It finally happened, my friends – I reached the end of the Millennium series. Half a year in the making, I really think it was a miracle I finished the series at all. And it’s still hard to gather my thoughts about it, hence why you’re just now getting a review.
I do enjoy long novels just like this (see also: The Robert Langdon series), and reading them is definitely a major accomplishment in my personal endeavors… But anyone else who has read them knows just how intense these particular books are.
Unlike their predecessor, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest are more direct continuations of each other. Really, it does seem like the first novel is just a very long introduction to the characters, with only a handful of plot points and details being utilized throughout the entire series. In a long list of thoughts about the books, this is one thing that I liked most about Hornet’s Nest – it literally started where the second book left off, and it actually made sense to call the two books a “series.”
But let’s talk more about Hornet’s Nest (with hopefully as few spoilers as possible).
At the conclusion of Fire, Lisbeth is shot three times – most importantly, she was shot in the head; Hornet’s Nest begins with Salander being flown to the hospital and receiving surgery for her wounds after (long story short) being found by Mikael Blomkvist. In that same hospital we also find the man that shot her, only a few rooms away. Over the course of Hornet’s Nest we learn that Salander’s life is a whole mess of complicated because of this man and the people in charge of protecting him.
During her stay in the hospital, those on Lisbeth’s side – like Mikael Blomkvist, his sister and Salander’s lawyer Annika Giannini, Salander’s former employer Dragan Armansky, and a handful of others – spend most, if not the entirety of the book in constant battle against those trying to convict her of the crimes that took place in Fire… the same people that played a major part of the past transgressions against her.
Although I cannot go into much more detail without giving away an infinite amount of spoilers from Fire and Hornet’s Nest alike, I can tell you that, similarly to the first and second novels, the third is equally as complicated and confusing and many other words starting with “c.” With all of the intricacies of the story, keeping track of people, places, and numerous other details… honestly, you should just read these books with a notebook by your side. Larsson does, every so often, give little reminders about who the character is and their purpose within the plot (which does help) but there are still so many people and so many places. And unless you’re Swedish or have the time to look up the pronunciations of everything, you still won’t be able to pronounce a lot of words correctly. I learned to just roll with it.
Despite my albeit minor issues with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – like these books may not be the best written material I’ve ever read and WHY would an author ever bring up a character that never ever actually appears – there is some hidden good to be had here.
Risking sounding like a broken record, I still absolutely love Larsson’s repetivity when it comes to issues he cares about. The man isn’t afraid to say “Hey, world, we’re being really horrible about these topics,” and doing so without the flourishing metaphors you have to read between the lines to find. Stieg Larsson is straightforward in his efforts to portray the truths about crimes against women, the varying misogynistic views of women by men, violated constitutional rights, and beyond.
I also say he was even so bold as to write a novel in which a man and a women are just friends. JUST FRIENDS. And only ever end up as such. The romantic in me may have hoped these two character’s goings-on in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would have resulted in something more (and I’m pretending that withholding names here is absolutely tricking you too), but it is actually refreshing having a story in which a man and a woman can have a fairly legitimate platonic relationship. It is real friendship, and there were only minor bouts of “Friend Zone” attitude. Thank goodness.
These books maintain their focus on the mystery and thriller tale without letting all the messiness of relationships or overbearing romance get in the way. Even Blomkvist and Erika Berger’s sexual relationship throughout the series is not domineering. It shows adults having adult relationships, however unconventional they may be. In a way, the more I ponder the books as a whole, it shows a more feasible, healthy version of a relationship-type of reality. It’s not all fairy tales, happy endings, and gazing into one another’s eyes. It’s having sex a la carte; it’s a married woman whose husband knows of the other man in her life and only requires that she call if she’s staying the night somewhere else; it’s LGBTQ relationships; it’s real situations… errr, more realistic anyways. And that is where Larsson got it right.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest may be one of the longest and most innately detailed books I have ever read in my life, but it is details like the handful mentioned that not only intrigue me, they also kept me interested and wanting to continue with the book. It’s a lot of “What will he think of next as an author?” And, as I often said while I was reading, you think you have it all figured out… and then Stieg Larsson surprises you.
UK Edition Published October 2010 by Quercus Books. Originally Swedish published in 2007.
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery/Suspense
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Learn more about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest on Goodreads