Before we can move any further ahead, we need to back up…
Alice was born in a castle, inherited by her great-great grandparents and passed on through generations. Her childhood was extremely sheltered, with overly protective parents who never granted her any freedom. She was homeschooled and never allowed to leave the house unless she was running errands with a parent or going to Sunday service once a week.
Church was her only chance at making friends — and even then, there was no “Sunday school” for her to socialize with peers, just exhaustingly long services where she was forced to sit there in silence. Even if she were to make friends, “play dates” were not allowed and sleepovers were out of the question.
Alice was comfortable speaking to adults at the church. She was always kind, courteous, and polite. They often complimented her on her dedicated and studious ways, always praising her parents for raising a perfect angel. Alice felt at ease with her naturally ability to impress the adults: the way she stood in silence and never interrupted their stories, the way she always said “please” and “thank you,” the way she never raised her voice or whined…
And yet her peers made her feel opposite, like a total outcast. The children at her church were like animals. The girls liked to talk about fashion and makeup, they liked to sing and dance to pop songs, debate who the cutest celebrity is, topics Alice knew absolutely nothing about. The only topics she really had to offer were regarding school subjects or the Bible. The boys were much, much worse: they liked to throw things and make fun of people and beat each other up. Alice’s composure that was so well-praised by adults meant nothing to her own age group.
Red Sparrow is a thrilling novel full of horror and passion. The story follows two characters: Dominika, a Russian, and Nate, an American — both tangled in the dangerous world of spying for opposing countries.
Dominika is dedicated, passionate, thrill-seeking, and short-tempered. And Nate is a fiery man who is very clever and intelligent. He is more logical and levelheaded, although still has a deep heart.
Dominika was born with a special gift: her extraordinary vision that lets her see the color of people’s auras. When music plays, she can see distinct notes right in front of her eyes. Her ability to see music is what makes her such a talented dancer.
“Dominika gravely explained that when the music played, or when her father read aloud to her, colors would fill the room. Different colors, some bright, some dark, sometimes they ‘jumped in the air’ and all Dominika had to do was follow them. It was how she could remember so much.”
After graduating high school with a particular admiration for history and political debates (due to her strong patriotism,) she attends ballet school in pursuit of becoming a professional ballerina. However, Dominika’s career plans are halted when a jealous couple on the team plots to break her leg, thus destroying her capabilities as a dancer.
“In young adulthood she had learned to cope with the buistvo, the mounting rage, but now she let it grow, tasted it in her throat.”
Following the tragic, sudden death of her father, Dominika is approached by her uncle with an offer to essentially become a Russian spy. Desperate and lost, Dominika feels she has no choice now but to accept. From here on, her loyalty will be tested: to her country, to her family, to her dignity and principles, and most importantly to her own self.
Dominika attends Sparrow School, where she trains to become an official “sparrow.” Here, is where she is taught in depth about the art of seduction. Sparrows use not just their bodies, but their magical charm and quick wit, to gain precious information for the Russian government.
“This school, this mansion secluded behind walls topped with broken glass, was an engine of the State that institutionalized and dehumanized love. It didn’t count… it was training, like ballet school.”
The trials and tribulations Dominika goes through prove her strength, as the harsh reality sinks in that being strong is her only option if she wants to survive. Too late to back out now. At one point she witnesses a man get brutally, painfully murdered, as his blood spats on her body.
Finally, Dominka meets Nate, her next assignment. Nate seems to always have a deep purple aura, presenting honesty and calmness. Her mission is to recruit him for Russia, while Nate has a counter-mission to recruit Dominika for the USA.
“Dominika played it slow, indifferent. She was correct, reserved, a conscious counterbalance to his shambling American informality. She constantly told herself not to be so nervous. When he looked at her she knew from his expression that he was unsuspecting. He doesn’t know what this is, she thought with a thrill. The CIA officer doesn’t know who he’s up against.”
Although Dominika is successful at capturing Nate’s attention, she quickly realizes that he is different from anyone else. Her feelings build, yet her loyalty to Russia remains firm. As the two get to know each other, Nate notices how triggered and defensive she is when criticism of the Russian government comes up.
“God, she’s serious, thought Nate. Typical Russian, afraid of putting a foot wrong. But he liked her reserve, her underlying sensuality, the way she looked at him with her blue eyes. He especially liked the way she pronounced his name, ‘Neyt.'”
It is not long before Dominika questions the intentions of her team. The murder of an older fellow sparrow, who she saw as her future-self, is the final straw. Dominika can no longer hide her fury as she goes on another date with Nate. At this point, she realizes that she actually has more trust for this American stranger than she does for her own country, even her own family — most especially her evil uncle. And so, she confesses her identity to Nate, who in turn tells her to join his team.
‘“It’s just that you should learn to get high on something other than adrenaline,’ he said.
“‘You mean like wine?’ she said, and threw the wineglass against the wall. ‘No, thank you. I prefer adrenaline.'”
At this point, the trouble has only just begun. The pair work well together with a rare, strong sense of trust in one another. Still — they know that they cannot let their passion for each other get in the way. Yet of course, passion persists and finds a way to make things very messy…
I really enjoyed this book. This lengthy nearly-600-pager took me a while to finish, although I’m a slow reader anyway. There were some parts that seemed drawn out and skippable. But there were also many parts that had my eyes glued to the pages. The story is intense and shocking.
It had almost been a year now since Fuchsia, the pink-haired mermaid had met The Captain. And she had never seen him again, since that one brief encounter. He made a promise to her that he would sail by these seas someday and at least wave hello, though he never did… Yet that did not stop him from flooding her head.
The Mermaid Ball was approaching — the biggest and hottest party for all mermaids, mermen, and other mystical sea creatures. This was the first year Fuchsia could attend, as she was finally of age. Her older sisters Amberand Turquoisehad been before, meanwhile her younger sister Emerald still had to wait a couple more years.
The high priest would not reveal his vision. Instead, he insisted he saw the same thing that was originally seen by the high priestess years ago. But when Autumn tried asking him specific questions about it, he refused, and insisted on moving past it as if nothing had happened. She knew that he was hiding something, most likely for her protection, or maybe it was for his own protection. It was haunting her, possibilities of things he had or had not seen. Unfortunately there was nothing she could do.
And so this brings us back to the day of Autumn’s arranged marraige. In her last final attempt to be saved, she had snuck into the priest’s office and for the last time begged him for a way out. He would never tell her what he had seen, and he regretted ever taking her on a second spirit quest in the first place. It was not an easy choice for him but he was a man of honor. Autumn’s life was out of his hands and his job as priest was to be a guide, not a boss. She was waiting for someone to tell her what to do, just to avoid any guilt or consequences of her own actions. What she really needed to do was be brave enough to make her own choices.
What happened to Autumn that day, when she ran out of the church after being denied by the priest and forced to face her unchosen fate? No one knows. They have not seen her since she ran away that day. Of course rumors spread like wildfire: she found a richer family to marry into, she found a new priest to take her on yet another spirit quest, or she jumped into the ocean and chose to live with the mermaids. Her parents knew she was safe and alive, as she wrote them letters, but could never disclose the full truth.
Several years — decades — later, a young girl named Blossom found herself in a somewhat similar situation. Her arranged marraige would come to fruition in merely a few days, something that would ensure stability for the rest of her life. And yet she never felt so lost. The young girl, instead of seeking an authority figure, decided to seek answers in nature.
Blossom took a walk through the woods and stumbled upon a rugged home she had always noticed from a distance. Assuming it was abandoned, she trudged through the overgrown greens — and was absolutely shocked to find a perfectly groomed garden resting peacefully behind the house. Letting curiosity get the best of her, she decided to knock on the door. Nothing. A few more knocks… and she spotted eyes peering through the window blinds.
Finally, the door gently creaked open and an old woman with grey hair and wrinkles greeted her kindly, “hello, young girl! What are you doing in this part of the woods? It’s unsafe, especially with the evening approaching… are you lost?”
The older woman looked into young girl’s eyes and recognized a part of herself. It was like looking straight into a mirror from the past.
“I was going for a walk to clear my mind,” Blossom explained, “and stumbled upon this beautiful garden, so enchanting. Is it yours?”
“Yes,” the older woman nodded, “I grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs that I use to make teas and cosmetics that I can sell to the townspeople.” She was bare-faced and wearing a light sundress, “I never go into town without a full face of makeup and heavy cloak.”
“Are you alone?”
She let out a great laugh, “impossible! I’m always surrounded by life, I can’t get away from it. Even when I’m not in the town, I always have the plants and the animals.”
“What about your husband?”
“Let me tell you a little tale,” she grinned, “I was set to be given away like a piece of property. There was some type of ‘off’ feeling I could not shake, but I was so concerned with following my destiny and being supported by the heavens. My high priestess took me on a spirit quest, yet as years passed I kept feeling like her vision was incorrect or misread. As my fate came closer, I panicked and convinced my high priest to take me on a second journey, for confirmation. This time I knew for sure that he had seen something different, but he refused to tell me! So my only option was to go on my very own spirit quest.”
“What do you think he truly saw in his vision?” Blossom inquired, wide-eyed. “Is this it? Is this your true destiny you are living out?”
“I will never know what he saw,” the woman explained, “I used to be very fixated on it, until I realized I was putting too much of my own power into other people’s hands. No one in this world, whether priest or priestess or whatnot, knows what it best for me except for my own self. And I have realized it is so much more difficult to listen to your heart rather than the people who surround you, yet it is one-hundred percent worth it. You have to make your own choices and stand by those consequences, rather than living through victim-mentally, exploiting the privilege of blaming others for your own failures. You have to be strong enough to live for yourself.”
And there she was, as you can guess — Autumn — living out the final season of her life. Her story was written and could never be erased. But this does not mean it was the end for her. Something she had learned in her wise old years was that as soon as you believe your life is set and that there is no room left for change — that’s when destiny takes over and powerfully evolves your soul.
Ivy was a garden fairy who guarded her plant friends with fierce protection. On days when the human gardeners slacked off and left her garden dehydrated, her anger caused a rainstorm, and this kept her plant friends happily hydrated. Her garden was upmost important to her, for she felt so passionate about the plant kingdom. Often she would cry about the state of Earth’s environment and the recklessness and carelessness of humans.
At times she felt so distraught that she caused wild thunderstorms and hurricanes, instead of light rainfall. Once, she accidentally struck an innocent man with lightning during one of her tantrums. Immediately remorseful, she examined the intimidating man to make sure he was okay, while attempting to remain hidden.
But he saw her! And she gasped!
“Look what you did!” He cried out.
The garden fairy apologized and explained herself — explained that her rage was because of the carelessness and recklessness of humans.
“Then you’re a hypocrite!” He yelled, “your carelessness and recklessness has knocked down the trees, flooded the town, destroyed the very same environment you claim to protect!”
“I can heal you,” she offered, yet he refused. She was so terrified by his anger that she flew away and found a hiding spot, deep in a cave.
Humans cannot see the fragility of a fairy’s heart, nor the fragility of the planet they reside on. We see the power of nature and her resiliant strength — but that does not mean she is bulletproof. We cannot see her pain, her insecurity, her cries for help.
Ivy wanted to live in that cave forever, hiding away from the rest of the world. She could befriend the rocks and never have to deal with another human ever again.
Yet giving up was not an option — because the plant kingdom needed her help. The garden she lived in, and all the other gardens she frequently visited, would perish. And so she cautiously made her way out of the cave and back into the greenery.
Flying back to her garden, she paused to look at her reflection in a pond. All she could see were her flaws — inside and out. And all the frustration came back and she just wanted to flee back into the cave. But instead, she took a deep breath, and pushed herself to keep going.
Immediately upon the return to her garden, she sought out the wise grandmother tree. She fell to her knees and pressed her hands against the tree, praying for wisdom.
Her name was Indigo Ocean. And these are the thoughts that ran through her head…
I did not like the way she walked with her shoulders hanging heavy, or the way she talked with her voice nagging… the way that she needed to cling to others because she had no confidence on her own. I did not like the way I found myself overanalyzing her and so I kept my distance.
She was an energy vampire. She thrived from the energy of others, maybe because she was so dead inside. She needed everyone to see her and hear her at all times… especially me… but why me?
I told her I will not change who I am just so that her insecure self can feel validated that I have nothing against her. Maybe I do or maybe I don’t. Why does that even matter to her?
She was so persistent, trying to steal my energy. She never gave up. Finally, one day I totally snapped, and BAM! I shoved her to the ground! I was baffled at how amazing that felt! I hovered over her, laying on the floor. I waited for her to get up, hoping she would shove me back, just so I could push her back harder. But instead, she grinned, and walked away with my energy. She did it! She took my energy! And that night I kept thinking of her, and I absolutely hated it!
The next time I saw her, I froze. She looked better, like she had more confidence now. She was pleased to know that I actually gave a damn about her. And she reached out, not to fight me, but to gracefully run her hand through my hair. And it felt nice.