The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson Review 3/5

Overall Impression: A slow burning, gritty crime novel with an ultimately satisfying ending.

(To read my review of the previous book from Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire click here.)untitled

I’ve been having a face off with this novel from its position on my bookshelf for over a year. Most of you will know that I don’t have a particularly good relationship with thriller/crime novels, yet something about this series did keep me hanging on. Having said that, it has taken me over a year each time to bolter myself up enough to pick up the subsequent books. Once I got into this novel though, I did enjoy it! The Millennium Trilogy was originally planned as a ten book escapade, but since the author died while writing the fourth and before any of them were published, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is the final installment in this famous series. While a bit shaky in places, overall I though it provided a fitting end to the trilogy.

Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous books in the Millennium Trilogy skip the blurb as it contains spoilers about previous plots and characters from that book. The rest of the review will contain no major spoiler about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.

The Trial
Lisbeth Salander – outsider and apparent enemy of society – is charged with attempted murder. The state has also ruled that she is mentally unstable, and should be locked away in an institution once again. But she is closely guarded in hospital, having taken a bullet to the head, so how will she prove her innocence?

The Enemy
Pulling the strings of the prosecution is the powerful inner circle of Säpo, the state security police. Determined to protect the secrets and corruption at Sweden’s rotten core, Säpo is not an adversary to take on alone.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
Only with the help of Mikael Blomkvist and the journalists at Millennium magazine can Salander avoid the fate that has been decided for her. Together they form a compelling and dynamic alliance. This final volume of the Millennium Trilogy is the culmination of one of the most mesmerizing fictional achievements of our time.

I always feel cautious about critiquing an author’s writing style when their work has been translated, because you never know whether it reads as smoothly as the original would. Larsson’s books were written in Swedish but for obvious reasons, I can only critique the English version (unless I miraculously grow an affinity for learning languages, which my old French teacher would fervently agree I lacked). So, how to describe Larsson’s style? Factual, clinical, yet oddly entertaining. The strange thing about his writing is that I am yet to put my finger on why I like it. Ordinarily it would represent all the things I dislike. I’m a bookworm with a love of whirlwind descriptions and sweeping metaphors, not inane, to the point descriptions. You can almost grantee every new paragraph by Larsson will start something like this:

Becky woke up at 9am and opened her Dell 3695 Laptop on the wooden table. She made tea and grabbed a bowl of cereal while she was waiting. Becky read though her emails and seeing nothing urgent, closed the laptop and phoned her friend on her Blackberry Z30. Her friend didn’t answer.

This should give you a picture of the pointless details you have to sit through reading this novel, yet for some bizarre reason it has kept me reading through the entire series, so there must be something that works. Having said that, it doesn’t take long before Larsson’s style begins to grate. Although it is written in a smooth, easy to read way when you reach page 300 out of 746 and nothing much has happened yet you begin to lose patience. I feel like I went into pretty description withdrawal and would feel agitated and unsatisfied after I put the book down. It does feel wrong to complain as having read the last two books in the series I knew what I was in for, but because this novel was so much longer than the others I really struggled at points.

The plot was painfully slow and tedious. This was partly due to my dislike of the writing style for reasons I have already mentioned, but also because there were massive pacing issues. The novel takes so long to get going and it regularly switches characters’ perspectives, going over the same things again and again from different points of view, meaning that the story became stagnant and didn’t move forward. There were small character cameo’s that while interesting were unneeded, and Berger’s storyline as much as I enjoyed it was almost entirely irrelevant to the main narrative; it didn’t need to be in there. I honestly wonder if the editors were scared to cut things out because they were worried they would ruin the deceased author’s vision. Maybe similarly to people not speaking ill of the dead, editors feel they can’t butcher a lifeless author’s work. Maybe that’s harsh, but I would never say it unless I believed it to be true!
On the other hand, there were aspects of the plot that I found really impressive. I loved the amount of research Larsson put into his book, the conspiracy theories were highly intricate and impressive, and I applaud him for all the time and effort it must have taken to come up with them. It was for this reason that I kept reading all the way to the end because despite my qualms, I really wanted to find out what would happen! I even felt a little pang of sadness when I reached the end and realised Larsson’s work would never be completed. Luckily, this book wraps up everything sufficiently so readers are not left hanging. Phew.

I was surprised to find that I warmed up to many of the characters in this novel. While I didn’t dislike them beforehand I felt mostly impartial, like a casual observer watching birds outside a window but not in any way moved by their lives. I began this series when I was a bit younger and I think even that small gap in time has made me appreciate Lisbeth the edgy, anti-establishment hacker more. Before I couldn’t understand how people perceived her to be pro-feminist, but she had a real dignity and unwavering integrity in this book that I couldn’t help but admire, even if she made terrible decisions with it. Blomkvist is the James Bond of journalism (hmm, quite literally if you think about it, Daniel Craig played Blomkvist in the UK movie version) and while I can’t stand journalism as a topic he somehow managed to make it cool. He always has all the right answers, the clever ideas and is the one that somehow figures out the impossible when no one else can; I couldn’t help but be entertained by him. I was also caught off guard by how much my opinion of Berger, Blomkvist’s co-worker and best friend changed. Before I found her irritating and couldn’t figure her out, but this third installment gave much more insight into her personality, especially her determination and strength, all things I highly approved of! By the end I found I was really routing for her and I didn’t expect that to happen.
I must admit I did struggle with Larsson’s secondary characters, they all seemed to merge into one with no distinct personalities, and I think this let him down a bit. But for the most part, good job Stieg!

I would recommend this book/series to people who like crime novels, conspiracy theories and unconventional strong female characters. Both males and females would enjoy it and I suggest 16+ due to some of the serious content. (I feel like I just gave out one of those TV warnings that comes on before a film, lol). 🙂

Writing Style: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? I’m on the fence.

Overall: 3/5

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20 thoughts on “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson Review 3/5

  1. I was bloody glad when I finally finished this and found the third book to be the worst of the lot. For whatever reason, I just didn’t really care about Lisbeth any more.

    And I know what you mean about the details. Everyone in Sweden seems to own a silver Macintosh laptop with 2GB RAM, 17″ WGXA screen, and a 64GB hard drive. It was like reading the PC World catalogue.

    I quite liked Blomkvist and Berger was pretty good too.

    But that nonsense about the big bloke who didn’t feel pain? And the kickboxer girl? And everything else? Yawn.

    • The third book was definitely the hardest to struggle through purely because of its length for me! It meant that the story was so drawn out, far more than it needed to be and I think that made it quite easy to lose interest.

      Ha, ha! Glad it wasn’t just me, he did seem to have an obsession with naming the make’s of things, especially computers which did get a little tiring after a while, but as I’ve said, something about it kept me reading although I’m not sure what.

      I agree, there were too many characters, especially considering a lot of them weren’t important in the scheme of things…but then again maybe they were going to be relevant in the later books, we will never know. I found the guy who couldn’t feel pain quite interesting actually. Either way, I’m glad this series is done with now and I can move on to better things! 🙂

  2. While all the readers around me were raving about the trilogy, I couldn’t be bothered with it. I read the first and started the second, but didn’t finish it. After reading your great review I wonder if it was because of the detail — not that I am to re-read it to find out! My heart sank when you said there were to be 10 in the series….

    • I know exactly what you mean! I wasn’t all that bothered about trying the books originally but the constant press around the series eventually wore me down, so when my friend offered to lend them to me I just thought why not? While I’m glad that having read them means I am able to have an opinion on them, I don’t feel I would have missed out if I hadn’t read the books. I don’t blame you for giving up on the second, I felt similarly! Awh, thank you very much. 🙂 I know the detail was one of the biggest reasons I lost patience with the series and I agree that ten would have been way too many.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Anne!

  3. I’ve been thinking of reading this series, but I’m worried that it won’t live up to the hype. I’m not a big fan of crime fiction to start with and hate reading boring descriptions, so…

    • That sounds exactly how I felt before I tentatively picked these books up! I know a lot of readers out there love this series, but if you are anything like me (which it sounds as if you are) then these books will be a waste of your time. I would suggest skipping them because there are far better novels out there in my opinion for those that aren’t big on crime fiction. 🙂

  4. The whole Larrson thing has passed me by. I’ve never felt interested in the films, and the books have never screamed at me to read them.

    It sounds from your review like I’d be bored by all the detail…or possibly not; I’ve read Tom Clancy who also went into some extreme long details in The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games.

    I also read somewhere there was some quite extreme sex and violence in them?

    • Oh really? I thought you would have joined in and read this series so I’m very interested by the fact that you didn’t! I’m not sure why. I have to agree with you though, for a longest time I wasn’t interested in trying them either and then somewhere along the line I gave in and picked them up. I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered to be honest, I didn’t get much out of them. I definitely did struggle with the detail and I think most people did too judging by other Goodreads reviews. :S

      There is indeed a lot of sex and violence scenes in there in places, it’s not for the squeemish!

  5. I read these books a coupe of years ago and I really loved the first one but was then a bit meh about the other two. I can’t really remember many of the details but like you even thought I didn’t love them I couldn’t stop reading them.

    As far as I can tell the pointless details are a feature of crime/thriller books and it is something that really annoys me. The only thing I can think of is that it’s so that you feel like this terrifying experience could really happen to you because you also ate breakfast this morning and own a mobile phone so obviously you’re just the same as the characters in the book…

    • I think many people feel the exact same way as you. I think it is possibly because the first book was a complete story with a mystery, you didn’t know how it was going to end the entire way through. Whereas in the subsequent two books you know who’s done the scandalous things and you have to watch everyone else try and work it out. It kind of took the suspense out of it and skewed the pace. As you say they’re definitely are readable though.

      I completely agree with you, I have also noted it as a consistent trend and I’ve only read a handful of novel in the genre! That could indeed be a good explanation of why, but then, don’t all books want you to feel like you are really there? I’ve often also wondered if it is because they are aimed at a more male demographic as they are stereotypical supposed to be more logical and females more whimsical. Not necessarily true though. Who knows?

      Ha! I just laughed so much at your last line. 😀 Touche.

  6. I have these books on my shelf, found them used and thought I would read them, but haven’t yet and now I am not sure if I will. I do enjoy mysteries but not sure I like the hard boiled crime stuff and maybe that is the problem. I don’t know, should they stay on my shelf when there are SO MANY other books on my shelf I really want to read? lol – This is the problem I seem to have lately, at least I am not LACKING in books to read. 🙂 I am impressed you got through them!! Excellent job and wonderful review.

    • They’re hard to resist! With all the hype surrounding them and their almost constant presence in second hand book stores people are bound to give in eventually. I did the same thing!
      The first book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has a good mystery but it does take a long time to get to the point, the rest of the books are more will-the-culprit-be-brought-to-justice kind of stories though, which is why many people don’t like the subsequent books as much. I would definitely consider them hard crime as well, so maybe for you the books are worth skipping? I totally understand your problem of the huge tbr pile so I empathise COMPLETELY. 🙂

      Thank you muchly! 😀

  7. I feel like I should read this series because, as a feminist who teaches women’s studies, people often ask me what I think about it. So far, I’ve only managed to watch the movies – well one movie (with Daniel Craig) – because I don’t really enjoy thrillers. Having seen both the movie and read the book, how do the two compare?

    • I would be very interested to hear your take on it! I have an extremely limited knowledge of feminism which I feel I should rectify because it interests me, but it is hard to know where to start. I think this series depends on what view you have of feminism. Some will see it as pro and others against. Me? I think it is a little bit of both, but as I said I have limited knowledge. 🙂 The Daniel Craig movie follows the book very closely but is slightly less gruesome in comparison.

      What did you think in terms of feminism when you saw the movie? I’m really interested!

    • It sounds like we had very similar thoughts on this book Lainy. 🙂 I felt they were mediocre and didn’t really get the hype.
      Thank you muchly, I’m glad you liked it!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

    • If you’re asking my opinion I think that’s a good idea. 😛 While it isn’t a bad trilogy on the whole, there are SO many other ones out there that are better. And when you have tbr piles as big as ours, ‘not bad’ doesn’t quite cut it!

  8. Great review!

    I read these books about 3 years ago when my Mum gave them to me, and I’m about in the same position as you are. I read through all of them quickly enough and found them entertaining, but at the same time they never truly absorbed me and I didn’t particularly feel any affiliation with the characters which is a good thing for me. In saying that, I did really like the first novel of the three.

    • Thank you. 🙂

      Three years ago wow, they still seem so recent to me but I suppose they have been out for a long time now! It does indeed sound as if we are in agreement, I felt the exact same way. In three years time I will probably forget all about these books until Larsson’s name comes up in some kind of quiz and reminds me. I began to feel a bit of affection for a select few character by the end, but they were not particularly memorable for me so I will probably soon forget about them. I’m glad we were both able to get some enjoyment out of them at least.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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