Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest By Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson - Header

After I read The Girl Who Played With Fire I went out and I purchased the original Swedish film version of Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I wanted to see how the second and third books had been turned into films (Hollywood as of yet has only tackled The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), I wanted to relive the story. But this gave me a problem. I hadn’t read the final part. If I watched the films I’d spoil the last book, and while I could watch the opening pair, taking me up to the point I’d read, I didn’t know how the films compared, and/or how much story cross over there would be. I could unwittingly be unlocking the plot without knowing it.

I decided therefore that the only thing to do was to sit the films on the shelf, and read the final book first. To learn how the story ends and then watch the trilogy in its whole. So that’s what I’ve done and while it’s taken me a little longer than planned to complete Lisbeth Salander’s tale, I now have and I now cannot wait to watch the films.

Millenium Trilogy (Blu-ray) - Stieg Larsson

It’s been two months since I finished the second novel, so while the story is still in my mind it’s not overly fresh. I’ve read a handful of books and watched plenty of films in between to stir my imagination and memories in other directions. But that didn’t matter. Within the opening few pages the world , characters and events came flooding back in full Technicolor clarity. It really was like simply arriving back at home after a holiday and feeling instantly back to normality.

I hadn’t appreciated it but The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest is more of an extension to The Girl Who Played With Fire than a stand alone story like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I almost get the feeling that this book and it’s middle sibling were/are in fact one book split in two. The story really does just pick up where it previously finish and continue without pausing for breath. I have memories of finishing The Girl Who Played With Fire and being left slightly empty by the amount of open endings it had, but that is simply because this book’s whole plot is finishing that story.

And it finishes it brilliantly. I kept getting so lost into its twist and turns that I’d read for page and chapter, minute and hour longer than I had planned. There were passages in Gone by Michael Grant where I’d get lost wanting to know what happened next, but Stieg Larsson sucked me in so much that I virtually never wanted to leave. The story just grows tenser and tenser and the pace becomes ever quicker and snappier as the events unfold.

This ability to command you attention is helped by the fact that the story has changed tone slightly. It has become very character focused. It is designed to show how the spiders web of events all come together. How characters connect and affect each other and so, is contained within a handful of locations rather than the almost globetrotting Nomadism that littered the other stories at times. This simple spotlighting onto the characters meant that while the plot is as broadly expansive as before when it delves down further it goes straight for the psychology, morals and ethics of the characters that I find so fascination and compelling. I feel like I’ve really got to know the characters in a way that hasn’t happened before. I feel like I’ve seen the white’s of their eyes rather than simply judging them on the actions they’ve taken to the situations they’ve been in. It brought the story alive for me.

Daniel Craig & Rooney Mara - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I found Larsson’s writing style once again inviting and easy to understand. I still see Mara Rooney as Salander and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist but every other character is a crystal clear portrait painted by my mind. I can see them in their environment as though I am there, Larsson really manages to bring their world to life with precision. There is a real conciseness to his writing that means you can still place every smell, colour and object with pure fertility but through the minimum amount of words. The story never feels long and the text never starts to drag or seem repetitive even though it is a thick book. If I had to find a complaint it would be that, once again, Larsson continues to be specific about the technology used. Phones and laptops listed by make and model and it means that things felt a little bit dated now. In a world of smart phones, 4G and almost constant connectivity to work your way through a tale via the use of styluses, palm PC connecting and dial up internet just hazes the mental image slightly. It’s understandable as it’s a technology I’ve lived through, used and existed at the time but now it just feels wrong and outdated. In my mind the world is 2015 and so the technology should be now not then.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest ignited it’s world so impressively and got inside me in such a mesmeric and compelling way through it’s use of pace that I can’t help but feel that it finished at a bit of whimper. It doesn’t end unsatisfactorily, it ties up most loose ends in a way that is acceptable, and while it did raise a couple of questions in the final few chapters, by triggering memories from the earlier books, without really exploring them further, it wasn’t a big problem because they are minor points that flirt quickly with you anyway. My problem is that I just found though the story relaxed too much at the end. It’d been charging stunningly through its plot and narrative for so long that when it finished this charge, and stopped for breath, it didn’t really know what to do next. It almost feels as Larsson didn’t know quite how to let you go. It calms you don’t, you emotionally feel content that the story has gone where it would realistically go and yet it just leaves you numb towards everything has gone before. I almost feel as though it’s attempted to make me forget everything else and to simple ask me to return to normality as if nothing has happened. As though the sensational story that has gone before never took place. I don’t hate how the trilogy concludes, I’m just not sure if this is how I want, or expected to feel now it’s over.

The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

There can be no question in my mind, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest is by far the best book of the three. I have loved every minute and page. Sadly, you cannot read it without first completing the second book as they are so “follow on” and intertwined, but that isn’t a bad thing because this book is worth waiting for. Having now finished the trilogy, I feel lost in the knowledge that Larsson, having tragically died, never got to write anything else. To take the characters forward. I’m sad that I will never expand the worlds of Salander, Blomkvist and Millennium magazine even if I can appease that disappointment through the knowledge that I can now watch the films and relive it all over again. I just hope the movies don’t spoilt the memories I made and the love I’ve found.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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