I’m changing my blog so it’s a little more meaningful. Because you don’t need me to sit here and gush about the awesome books I’ve read. I’m going to go IN-DEPTH about why these books are awesome and how they can help YOU as a writer.

Bring Me Their Hearts is probably the best YA Fantasy I’ve read, and I don’t say that lightly. So, in this entry I’m going to tell you what Wolf did extremely well, and how we as writers can learn from her awesome technique. Let’s take a little bit of a deeper look; not so deep that I give away any spoilers, but deep enough that you could try some of these elements in your own writing.

NOTE: I’m not saying we should copy Wolf (um, plagiarism???). But as all writers know, there are two things we have to do to get good; Read a lot and Write a lot. So, by reading a book such as Bring Me Their Hearts, we can study what made her story work and maybe emulate a few of those elements to make our stories better. I know I certainly am.

First, let me tell you just how awesome the plot is. I picked this book out because of how clever it sounded on the front page. The story follows Zera, a not-so-typical teenager. Why? Because Zera’s not exactly human. She’s a Heartless, an immortal being bound to a witch after her heart was taken and put in a jar. The witch has power to end Zera’s immortal life, but luckily has compassion for her. But, when the witches’ lives are threatened, Zera has no choice but to go into the royal city and try to win the prince’s hand in marriage. The witches don’t actually want her to marry him; they want her to steal his heart.

Zera then goes to the city on an assassination mission, out for the prince’s heart to save hers. But, as time goes on and Zera spends more time in the witch-hating city, this Heartless has, well, a change of heart!

Intrigued? I sure was. And I devoured this book, much like Zera’s own hunger devours her thoughts and feelings. I couldn’t put it down, which is saying something about this author. When I finished reading it, I sat back wondering to myself, “Why did I like this book so much?” The answer for most may seem obvious, but I like to ponder what the author did more than just the story on the written page.

So, let’s take a studious look at Bring Me Their Hearts. Let’s find out what Wolf did extremely well and HOW she did it (and why you’ll probably love this book, too).

First Person Point of View / Voice – Wolf did an amazing job creating a voice through the character Zera. Zera tells the story and every sentence, every word in the manuscript was clearly coming from Zera’s point of view. I don’t know if you’ve felt this way, too, but sometimes when I read a book written in First Person, there’s that one line, or maybe a couple, that doesn’t sound like something the character would say. I actually have written a rough draft in first person, which I am now furiously revising. As I read through it, I often am thinking to myself “Wow, that line is totally me talking, not my narrator.” First Person, in my opinion, is the hardest point of view to write in (besides Second Person, but I’ve read very few books that actually use that point of view) yet Wolf did it flawlessly. Not once did I think, “That wasn’t Zera.” Because it wasn’t just Wolf’s word choice that made Zera come to life. It was what Zera was thinking, feeling, and experiencing and how she responded that made each word come from her perspective.

Makes me feel like I need to get to know my own characters more before I try writing First Person again! Wolf obviously knew Zera backwards and forwards.

Inner Monologue – I don’t consider this a spoiler (because we find out in the first chapter), but I guess you’ve been warned. Through the whole book, Zera suffers with Hunger which is a nagging, demanding, frightening voice in her head that wants her to kill, eat fresh meat, etc. That fun stuff. But it also adds a powerful depth to Zera’s character. Throughout the whole book, I thought of this quote by Margaret Atwood; “If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.” Because how true that is! I know all of us have had thoughts, possibly many, that go against our moral values. And, if you’re like me, you don’t want those thoughts, but they sometimes just pop in there and you can’t force them out. Zera lives in a constant state with an evil voice like that in her head, but she resists it. She fights it to try and help herself become more human. She opens herself up even though the Hunger is gnawing at her. This not only makes Zera a strong-willed character, but it makes her relatable. For this whole book, I felt I understood Zera, even though my heart is not in a jar and I don’t live with a Hunger that wants me to do horrible things twenty-four-seven. Wolf makes her relatable and surprisingly human because of this voice in her head.

Character Development / Dynamic Change – You’ve probably heard enough about Zera (I loved that character so much, can you tell?) and it’s probably pretty clear that Zera has a dynamic change by the end of the book. You could even say, a change of heart (haha). But, that’s typical for the main character of the story. Even necessary in most cases. That’s not always the case with secondary characters, or smaller characters in a novel. I’ve read books before where no one else really changed throughout the whole book except the main character, and those kinds of books are fine. I don’t mean to say you can’t write a book like that. But I think most of us like a book where we fall in love with more than just the main character. And Bring Me Their Hearts delivers this concept. I’m still impressed by how every character was fleshed out. Even the small characters who only had a few lines had a very distinct character trait that made them stand out. Sure, not every character had a dynamic change, but the ones that did had the same level of development Zera had (at least in my opinion). They ranged from the prince to his bodyguard to another royal girl–all of them were very distinct with their own goals and their own dynamic change. Despite this being a Fantasy novel, and the bodyguard not exactly being a human, all the characters felt real to me because they all faced real problems. Okay, maybe not problems that we will ever deal with, but problems that Wolf made seem real.

Story Flow – This is a great trait I think all authors should try to develop; story flow. Certainly, it’s not something any of us can easily perfect (I certainly haven’t), but it really makes any story gripping. What is story flow? It is how well your story reads. Are there cumbersome stops that make the story slow? Is there any unnecessary information bogging your story down? That stops your flow. In today’s world, if you want to get published, you need a seamless story flow. There are always exceptions, but as a reader I get less interested the more you stop your flow. I never felt a lag when reading Bring Me Their Hearts. Even in scenes where not much was happening, where the characters were maybe just talking, something important was happening. That significance could have been something as simple as developing the relationship between Zera and the prince, but it was needed information and experience for the story to progress. Every scene had a purpose. Nothing was just thrown in there to show off pretty words or something we didn’t necessarily need to understand the overall plot.

The Relationship – Romance usually really bothers me in books (especially in YA, don’t ask me why, I should get used to it now with all the YA I’ve read). And I mean REALLY bothers me. It’s one of the main reasons I’ll put a book down. I even told a group I was presenting to that the one genre I would never write would be Romance. In my own book, the romantic relationship is probably the smallest one you’ll ever read in a YA book, because I’ve never kissed a boy and am oblivious when it comes to romance in real life. As a result, my mom had to guide me through writing those awkward scenes in my own book (and quite comically, I might add.)

But in this book, I liked it. I understood it, and for someone who has never experienced romance before, at least not gracefully, that’s a big deal. There was a certain tension underlining the whole relationship (I mean, Zera’s here to stab the heart out of his chest, that would make some tension arise from her). But, the prince himself has a certain tension as he approaches someone who he can’t understand. Both are pushing each other away, wanting to be closer, but not daring because of why they are both there. It probably helps that I basically fell in love with both characters immediately. And, even though I knew for the whole book what Zera’s goal was, I was rooting for them to get together in the end. And I can honestly say I’ve never felt that in any book I’ve ever read before.

I’ve already preordered the sequel, Find Me Their Bones (The cover hasn’t even been officially released yet!). Before I even finished it, I knew I needed the sequel. I have learned from this book and I plan to read it again through more of a student’s eye, rather than just reading. Because I want to go more in-depth into Wolf’s writing style to learn from it and improve my own writing.

  • Bailey Day