on February 15, 2015
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Science Fiction
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Sometimes the strings that tie us down are the same strings that set us free.
Sixteen-year-old Pia has always lived in a mysterious facility where mechanical strings control her existence. She plays apprentice to her father, Gio, in performing nanotech designs for the Company, and she soon suspects there are diabolical human forces behind the manufactured reality of her world.
Though her childhood memories and the origins of the strings remain strangely elusive, she begins to find solace with the introduction of two unlikely friends: daring, irrational Sofia, and calm, tender Marco.
As the truths of the past and present unravel together, Pia must find a way to free herself from her strings and escape the facility before facing the wrath of the unstable head of security, Mr. Davis. But to gain her freedom, she must navigate the dangers posed by Davis and by her suspicious new friends to find the real identity of the puppeteer.
If Pia can succeed in revealing the secrets of the Company, she may very well find the independence she so desperately seeks. But in her controlled world nothing is as it seems, and the closer she gets to the truth, the graver the consequences.
Today I’m pleased to host Strings by David Estes on Happy Indulgence! As you may know, David Estes is one of my favourite indie authors, having absolutely loved Moon Dwellers (Review), Brew (Review) and Fire Country (Review). Strings is a dark Pinocchio retelling in a science fiction setting.
You know how fairy tales are usually magical, romantic and fluffy? Throw all that away when going into Strings, for it’s a surprisingly dark, edgy retelling loosely based on Pinocchio.
The premise is about Pia and her father, who are confined by thick, black mechanical strings which constrict their movement at times. Everyday, they work on manufacturing intricate technology for a nameless Company. It’s evident that Pia’s experiencing some post traumatic stress disorder, as she’s plagued by disturbing nightmares about her childhood. There’s an air of mystery surrounding Pia’s strings, why she has them and the small liberties that she’s allowed each day.
I liked Pia’s strength and personality, and how she would constantly battle against her oppressors and the strings. Given the circumstances, she never just sits down and obediently takes what she’s given, but instead, she constantly strives for a better life. With her brave and inquisitive nature, each day she questions her father’s devotion to the Company, her newly found friend Sophia, her strange dreams and the handsome and brooding Marco. This story is about how Pia puts two and two together, and discovers the truth behind the Company and her circumstances. And it’s one I would have never imagined, with heaps of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Our strings tie us down, restrict us, force us to live a life we never wanted, a life we think we have to live, one we never chose for ourselves. But all strings, whether invisible or as clear as the tumbling spill of a waterfall, can be cut.
Pia will form tentative friendships with Marco, the handsome disabled boy in a wheelchair who we know works for the Company. But you won’t really find out in what capacity, and why he seems to be good based on Pia’s reactions. She’ll also form a welcome female friendship with the friendly and eager Sophia, who quickly welcomes Pia into her beautiful garden. But even some of her behaviour is slightly off. Even Pia’s relationship with her father is tentative, even though you know everything he does is out of love, even he can be questioned for his secrets and lies. All of this causes for a pretty unsettling atmosphere, so I gladly welcomed Pia’s relationship with Fig, her helpful and loyal robot (who is Jiminy Cricket).
The atmosphere in the book is haunting and mysterious. You’re given small hints as to what’s happening, and only later in the book it’s revealed. As Pia would constantly ask questions, struggle against her strings and question everyone, I got a bit frustrated as became repetitive after a certain point. Things would constantly happen, and you wouldn’t really know the significance of them until the end of the story. The pacing felt a bit off, as there were times where I thought the story would have peaked, but realised it wasn’t anywhere near the end.
The truth is, my mind is shattered. Every time I feel like I might be getting a handle on the world I live in, another piece breaks off, rusty and distorted. My past, my present, and what little I can see of my future have become a junkyard of half-thoughts and impossible solutions.
Although I know the world building was kept constricted to the Company for a reason, I wish we knew more about the world in which it operated. But without giving too much away, I found it to be too convenient, explaining away things with the use of advanced technology. The darker setting in Strings was also unsettling, with its themes of trauma, mental illness and childhood abuse. Strings is definitely not a happy book, and you have to be in a certain frame of mind to pick this one up.
I also found the ending of Strings to be unsatisfying, especially given all the build up towards the end of the book. As much as it was shocking and unsettling, I wanted more of a conclusion, especially given as this is a standalone story.
Strings is an experiential, haunting and dark retelling of a girl constricted by strings. It’s a disturbing, unsettling and unique and creative thriller with a great focus on family and individual strength. While the mystery shrouded around the plot frustrated with me at times, I admired the unique plot and big reveal of the secrets behind the company. Strings is for the patient reader, who can withstand these small frustrations and know that you’ll be rewarded for your patience in the end.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase Links: eBook | Paperback | Audiobook
Rysa Walker, bestselling author of TIMEBOUND
About the author
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I have only read the Moon Dwellers but I like the sound of this, it sounds refreshingly different and a little creepy! Thanks for sharing!
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I actually really loved this one too Jeann, it was such an engaging and capable retelling wasn't it. And FIG! He's the new Perry. He was adorable and added such a lightness to what is a dark storyline. I only wished there was a more solid ending as well, but I'm hoping that perhaps it might come in the form of a novella or even as part of a duology. I'd love to discover more of Pia's world and the Company. Great review Jeann, so glad you enjoyed this one <3
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I know, it was kind of weird at the start but I sort of got the hang of it. FIG was super cute and my favourite character in the novel! The ending felt so rushed, especially all of my early frustration from the novel. It's pretty cool how dark it went though, David really is exploring different themes in his writing. Thanks Kelly!
I have always enjoyed David's books as well. The Dwellers and Country series… blew me away, is what happened. That said, I don't know if this is for me. I mean, I want it to be. But retellings scare me. And also, the fact that the ending isn't satisfying is probably the biggest problem I have, honestly. I cannot deal with endings that leave me wanting more. But let's be real, I probably WILL read this. At least now I won't be *too* ragey if the ending leaves me wanting more 😀 Great review!
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I absolutely LOVED that series, although I've only read the first 2 books for both, and they've been on my shelf for ages signed by David too. The ending felt so rushed! Please let me know how you go with it when you pick it up! I'm curious about your thoughts. Thank you lovely!
Whoa whoa whoa I have never read a Pinocchio retelling (I don't think I've ever encountered one either?) so this is hella exciting! Hmmm ok I like mystery combined into books (who doesn't tbh lol) so that's good! Aw, I love Pia already! She sounds like one of the good heroines for sure 🙂 Ok, I can totes see how some things could be repetitive; usually that is the case with these kinds of books. Aw, sorry you didn't love the ending that much! I always want a conclusion for a standalone. Well, almost always. There have been like two exceptions. I'm glad this one by Estes was still somewhat a winner for you though <3
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That was my first reaction too! It was so interesting how it was developed in this novel. The mystery was pretty interesting, although frustrating at times. But yeah, as you said the repetitiveness kind of happens for these types of books! Thank you lovely!
Ah, I'm sorry you didn't love this one, Jeann! Especially since I know how much you loved the author's other books 🙁
It really sounds like such an interesting and unique novel, though! I am thinking about picking it up, but the repetitiveness and the unsatisfying ending are two things that don't mix well with me when I read a book D:
I actually have a sci-fi retelling of Pinocchio on my Kindle! I think it would be super different to this one, though, haha XD If you want to check it out, I am pretty sure it's called Puppet ….
Lovely review, Jeannie <3
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It was still an interesting read, but there were a few things that were frustrating to me while reading it. It was really fascinating the way it was loosely based on Pinocchio. Wow, I didn't know there was another one! Thank you lovely!
Woo Jeann, awesome review 😀 I loveeee how this explores a well-loved fairy tale in a dark, scifi setting. The mysteries seem to be endless in this one! But I also hate being a reader in the dark, so I can see why some things could have gotten repetitive. The ending also seems a bit disappointing! The whole friendship/family aspect seems to make it worth the read though.
Thanks so much Aila! It was such an interesting way to portray the story and I thought it was really unique! And you described it perfectly with keeping the reader in the dark.
Of all the stories to retell…I'm totally curious about the fact this one is a Pinocchio one! It sounds pretty dark, but also interesting. The world building doesn't sound like it was totally amazing, however I think I might be curious enough to let that slide 🙂
Great informative review Jeann, thank you for sharing!
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I know, I haven't heard of a retelling of that before! It was dark and interesting!
This sounds awesome! I think I'm mostly drawn in because it's a Pinocchio retelling though! I don't think I've ever seen/heard of one of them before! 🙂
Plus a dark retelling? Something I've never read before either!
Always good to read something new – hopefully I can get my hands on Strings!
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It really was Geraldine! I loved how creative it was! I hope you do pick it up.
Wow, I've never heard of a pinochio retelling – how interesting! Especially with a dark twist. I'm going to keep my eye out for more reviews of this to get more opinions, but it definitely sounds intriguing.
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It was definitely a dark and fascinating book Jade!
Glad to hear you're adding it to the list! It's a fascinating story, I love his books and writing.
Huh. I've never seen a book that takes on Pinocchio, even loosely. Sounds interesting for sure!
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It was definitely fascinating and pulled off really well.
This is so wild. Imaginative, creative. But perhaps, not for me. The world reminds me of a steampunk-ish setting and that alone is enough to scare me away.
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It really was Joy, I was super impressed! It was sci-fi more than Steampunk I think.
I have a few of his books, but I haven't read them yet. I keep reading great reviews for them, so I'm sure I'll get to them eventually. I love retellings, so this one is getting added to my list.
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Come to think o it, I haven't read a Pinocchio retell. This has some interesting parts but I feel like it's not compelling enough for me.
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I haven't heard of it either, and it was creatively done with how dark it was too!
A Pinocchio retelling? Wow! I don't think I've ever read one, but I have to say that I'm very interested, especially given how dark and disturbing this one is. It looks like all the characters are sketchy, and I really like when that happens in books because you don't know who to trust.
I'm sorry the ending wasn't very satisfying though. That's a shame, especially given how epic this book sounds.
Fantastic review, Jeann! 🙂
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It was definitely a fascinating dark story Nick! You definitely don't know who to trust here and it could go any way.
I've read some of David's books before and I'm interested in this one! I've never read a pinocchio retelling before so it should be interesting. 🙂
That sounds good, this one is definitely a dark retelling! Hope you enjoy!
I haven't read a dark retelling in ages. This sounds right up my alley! Lovely review, Jeann!
Thank you Rachel, I hope you pick it up and check it out!
OMG THIS SOUNDS SO DARK AND SCARY AND AWESOME THOUGH. *screeches* I really love dark retellings…and the world building makes me sad, but the rest sounds sooooo good. EEEP. Definitely adding this on goodreads!
It was pretty atmospheric Cait! I think this would be up your alley then!