Hello friends and welcome to another lovely Tuesday here on Just Another Struggling Writer, the day I devote to talking books. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Today’s is a review of the DNF persuasion so get your critical hats on, folks.
Before we get started, as always, a reminder:
This week’s DNF: Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon; DNF at 36% (though it might have actually been closer to 50%, the Kindle e-book formatting for this book was janky as hell).
If the last edition of RIDNFTB (wow, that’s an acronym) had a theme it was definitely the characters. If this review has a theme, I would sum it up as: too much and not enough.
This book has a lot going on. At least four POVs by the time I put it down, and an abundance of what I’ll call… Capital Letter Syndrome. There was one page in particular that was absolutely choked with proper nouns. Ten different terms or names (of characters or places we hadn’t already met or been to yet) on a single page, and most of it was infodump. Lore with which to add color to this fantasy. Now, I’m a fellow aspiring fantasy author, so I understand the impulse to do this, but it just became overwhelming. It didn’t forward the plot along and it became just a lot of information that seemed like it would be important (since we’re wasting precious pages in the first 6% on it) yet I couldn’t hold it all in my head. Everything absolutely felt well thought out, and that it had history and life to it, but the delivery was a bit hamfisted. I don’t need all this context right away (I’d argue I don’t need it at all) but the prose wants to spoon feed it to me when all I’m looking for is a glass of water.
So that’s too much. Not enough is the plot itself. So, so little actually happens, despite the book being so, so dense (have I mentioned it’s over 800 pages). Of the (so far) four POV characters, only one I felt was really interesting, and yet she has the most drab plot of them all. Babysitting a spoiled, insufferable queen from some Big Bad Dragon threat. By the time I put it down I could tell this was supposed to be a love story, but… well I read fantasy for the action. Love stories are a nice bonus in my book, not the main thrust of why I read something. Ead as a character and her history with the namesake Priory was the most fascinating part of the book, which had me wanting to get back to her POV while I was reading the others, but when I got there I was… yawning. I don’t care about Sabran or her political struggles. Watching her soften up and become humanized throughout the story… wasn’t really interesting (at all) to me.
On the other side of the world we had Tané, and, on paper, her story was supposed to be awesome. Training to become a dragon rider, an elite military unit, for the (I think) upcoming war with the west. Awesome. And yet. And yet. Tané was so… boring as a character. Her conflict with her rival was so trite. I kept waiting for the good stuff to arrive and it just never materialized. We also see Niclays, who, honestly, I could not bring myself to give a single shit about, and I ended up skimming most of his POV chapters. Lastly, we have the Loth POV, which, I felt, was abruptly introduced. I was glad of it, it injected some much needed context (and life) into Ead’s chapters, and it had the action I was craving, but by the time I put it down even his foray into enemy territory wasn’t enough to keep me suitably engaged.
The last thing I remember doing with this book was glancing at the progress info at the bottom of my Kindle screen and groaning. As I mentioned at the start, the Kindle formatting was terrible so I have no idea if this is accurate, but it said that I had read about 400 pages and was only 36% of the way through. And then I decided life just wasn’t long enough for me to justify another 800 pages of this novel.
Okay so last week we had Bad Decision Scene. This week we have Capital Letter Syndrome. What new and exciting terms will I come up with next week, when I hope to review The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemison? (I say hope to because I’ve never given myself a hard deadline of two weeks to finish a book before. I really hope I make it in time. *gulp*) Stay tuned to find out! And don’t forget I’ll have my usual Thursday Words Day blog post on the aforementioned Thursday, as well as a Short But Sweet vignette on Sunday. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.