aspen comes to see her once she's back in her room and consoles her for what has happened.  He gives her a button from his guard suit and tells her that although he can't give her the things Maxon can, that he wants to at least give her some piece of him as a reminder that he's still there for her.  She threads it onto a bracelet and wears it from that point on.
     Celeste, being a brat as always, tells America to look at a magazine article she's found, and America knows it can't be good news if Celeste wants her to see it.  The article talks about how girls are fighting within the palace now and America's outburst during Marlee's beating and it shows that America has dropped from one of the favorites to win all the way to last place.
     Sylvia, an employee of the crown who has been teaching the girls school lessons and etiquette, reveals to the girls that foreign guests are coming to the palace and the girls will be split into two teams and will be required to plan the parties for the guests as a test to what they have learned.  It is Celeste, Natalie, and Elise on one team and Kriss and America on another.  America finds out from working so closely with Kriss that she and Maxon have been spending a lot of time together and America begins to wonder if he's moved on to her now that America has revealed she doesn't think she can be a princess.  America likes Kriss and can tell Kriss really loves Maxon so she is even more torn with her feelings.
     There is a rebel attack on the palace and America doesn't get inside from the gardens in time so she runs into the forest and hides in a tree.  Two of the rebels come along and one of them drops the backpack she is carrying.  America sees it is full of books.  The girl looks up and sees America in the tree and America fears she will be killed, but the girl just smiles, bows, and runs away to catch up with the boy she's with.
     The parties go great, but Kriss and America pull off the best one, and before the representatives from Spain leave, one of them named Nicoletta pulls America aside and tells her that she is with her and that if she becomes the princess to look her up as she feels they could make great changes together.  America's heart swells as she finally has an ally in Nicoletta and of course her father even if no one else believes she can be a princess, herself included.
     Maxon sends a note that he needs to see America and the other girls think that she's being kicked out, but Maxon takes her to the princess suite to show it to her and to give her a surprise.  There is a hidden panel in one of the wardrobes and Marlee is inside.  It turns out Maxon has kept Marlee and Carter at the palace the whole time and was trying to find the best time to let America see her without anyone finding out, especially his father since he knows he would be outraged.  Marlee has been working in the kitchens and Maxon promises that he will sneak her out as much as he can to visit America.  Marlee and Carter have gotten married and are living in a small home beyond the kitchen area.
   Maxon and his father have to leave suddenly to go on a trip to New Asia because of a dispute there, so America and Aspen begin spending more and more time together.  A project is given to the girls by Sylvia to come up with an idea for changing the country for the greater good.  All the girls seem excited and America is too until she realizes she has no ideas that are feasible for what could be done to fix all the problems within the country and the world.  She's seen the poverty firsthand and all the bad things that come along with it, but she can't think of a solution.
     She begins reading the General's diary, hoping to get some ideas, and realizes this man who the whole world looks up to is nothing but a tyrant.  He sells his daughter off to another royal so that he will be a king rather than just a president and has connived the whole time, not to find a way for the greater good of the country, but the best way to become powerful, and so this is when he establishes the caste system.  He will place his enemies lowest on the caste scale so that their voices will be silenced for good and place those loyal to him higher on the scale.
     As she begins to think about it, America realizes why the history they've been taught has never been taught from books.  They've been told by everyone that "history is something you should just know, not something that has to be written down", and America sees that if it isn't written down, the truth isn't ever really out there and can be bent from generation to generation which is exactly what General Illea did.  Those loyal to him developed the history that he was a hero and those in the lower castes, although they probably passed on the truth from generation to generation, were by that point looked down upon so much that even if they did tell the truth no one would listen and it would be seen as treason.
     She goes to tell Maxon to find out if he knows what a monster Illea was and to tell him that she thinks the rebels have been looking for the diaries this whole time to try to show the world how Illea was.  The guards to his room tell her he doesn't want to be disturbed and she starts to go back to her room, but one of the servants in the hall whispers to her that he isn't in his room and that they're rooting for her to win.
     America goes through the palace trying to find him, and when she hears whispering and giggling around a corner she turns in shock to see Celeste with her body pinning Maxon to a wall and them kissing each other.  Maxon looks up and sees her watching and turns to stone.  She runs to her room angry and hurt, unable to believe what she saw since she's told him a thousand times what a horrible person Celeste is.  She sees that although she thought she and Kriss were the frontrunners for being the princess she's been fooled the whole time.  For someone to follow in the same footsteps of Illea and rule a country, they would have to have a princess content with keeping a country under their thumb which of course is exactly how Celeste is.
     America tells Maxon she wants to leave, that she's done with everything.  He refuses and tries to tell her that Celeste means nothing to him, but America won't hear it and demands to be sent home.  He again refuses so she throws the bracelet at him that he gave her and tells him to leave and not come back to her room.  Knowing that he won't kick her out, she tries to figure out a way to be kicked out and go out with a bang.
     When it comes time for the girls presentation of their projects on the Capitol Report, America keeps hers a secret until the time comes, and then reveals on national tv that she thinks the caste system should be eliminated. She then pulls out General Illeas diary and starts to quote a passage from it and the king has the newsfeed cut.  He demands to know where she got the diary and Maxon tells him he gave it to her to read when they were looking up items on Halloween.  The king tells Maxon that America is to be kicked out immediately. Before the king leaves the room to go talk to Maxon, he tells Natalie that he has some bad news for her and that her sister was killed in a rebel attack that morning.  In all the confusion and sadness in the room where everyone is comforting Natalie, America goes to her room to collect her things.
     When she starts down the hallway Maxon is there and he tells her that although he wants change too, announcing it to the whole country was not the way to go.  The changes have to be subtle or there will be riots and the country will never be pieced back together, plus since he isn't the king yet he can't do anything at the moment.  In the midst of their conversation there is a surprise rebel attack and Maxon and America go to one of the servant safe rooms since they won't be able to get to the royal safe room in time.  Maxon hails a guard and tells him to tell his family that he is safe and to find them when it's over.  Once in the room, Maxon takes off his shirt and asks America to help him and she sees huge slashes on his back and scarring from previous beatings and realizes it's from his father. They talk and he tells her he became so close to Kriss after everything with Marlee because he was afraid he was losing her and he knew that he had to find someone else.  After a while he began to realize what a sweet person she was and he admits to America that it's not like it is with her, it's more of a steady growth in is heart, but he does have feelings for Kriss too.
     He tells her that although it's supposed to be his choice, his father has had his hand in the Selection this whole time, hence why Natalie and Celeste are still there.  His father likes Celeste, and Natalie has no free will of her own so his dad knows she would be pliable when queen.  The king doesn't like America since she is so strong willed, but was willing to let her stay since Maxon liked her as long as she didn't upset the balance.  When she did, Maxon knew there was nothing he could do.  America apologizes to him, not realizing what she did would cause his father to take out his anger on Maxon and that she didn't think through what she was doing fully, she was just so angry that she knew she wanted to leave.  They reconcile even though they both know it's too late.
     After waiting so long they realize the attack must be over and they leave the room.  The guard who was supposed to tell the royal family that they were safe was killed in the attack and so they realize everyone has been searching frantically for them thinking them dead. America packs up her things to leave once the attack is over.
     America is relieved to see that Aspen has survived the attack and tells him she's going home, but tells him that she needs time alone before trying to contact him.  She admits that she loves Maxon, and although Aspen has told her he would wait for her, she doesn't want them to be together just because they are each others only options at the moment.  He tells her there will never be anyone else for him and he will wait as long as it takes, the same way Maxon did when she came to the castle heartbroken over Aspen.
     Before she leaves Maxon comes to her and tells her that his family is so overjoyed that he is alive that they have decided to allow America to stay if she wants to due to the fact that he told his dad America's quick thinking getting him to the servant's safe room is what saved his life.  He also tells her that if she does stay, he knows that his father will still do anything in his power to get rid of her and asks if she's willing to accept that.  He also tells her that she is the one who will now have to wait for him, as he's seen how she makes reckless decisions when she gets angry and he will still be spending time with Kriss to see how he feels about her.  Knowing how much she loves him now she tells him that she will do anything she needs to.
     When she starts to go back to her room the king corners her in the hallway and tells her that she is not queen material and that she shouldn't be content with her standing with Maxon as men are fickle and a single moment can change their hearts forever.  She doesn't say anything but tells him that as long as Maxon wants her there she will be staying, and she vows in her heart that this will truly be a competition now.  She will fight his father for Maxon, she will fight Maxon's feelings for Kriss, and she vows she will win his heart.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Selection by Kiera Cass summary

     The Selection begins with our protagonist America at home with her family; her younger sister, May, younger brother, Gerad, her mother and father, and her friend Aspen and his family, although we find out soon into the book that he is much more than a friend.
     America and Aspen have been seeing each other in secret, meeting at a tree house near both of their homes after the nightly curfew for the towns of midnight. America has never told her family due to the fact that he is a lower caste than her and marrying into a lower caste isn't forbidden but is frowned upon in this society.
     The caste numbers are 1-8, with one being the royal family, two's being military and others in powerful positions, threes being the wealthy but not as influential, and the others are workers who are in poverty but getting by, the 6-8 castes being the poorest with the 8's mostly being homeless and begging.  America's family are 5's, so they are expected to have jobs in the arts and they make enough money to scrape by but are usually hungry, with having to sometimes make a choice between electricity or more food or other necessities.
      When news is announced that a Selection is happening, America meets Aspen at the tree house to tell him about her mom pressuring her to enter her name. Instead of saying he doesn't want her to, he begs her to enter because he already feels like he will never be able to provide for her and knowing that he never gave her a chance at a better life would haunt him. America reluctantly agrees, knowing that out of all the thousands of girls entering it's a very minute chance she would ever be selected and she wants to appease her mother and ease Aspens mind.
      Before going any farther, I need to explain the Selection. When a prince comes of age to marry, instead of marrying others in a royal bloodline, a Selection is held amongst the common citizens, castes 2-8. Any girls of marryable age are allowed to enter and 35 girls are chosen at random to go to the palace and stay to compete for the princes affection and become the next queen.  The Selection was established when Illea was established as a country to help out with relations between the Commonwealth and the higher royal caste, since the country had always been run as a democracy prior to this and people were rebelling.
      Illea came to be after the 4th world war. We find that the 3rd world War came when the US owed a lot of money to China and when they couldn't repay their debt, China invaded and established the US as their own territory calling it the American State of China.  The Chinese began to rule the country, but in an unfair way that treated the citizens more like slaves than residents.
     When other countries saw this, they began forming alliances as well, fearing China would try to take over more countries since they were becoming more powerful.   Russia began preparing for an invasion to the American State of China to take it away from the Chinese, the beginning of the 4th world war, but the citizens banded together and fought back, knowing Russia had their sights set on more than just the former US.
     It was much easier to fight since China was fighting Russia for the country too and the numbers were stronger with both the former US and China fighting together. General Illea was the leader behind president Wallis at this time and came to be hailed as a hero, for with this strategy, the US prevented Russia's invasion, and gained their country back due to the peace treaty established with China saying they would help them fight if they could have their freedom and country again.
     Illeas family married into another royal family and he became king and a monarchy was established to save the country under his leadership, since Wallis would have failed without him. The majority of the people approved, but there were rebels who denied the caste system and still to this day there are attacks on the palace from rebel groups.
    America is picked for the Selection after all, and goes to have a last meal with Aspen, having spent some of the money she's earned though playing violin at parties to buy all the food for them. Rather than being happy about it, it further shows Aspen that he can't provide for her and he breaks up with her and tells her she should find someone better than him. She leaves for the Selection and the palace angry and heartbroken.
     Upon arriving at the palace, during bedtime America becomes homesick and wants some fresh air because she feels like she will faint, but the guards won't let her into the garden, stating it's not safe for her to go out due to the constant threat of rebel attacks.  Maxon, the prince, comes along and tells them to let her go if she wants and he follows her outside.
      He tries to console her but she is so heartbroken she doesn't want to hear it and proceeds to tell him he doesn't know anything about her and to leave her alone, in no uncertain terms. He tells her if it will make her feel more at home he will let the guards know that she can come to the garden whenever she likes, but she tells him she doesn't want anything from him and is only here for as long as she can be to gain the money that comes along with being a guest of the Selection for her family.
      The next day after having time to think she feels bad for being mean to Maxon when he was just being nice and apologizes to him, and tells him that since he already knows her intentions, he could keep her as a friend and confidante about the other girls since she will be spending so much time with them, and it would still allow her family to be paid for a while and they wouldn't be devastated that she'd be sent home so soon. He agrees.
       As time progresses though, she begins to have feelings for Maxon upon seeing that he is very kind and gentle, and he does for her also. As their relationship progresses and she becomes a commoners favorite and the prince's, she begins to make enemies amongst the other girls, including the very mean spirited Celeste, who is a 2 and will do whatever it takes to win the crown.  She also makes friends though, and becomes very close with another girl, a four, named Marlee. She senses Marlee is hiding something though, but doesn't push her to reveal it.
      America becomes very close friends with her 3 handmaidens assigned to her; Anne, Mary, and Lucy, and they tell her they are rooting for her to win and it's obvious that she will since the prince spends the most time with her.
    She and Maxon end up having a very serious discussion where he reveals his feelings toward her, and she in turn tells him about the love she lost back home, and that although she has feelings for him, she can't commit yet until she sorts it out in her head.
    When he realizes she sends the handmaidens away at night, he tells her he wants to have a guard placed outside her room at least, and although she tries to decline he won't allow her to, and the guard turns out to be no other than Aspen, who was drafted for the war and was sent to the palace to decrease the more and more frequent rebel attacks.
      On one of her dates with Maxon, he tells her she could never ask him a question that he couldn't answer, so she puts him to the test upon remembering seeing an old history book her father had that talked about holidays that used to exist in the old world, including Halloween.
     She asks him what Halloween is, and he takes her to a secret room that no one in the castle knows about other than he and his immediate family, and shows her the huge walls of books in it from before the 3rd world war. He reveals Halloween to her, and shows her an entry in a journal about a family preparing for a Halloween celebration, and it turns out to be Gregory Illeas journal, who was the first king of Illea when it was established with the caste system.  He lets America keep it to read about the other former holidays but tells her to promise to keep it safe and unseen.
      A large rebel attack that takes some of the palace guards lives happens, and during a dinner Maxon announces that due to the increasing attacks he has been advised to carry out the Selection differently than normal, and that it will be narrowed down from the current group to the Elite, which is usually 10, but they have decided to narrow it to only 6 for the girls safety.  There is no point in keeping them there when the attacks are happening and they could be killed at any moment for no reason, since the prince has narrowed his choices down to the Elite at this time anyways. The remaining 6 are Celeste, Kriss,Marlee, Natalie, Elise, and America.
      Her feelings become more and more incredibly torn as she spends more time with both the prince and has late night secret meetings with Aspen, who has revealed he could never live without her and he will fight for her with every fiber of his being. She tells him that he can't expect her to just go back to the way thing were, considering that he is the one who abandoned her, and she tells him how she's gotten really confused since Maxon came along.  He tells her he will still fight to prove his love, and not only that, he will wait for her until she makes her decision because although he loves her, and he wants her to be happy and never regret her choice.