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Apr. 23rd, 2012

dear flist, I would like your opinion on this book.

I started reading and then about forty pages I finally reached my limit of LOLNO and put it down. And now I wonder if maybe this is overreaction - maybe this is just fantasy convention I have missed? (I have read tons of children's and young adult fantasy but very little adult fantasy).

From Ian Irvine's A Shadow on the Glass. With the most relevant examples.

Page 1:

It was the final night of the Graduation Telling, when the masters and students of the College of the Histories at Chanthed told the Great Tales that were the very essence of human live on Santhenar. To Llian had fallen the honour and the peril of telling the greatest tale of all - the Tale of the Forbidding. The tale of Shuthdar, the genius who made the golden flute but could not bear to give it up; who had changed the Three Worlds forever.

The telling was perilous because Llian was from an outcast race, the Zain, a scholarly people whose curiosity had led them into a treacherous alliance in ancient times. Though their subsequent decimation and exile was long ago, the Zain were still thought ill of. No Zain had been honoured with a Graduation Telling in five hundred years, save Llian, and that was a curious affair in itself.

So, his tale must best them all, students and masters too. Succeed and he would graduate master chronicler, a rare honour. No one had worked harder or agonised more to make this tale. But even a perfect telling would bring him as many enemies as admirers. Llian could sense them, willing him to fail. Well, let them try. No one knew what he knew. No one had ever told the tale this way before.

The next page starts in on his telling, and it basically thwaps you with six or seven different names - the worlds and their peoples and the smith's name. Confusing. But there are sentences that make me cringe: "the Zain were still thought ill of". (I liked "that was a curious affair in itself".) And the names - Santhenar, Llian, Chanthed, Shuthdar - what's with all the fricatives thrown together?!

Page 20.

Llian scratched himself, inspecting the damage of the previous night in a cracked mirror. His brown eyes were bloodshot and bleary, and his head throbbed. Llian might have been handsome, save that his mouth was too wide and his chin lopsided, but when he smiled it lit up his whole face. He was of middle height and slimly built, though with strong shoulders. Llian was likeable and charming, though occasionally a little full of himself. Sometimes because of his heritage, he tried too hard. His voice was soft and rich and mellow, touched with lights and shadows, utterly enchanting. Friends, enemies; all loved his voice. As did he.

This is where I felt the voice of the author intruding. "Llian might have been handsome [...] when he smiled it lit up his whole face" (cliched last bit too). "Slimly"? And the way that he keeps starting his sentences with Llian - his - Llian - he - Llian - starts to sound clunky. But I liked the voice bit. This was the frustrating bit - there was some really bad sentences (including "Sometimes...he tried too hard." OH REALLY? Thanks for telling me all this!) and then there were good things sandwiched randomly throughout.

Every single character gets an infodump like this. There's actually a great, though gross, description of the head of the college. It reminded me of the description Alyona Ivanovna, except with a fixation on describing hair.

Page 45

"So!" Maigraith said coldly. "Honour and duty mean nothing to you. I had thought differently. Well, you have no choice. I don't know of anyone else"

"What you ask is out of proportion to the service you rendered me," Karan said desperately. "Name another task and I will render it faithfully, no matter what it takes."

"That's what you said before, as I recall."

"But all it took was silver, and that I have repaid. You ask me to risk my life"

"All it took was silver!" I saved your life. I nursed you back form the grave at the risk of the fever. I carried you all the way to Thrukad. I put coin in your pocket and made sure you were escorted safely home. You paid back the least of the debt."

Karan felt trapped! She had not thought that her promise would be so taken advantage of. "I have to go to Chanthed at the end of autumn," she said, trying everything she could think of.

(Magraith meets Karan [who is one of the protagonists, I believe] while Karan is extremely poor and sliding farther into poverty. Upon accidentally addressing Karan as "churl", Karan gets angry, tells Magraith she's a free woman, and asks her to pay the debt of ten silver coins. Magraith does, and then when Karan is sick, Magraith tries to nurse her, then when that fails, brings her to Magraith's liege lord, who Magraith describes as 'a person she can't please'.)

What made the eyeroll was "Karan felt trapped!"

That's when I laughed and slammed the book shut.

What do you think? I am really not inclined to read more...it sounds like it will be a lot more of this. Some parts are good, and then there are patches of oddly modern speech ("he felt let down" in one memorable bit) and - well!

Is this just convention? Am I missing something?

Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/106878.html.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2012 07:15 am (UTC)
I don't read this genre usually anyway, but this is pretty terrible. I read this in my head in that voice I usually use when I'm reading satire. But it's not satire. Unless it is. Anyway. Apart from everything you brought up there are just some horribly clunky phrases:

"She had not thought that her promise would be so taken advantage of."

what? She was surprised someone took her up on her word? Apart from seeming like kind of a weird situation -- she said she would do something and then when expected to do something she feels trapped? wtf? -- "be so taken advantage of" is just kind of a poor use of a cliche phrase. Why not say "she did not expect him to take advantage of her this way"? It's a weird thing. It's weird. I dunno. So many books to read. Pick another one. :P
Apr. 24th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's self-aware enough to be satire.

Yeah, the character really annoyed me (she saw Magraith coming up the driveway, knows that Magraith will be wanting a favour) and she still seems confused about obligation. But characters being stupid is okay. But the narrative seems to support her, which was why I gave up.

*is journeying to library today*
Apr. 24th, 2012 07:50 am (UTC)
I consider any "said [adverb]" as bad tehnical writing, especially when used in excess. One of the quotes you gave has 2 in a row.

wow this hurts to read.
Apr. 24th, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
Sometimes, yeah. I think it gets used to really good effect sometimes, though. (Easy to picture! :D)

I am chucking this one, I think. Which makes me sad, because it's got a lovely cover and I thought it would be good :(
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Apr. 24th, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, okay, good to know it's not just me...one of the things that bothers me (not just this book) is when the world is introduced in one big pile, so that you're scrabbling around trying to assimilate all the facts. I'm glad this pings you too.
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Apr. 25th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
Yes, exactly! Capitalization is always a problem too. It lends your names gravity, but it also gets silly really fast if you're not careful!
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Apr. 24th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)

*returns book*
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
Only Too True :(
Apr. 24th, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
OMG that's really bad. TBH, I used to hoover fantasy up like nobody's business, but these days the moment weird names come out I tend to put the book down because of things like this. I think a lot of the better writers have gravitated into YA fantasy.
Apr. 24th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
the moment weird names come out
I wonder if there's a name for this? The really bad made up names that are all (English) consonants and vowels and extra apostrophes mushed together...See, for awhile, I thought that went with the territory - new world, new names - but this seems to be pushing it too far.

I wonder if they have. I can't tell if I was just lucky before, or I've gotten pickier, or if there are just genuinely better writers when I was reading children/YA...

(also: got recs? :D)
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Apr. 24th, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
My first instinct was to think it was Welsh, actually. "ll" beginning words always make me think of Welsh.

The only weird thing about "Ildd" is it's two syllables, right? (Oh wait, you could just have one syllable...but that's not as interesting). If you had two, then you would have a syllabic l! (That's where the consonant becomes the syllabic nuclei - normally syllablic nuclei are always vowels, but sometimes r/l become them in certain dialects - like how Americans say "bottle" but it sounds more like "bodl"...) ANYWAY. So you'd have on syllable with "i" and the other "ldd".
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Apr. 25th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Illlllllllld. That's how I pronounce it. lllllllll. :D

So for every syllable you need to have a syllabic nuclei - like the center of it. In most languages, only a vowel is permitted to be the syllabic nuclei. But in English you can also have an l or r be a syllabic nuclei - picklllll. (you know, if you pronounce pickle like me. >.>)

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(no subject) - silverflight8 - Apr. 26th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - silverflight8 - Apr. 26th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 24th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
AHAHAHA. I have low standards in what I read, but even that ... I would have given up far before forty pages. =P (Though, honestly, I can put up with a lot of bad writing if I like the characters or the plot. I don't care how good the writing is; if I am bored by what is going on, or just flat out don't care about what is going on, chances are I am going to stop reading sooner rather than later.)

Have you read the YA fantasy book Daughter of Smoke and Bone? I just read that recently and enjoyed it. For "adult" fantasy, I like Patrick Rothfuss (who writes very standard fantasy), Brandon Sanderson (whose strength, IMO, is world-building and not necessarily plot), and Scott Lynch (whose first book is far better than his second). Other names you're likely to hear bandied around are George R.R. Martin (of Song of Ice and Fire), Joe Abercrombie (whose trilogy I started but found a little dark for my tastes), Terry Pratchett (who is very clever but again I find somewhat boring), and Jim Butcher (of the Dresden Files).

Hai, you didn't even ask for recs, and here I am babbling all over your LJ. I can talk about fantasy all day. I meant to comment on your Kushiel post once upon a time and never got around to it, but I stopped reading Kushiel's Dart because bad stuff kept happening to her and I couldn't take it any more. /o\ Maybe I should give the Naamah trilogy a try ... after I work Mercedes Lackey out of my system. (I am still pimping The Last Herald-Mage to whoever will listen -- with the usual caveats about how it really works best if you can put yourself in the mindset of a teenage girl. LOL.)

I am looking for YA fantasy recs, actually, so toss any you have my way, please!
Apr. 25th, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
(this is a really tl;dr response)

Yeah, it's now back at the library. I, er, may or may not have forgotten to bring my library card to actually check out more books. Maybe.

No, I've never read Smoke and Bone one...I'll write that one down. I've heard of Rothfuss (sort of not all that good), but not of the other ones. I read one of Abercrombie's books - I think the review's somewhere on my journal - and had many Objections. Wait, the Dresden Files was a book?!


Hahaha, I haven't gotten my hands on Kushiel's Dart yet, so I'm not sure if this is relevant, but Moirin is: a) a lot less kinky, though there's definitely lots of sex and b) ends up travelling a lot. She practically circumnavigates the globe. It is also c) very optimistic, I think. It's not been infected by the plague of cynicism I see sometimes in modern books *cough* I recommend Moirin's trilogy anyway. I wish there was a fandom; I checked all over; there's Kushiel trilogies' stuff but none of Naamah's. :(

Mercedes Lackey - I keep hearing mixed reviews. Actually I think I kind of have her confused with people like Anne Rice and L K Hamilton...? Is that accurate?

OK, so all my YA recs are so dated because I kind of stopped reading them a few years ago and switched to HISTORICAL EVERYTHING. I am going to be lazy and not properly italicize the titles:

* Graceling (Kristin Cashore)
* The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) an absolutely amazing book which I think everyone should read. It is really really really amazing.
*The Grey Wolf Throne [series] (Cinda Williams Chima) - a bit clunky in places but actually very good! All the characters grew on me
*Septimus Heap series (Angie Sage) I want to live in that world so badly sometimes. Even though I stopped reading after awhile.
*Gathering Blue (Lois Lowry) though tis many years...
*...I'm sure I know more but they're escaping me right now. There are always the fantasy-realism sort of books that Madeleine L'Engle, Diane Duane, etc wrote - they are one of the big name ones. I do remember liking Amelia Atwater-Rhode's Kiesha'ra Series (starting with Hawksong) but they are very short and also I was probably fourteen so I am not sure how well they hold up. (I liked them lots though).

*ends comment before it exceeds word limit*
Apr. 25th, 2012 01:35 am (UTC)
I have (yet more) comments!

First off, I think you value the quality of the prose itself much more than I do, so you probably won't like a lot of the standard fantasy authors. (Though if you liked Jacqueline Carey, I think most of the authors I mentioned above should be okay-ish in terms of quality of writing.) A lot of standard fantasy is more about world-building and character arcs, so sometimes the prose is subpar as a vehicle for those two goals. Mercedes Lackey reads more like fanfiction than anything else, honestly. She's a guilty pleasure for me -- I feel guilty for liking her books, but they're easy reads and ... ::shrugs:: I don't have a good excuse. Though I've come to the conclusion that maybe she peaked with The Last Herald-Mage trilogy; everything else I've tried so far has been sort of blah.

The Dresden Files is an entire book series! Everyone says they get better as you go, but I got up to book four and still didn't care much for the main characters, so I stopped. I probably just have horrible taste in books. =P

I read The Phantom Tollbooth eons and eons ago. In fact, I can still visualize the cover in my head. I haven't read it since I was probably eight or so ... at which point I think I missed a lot of the references, because although I recall enjoying it, I don't think I ever bothered to re-read it. I would not have classified it as fantasy, though now that I am thinking about it more, there are fantastical elements to it.

Lois Lowry was one of my favorite authors in late elementary/early middle school! In fact, The Giver was my favorite book for years. Interesting, I would not have called Gathering Blue fantasy either, as it does not adhere to a lot of the tropes that I look for in fantasy.

I've tried Diane Duane once or twice and it never really clicked for me. I will have to give the others you mention a shot.

Ooh, I recall liking the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. That's more on the YA side of things. I also enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy, though I never saw The Golden Compass in movie form. I think you might like The Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy by Patricia McKillip; it had some pretty prose, if I remember correctly.

(How obvious is it I have spent my entire life reading fantasy? Geez!)
Apr. 25th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, well, if it has really good prose I will probably be able to read the whole thing through. But if there is other things (like characters I really like or the world building) then I will also get through. As much as I enjoy people like Fitzgerald's writing, I think it would get to be too much after awhile; it's exquisite, but sometimes just plot is so much better. (Carey's is kind of like that - it doesn't draw attention to itself, but it's neat and compact and feels right. UNLIKE THAT BOOK UP THERE)

Haha, then I will certainly look into Lackey's stuff!

Oh, if you read it when you were younger, you should definitely read it again. It's got so many puns it's practically exploding with them - and it's so awesome :D I love that book. I wish everyone could read it. (Funny enough this is my reaction to a lot of books) Do give it a try, if you have a copy!

My memories of Gahtering Blue are rather fuzzy - was it dystopian? Oh, actually, I remember really liking On Wings of a Dragon (Cora Taylor). I read it in middle school and really loved it - I kept going back to that section of the library, rechecking it out, and reading it again.

Oh, yes, Garth Nix! I personally couldn't get into his Abhorsen trilogy, but I really liked the Seventh Tower and his standalone Ragwitch.

I actually didn't like His Dark Materials very much...it just seemed really dreary and the ending was so, so sad. (*still has feelings about this*) I have heard of McKillip - I'll give her a try.

I feel so nostalgic now, oh my god.
Apr. 25th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
Yes, the biggest issue I have with prose is when it gets in the way of the story. Good prose should never do that.

Really, I would just give Lackey's The Last Herald Mage series a try. So far, everything else I've read by her has been more of a miss.

I know I have a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth lying around the house, but I can't seem to find it, so I'll get it from the library the next time I go. I wonder what I will think of it, so many years removed. It will be interesting. =)

Gathering Blue is more dystopian than fantasy, in my head. Though I have to admit I don't remember that book that well either, so maybe I am just basing that off The Giver. Sort of the same way I would call The Hunger Games dystopian and not fantasy. It can be a fine line, though.

Haha, His Dark Materials was dreary and had a sad ending, but I really wanted a daemon when I was younger. >_> It wasn't quite as bleak if you stopped after the first book, I think.

I found this list fairly interesting. I like how Neil Gaiman makes everybody's list, and I've tried three of his books and haven't really liked any of them. =X It's like me and Terry Pratchett, or me and Jim Butcher, or me and George R.R. Martin.

When I was a kid, I read voraciously. In elementary school, my favorite book was Silver Chief: Dog of the North. I checked it out a bunch of times. Reading the reviews on Amazon is absolutely hilarious to me, because that is sort of how I feel about that book. Nostalgia!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
Thora, ILU <333

(perhaps I ought to try again - I liked all of his other stuff!)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
I think it was just unspecified disinclination. It just didn't grab me, I guess - I only read three or four pages (I think all I remember is a wall and a dead rabbit? Maybe not the dead rabbit.)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2012 01:05 am (UTC)
I forgive a lot of stuff if I like the prose. Hahaha, I could feel my internal editor go "this could be fixed like so and let's cut this bit out..." I'm glad to know that you had the same reaction :P
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )



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