Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 526
Warnings: Descriptions of violence, references to abuse
Series: 3/3 in the Millenium Trilogy
Rating: 4/5

The final installment of the Millennium Trilogy begins immediately after "The Girl who Played with Fire" as Lisbeth Salander is transported to a hospital in Gosseberga. The book climaxes with Salander's trial, but the meat of the story is the investigation of Zalachenko undertaken by Michael Blomkvist. A huge part of this book goes into answering any questions I had about the who, what, when and how of Zalachenko's exploits and the people who covered it up. True to form, Larsson reveals all.

Aside from the primary Salander/Blomkvist plot line, Erika Berger had a great story arc following her new job as editor-in-chief at SMP, the conservative-ist, boy's club-ist newspaper in Sweden (maybe? I hope so). Berger's plot line, which has no bearing on the main story arc, fits in nicely with theory that Larsson's books all have some feminist theme.

The first book in the trilogy focused on physical violence against women, with the rape of Lisbeth being a prime example. The second book emphasizes gendered psychological prejudice in the form of some really judgmental publicity during the police investigation and roughly everything Detective Faste did (man he was an asshole). The last book's theme was a little harder to guess, but I think it's about how women fight back. Obviously a court trial is one way for women to defend themselves against illegal attacks (which is what Salander does despite being the one on trial), and Berger's plot line is all about standing up for herself SMP.

Salander spends much of the book in a hospital bed, which means she played a smaller role this time. However there were a lot of other awesome characters who took up the slack, one of which was Berger. Monica Figuerola, a confident workout fanatic and Security Police agent, becomes a fixture when Sรคpo begins an investigation of the mysterious "Section" within their ranks. Annika Giannini, Blomkvist's little sister, takes charge as Lisbeth's lawyer and rocks at it. Several other characters are also pretty cool women: Sonja Modig is still present, Malin Erikson takes over for Berger has head editor at Millenium, and... you know what? I think there are more female characters than I should mention by name! In fact, I can't think of a single evil, incompetent or even mean woman in this entire book! It's unrealistic, but it's so nice to read about non-stereotyped women that I absolutely refuse to complain.

I loved reading about Salander's revenge towards the end of the book, where Giannini just crushes Salander's accusers in the courtroom. I grinned like a fool during the entire thing, because it's so gratifying to see her win. Salander personally never expected to have anyone on her side, but it's so wonderful to see the justice system cover her and in general to see good things happen to a person who deserves it.

Lisbeth is obviously by far and away my favorite part of this book, and I felt that in "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" Larsson drew our attention to Salander's weaknesses. As a result of her injuries she spends a lot of time relying on other people. Salander is completely out of her element, and it shows when talks with anyone, let alone when she tries to thank her friends. She is really, horrendously awful with people.

So many awesome women! I'll miss reading books where roughly half of the characters are female and none of them are damsels in distress. On the other hand, I am okay reading less about violence against women, which is why the first book in this series was so rough on me. Luckily I was still interested after finishing "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the trilogy got better and better for me. I know the sheer about of detail is annoying for a lot of people, but it never bothered me that much, and it even works in Larsson's favor in this book, because there is a lot of information about Zalachenko that I wanted to know. I had a lot of empathy for many of his characters, even Blomkvist. "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" was definitively my favorite of the Millenium series, and I'm a little sad that I've finished them all. 

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