Lisbeth Salander, ladies and gentlemen. And she’s outdone herself this time. I feel myself turning into a fangirl quicker than this summer will turn into fall. I can already tell that this blog will be very dragon tattoo-heavy.

I was not a happy reader during the two and a half days it took me to finish this book. I stayed up long into the wee hours to finish just one more chapter (and then just one more, and then just this one last one), and even when I did sleep, I got nightmares. From a book. I haven’t even seen the Swedish film yet. This has never, ever happened to me before.

There is this one scene where Larsson describes one of the supporting characters seeing a creature in the woods. It’s never fully explained and for some reason has stuck with me even though I’ve seen my share of gory horror films. I can’t do any better than he did at describing it, so I’m just going to include the passage:

“He could not imagine why anyone would want to spend their free time in such an isolated place. He felt suddenly uncomfortable when he shut the car door behind him. The forest seemed threatening, as if it were closing in around him. He sensed that he was being watched. He started towards the cabin, but he heard a rustling that made him stop short.

He stared into the woods. It was dusk, silent with no wind. He stood there for two minutes with his nerves on full alert before, seeing it out of the corner of his eye, he realized that a figure was silently, slowly moving in the trees. When his eyes focused, he saw that the figure was standing perfectly still about thirty yards into the forest, staring at him. 

He felt a vague panic. He tried to make out details. He saw a dark, bony face. It appeared to be a dwarf, no more than half his own size, and dressed in something that looked like a tunic of pine branches and moss. A forest troll? A leprechaun? 

He held his breath. He felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. 

Then he blinked six times and shook his head. When he looked again the creature had moved about ten yards to the right. There was nobody there.”

The irony of this passage is that it’s just a manifestation of this character’s fear of ghosts, the dark, and basically all things unknown. When you consider the fact that he is a seven-foot-tall blond giant with a plethora of genetic abnormalities that block all pain and give him the ability to throw punches like the Hulk, these fears should seem childish and laughable, but they actually turn out to be a huge part of his character.

This is the guy who almost kills Lisbeth near the end of the novel. He even buries her, and then loses his mind completely when she appears out of nowhere covered in blood and dirt to get her revenge. He knows that the creature in the forest was never real, but now here she is, seemingly back from the dead and about to hack him to pieces. Does it take a lot to imagine how terrified this dude would be? This aspect of his character serves a practical function by saving his life because Lisbeth realizes that he has some kind of mental illness and stops herself from killing him, but it also gives a whole new dimension to the encounter that I’ve never seen before.

Larsson portrays every other character – and there are probably close to two dozen in this book – with the same meticulous, rich detail. The plot is just as intricate and many-layered. And Salander is a total badass. I absolutely loved this book.

Again, I’ll remind you that this is a very adult series and you’ll have a miserable time reading it if you don’t have the required maturity yet or are just looking to be entertained. It gets deeper into some of the themes that came up in the previous book (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and introduces some more compelling world issues as well. It’s fantastic, but it’s not light reading. Oh, and think about having the final book by your side as you finish this one up. You’re going to want it.

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