Reasons I DNF This Book: Six of Crows

Hello everyone and welcome back to the blog after a two week hiatus. I wish I could say I was well rested for the break or that I had read a lot while I was gone, but neither is true and we’ll get into the latter point with another edition of Reasons I DNF This Book.

As always:

Spoiler alert
Spoiler alert!

This week’s DNF: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo; DNF at 13%

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Reasons I DNF This Book: Priory of the Orange Tree

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:

Spoiler alert
Spoiler alert!

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).

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Reasons I DNF This Book: Fireblood

Alright, it’s time for my very first Reasons I DNF This Book review. Before we get started, a couple disclaimers:

  1. I thought long and hard about whether or not to actually identify the books I’ll be discussing in this series. It is definitely not my intention to name and shame here. That said, this is still a review series and these are my honest thoughts on particular works. It would be kinda hard to talk about why I couldn’t finish a book if I’m not able to get into specifics. So, while I will be identifying the titles here, bear in mind that this is just one self-admitted picky reader’s opinion.
  2. Since I did not finish these books, I am judging them based on the information I was given. Maybe it gets more interesting later. Maybe another character is introduced that changes the landscape. Maybe there’s a cliffhanger that makes it all worth it. I can’t speak to those, however, because what I did read wasn’t enough to compel me to finish. All of that to say, I may make a factual error or two simply because I don’t have all the information. It’s not done maliciously.
  3. And lastly, as always:

Spoiler alert
Spoiler alert

Although somewhat less so since, you know, I didn’t finish. Anyway, here we go.

This week’s DNF: Fireblood by Jeff Wheeler; DNF at 53%

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The Poppy War

Welcome to Just Another Struggling Writer’s very first book review! I have no idea what I’m doing, so lets just get right into it.

First of all…

Spoiler alert
You’ve been warned.

So, I’m just gonna get it out of the way first: a book this dark isn’t to my taste.

I probably should have done my research before cracking this puppy open. If I had, then I would have learned that The Poppy War is a fantasy retelling of real world events, particularly those of the Second Sino-Japanese War. If I had more than a passing knowledge of that horrific period of Chinese history, I might never have read this novel. But I didn’t, on both accounts, and so I turned each page, particularly after the start of Part II, with increasing horror. By the end, I was glad it was over.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The Poppy War is really, really good. Despite my discomfort with the naked depictions of war time atrocities, it is to R. F. Kuang’s credit that she did not soften history for her readers. The fact that I was ignorant to what I was getting into is proof enough that a novel like this is critical for Western audiences.

There were moments when the grit was fascinating rather than stomach-churning. A moment that particularly stuck with me was when our young heroine, Rin, gets her period for the first time and immediately decides to have her uterus chemically destroyed because it is getting in the way of her military training. Her choice wasn’t shocking to me, it felt absolutely appropriate. That Kuang didn’t shy away from answering this question was both impressive and memorable.

Also, though I don’t have particular interest in these types of stories myself, I thought Rin’s journey from abused shop girl, escaping a forced marriage, to a hardened anti-hero who willfully commits genocide not only believable, but inevitable.

Putting my writer’s hat on, I was left a little disappointed in a few areas. Some of the relationships between the characters didn’t feel earned. I never found myself particularly compelled by Altan and that left so much of the second half feeling like a slog, especially when the war took a turn for the worse. The role of the Gatekeeper, both as part of the pantheon, and his place in the physical realm, I don’t feel was clearly defined and left a gap in my understanding of the narrative. Nezha’s apparent death was also a blow, not just because I was becoming attached to him as a character, but because I thought we were about to get an interesting arc about him having shamanistic abilities with fast healing. I also wish more attention had been paid to the political side of it: why the flying fuck would the Empress betray her people?

Perhaps these threads are picked up in the sequel, The Dragon Republic, rendering my complaints moot, but it might be some time before I feel emotionally equipped to embark on that journey. I finished The Poppy War shortly after midnight last night, and despite the late hour, I immediately had to get up and go hug my kids in their beds. It’s not something I’ll forget soon, and though that is to the book’s credit, I just don’t have the stomach for it.

The Poppy War is good, absolutely, but it was not for me.

Phew. That took a lot out of me. Three hours into drafting this blog post I realized I haven’t the faintest idea how to review things. Which meant that I just word vomited a bit.

In any case, I’ve got to get back to my own writing woes (I’ve decided to write the second half of draft two as if I’ve already made the revisions to the first half because I realllllly don’t want to start all over). I’ll tell you all about it next week. Until then, my your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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