Hero is the second book in the Woodcutter Sisters series, and where the first followed Sunday, this one followed Saturday (and as the next book stars Friday, so I guess we're going backward along the days of the week?) who's off on her heroic journey.
And like the first book, I liked it okay, but I wish I loved it more.
Perhaps realizing that the first book was pretty stuffed both with references and characters, this one is well slimmed down, and I think that makes it a stronger book than the first one. She gets kidnapped pretty early on in the book, and for the majority of the read, you only have Saturday, the evil witch and her familiar (who kidnapped Saturday), and a cursed young man named Peregrine and his friend, a chimera named Betwixt, who are also both being held on the mountain, where time stands still and a dragon slumbers in the stone and ice.
Like the first, this is a well-written tale, and as I said, it addresses many of the problems I had with the first one, plus Saturday is more the sort of character I usually love. So I feel like I should have enjoyed it a lot more - but I actually think I preferred the first one.
I can't really put my finger on why, either. I just didn't like Saturday as much as Sunday, and I didn't like Peregrine much at all. Betwixt was awesome and the baddies were interesting for their roles, but with this small a cast, not connecting with either of the leads really cut into the enjoyment.
Peregrine, I think he just didn't have enough thoughts and personality that weren't in service to the plot. He thinks about being stuck in the mountain, and he things about the girl he left behind, and then once Saturday gets there he thinks about how much he loves her and how pretty and perfect she is. I never felt like I had a solid idea of who he was.
And it's so sad to me, since I love the no-nonsense way he goes about dealing with Saturday and the Witch and his life in the mountain in general. But while he's doing so, he's thinking about one of those two things (yes, I know I listed three, but basically one transitions into another, so they don't really overlap).
And Saturday sort of felt the same. Everything was "I broke the world" or "being a hero" or "no magic" or "I totally don't really love Peregrine, no totally not." That last is the sort of thing that maybe other people can tolerate better than I can, but this was so love-at-first-sight-must-convince-myself-otherwise and it just dragged on and on and ON...
So I'm basically in the same place I was at the end of the first book. I don't dislike the book. Overall, I liked it okay. But there were large aspects that I disliked. It felt... shallow. The characters lacked depth, the plot lacked depth - only the setting got truly loving, detailed treatment, and it's no surprise that that's my favorite part. The mountain is beautiful and cruel and dangerous.
Also (since I spent WAY too much time here being negative) the writing is great, and the pacing is solid. The way that Saturday and Peregrine's conversations go can get quite clever and hilariously pseudo-antagonistic made me a happy me. The friendship between Betwixt and Peregrine is just great and wholly believable.
Also, the backstory of the witch and her time at the top of the world was pretty interesting, and the nods to the traditional three-tasks fairy tale was great! Like I said, there's enough here that I am definitely moving on.
If you didn't like the first one, I think the second is a much more solid offering technically. I just wish there had been more TO it. The book is actually somewhat short, and I feel like that space could have been used within the story. But that's just me.
I liked it enough that I will probably move on to check out the third book eventually.