What Began As A Rant

September 11, 2010 at 5:44 am (From the Book Shelf, September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )


I actually did have a post planned for today just before I jump into a fairly extended stretch on my blog tour. Incidentally the next five days I will be bouncing all around the place and I hope you will come with me to some amazing blogs (links below). However, I re-read my post and realised that what had begun as a discussion about why I had been disappointed by a trilogy I recently gave up reading had actually degenerated into a rant and I decided to scrap it and try again.

Here is my second attempt.

I recently began reading a trilogy of YA fantasy books and was instantly hooked by the first book. There was this interesting (if a little generic) female protagonist who did some reasonably unexpected things and over the course of the first book I came to really want her to succeed in her goals. The villains were a bit on the melodramatic side and their scheme was clearly delusional and set to fail before it began but you can forgive that in YA because overblown villains are the norm and when stupid people reach for the moon, of course they fail. The story was enjoyable and the side characters well fleshed out.

Enter book two and we see our heroine in a new location only now she’s less interesting because she has nothing left to reveal and this time the actual complication of the story isn’t introduced until half-way through because they are so busy trying to get us to see the protagonist in the new location. Instead of some dark past haunting her every step, we now have petty annoyances and domestic squabbles that fill in time until somehow there just happens to be a serial killer stalking around in her new home and somehow she just happens to be the one who is going to solve everyone’s troubles. Not that she isn’t out of her depth and completely lost and with no actual reason to involve herself at all. In point of fact, the author spends a bit of time trying to convince us that she becomes emotionally attached to one of the almost victims, but this doesn’t really sit right with the protagonists character and ends up just being a plot pointer.

By book three, I was more or less over the protagonist. However, in the grand tradition of trilogies, the danger is now upped to the point where it is so overblown and melodramatic that you fully expect the sky to darken at any minute. And yet, I just didn’t care. The characters of the first book were now mostly too far removed because they had all but been completely absent (other than a tokenistic appearance) in the second. The characters of the second book hadn’t endeared themselves to me at all. And the third book seemed determined to rush us into a complication that made very little sense as fast as possible.

I’m going to point out at this stage that I didn’t finish reading the trilogy. I made it half-way through the third book and then realised I was hoping that mysterious, overblown, master-mind villain guy would just wipe them all out and call it a day. At that point I realised that I’d completely disengaged from the story and there was no point in my finishing it.

The point of this was my wondering where it all went wrong. The first book won me over. I loved it. I was totally hooked into this world and these characters. In all honesty, I think it was the big shift in scenery that lost me. I loved the world that was created in the first book, but in the second we were in an entirely different setting and I didn’t really feel it. I missed too much of the first setting. Perhaps that is a petty quibble but as a reader it threw me.

So my question to the readers out there is this: How long will you read when you know you have disengaged? Do you give up straight away, or do you plow on and hope for a big finish?

Tomorrow Laura Diamond is sharing a post here on the realm and I am off to her blog to talk about females in fantasy writing.

After that I am visiting Alex J Cavanaugh on the 13th, Mason Canyon on the 14th, Carol Kilgore on the 15th and Susan Whitfield on the 16th. Hope to see you on the tour.

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15 Comments

  1. writerleerobertson said,

    Hmm maybe the author had plenty of time for the first book but was under deadline pressure for the following books. I think that happens a lot (to the detriment of quality).

    I used to plow through books no matter what but these days I give up once I realize the book isn’t for me.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I used to read things to the end even if I hated them, but I just don’t have the time anymore.

  2. Laura Diamond said,

    Oy, that’s a tough one! Sometimes I don’t become invested in the characters until I’m 100 or more pages into the story…so I guess I really give it a good shot. I do try to finish though if I make it that far.

    I do have a series sitting on my bookshelf (I loved the first book so much, I bought ‘em all thinking it would be a good idea), but the second book was set in a different time & setting & I didn’t get to page 100, lol! So, I agree with your point!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      It is the whole shift in setting that throws you, isn’t it. You invest in one place and then they move everything.

  3. Agatha82 said,

    I pick up a book in a bookshop, read the back cover. IF that doesn’t get me. The book doesn’t go any further. If the back cover has hooked me, I will then give the book a chance. If the book blurb has only reviews/praise for the book, then I read the first page (do the same on Amazon via that “look inside” option they’ve got) If I have to keep reading to find out what’s really going on, that’s it. Sod the book. I don’t read stuff that has to “grow” on me. Characters/stories should be set well enough from the start in some way that you want to know “what happens next” or “who’s that and why are they acting like this or that” etc.

    About your mention of change of location for second novel, is it possible the author didn’t work hard enough to bring THAT location alive? Could that be the reason it didn’t work? Just guessing….

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think they tried but it just didn’t grab me. Maybe because my expectations were wrong but I just didn’t get into it.

  4. AlexJCavanaugh said,

    I’ll plow thorugh one more book in hopes it gets better. I went further with Jordan’s Wheel of Time, but gave up mostly because I wanted it to end, and there seemed to be no end in sight.
    Looking forward to hosting you on Monday!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I got to the 6th book of the Wheel of TIme before I realised he had no intention of ending it any time soon and gave up.
      Can’t wait to visit you tomorrow.

  5. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    I have to be honest. I don’t read far into a novel before I either like it or don’t. I think a lot of what keeps me is the writing style and the voice, but of course, there are many other factors that weigh. And, if I like what I read and continue to the end but am not satisfied with the conclusion, the author is off my list. I hate being left hanging and I hate encountering an unexpected disastrous end. Yup. I am hard to please. And I don’t read every genre, either, so part of my preference is just that. We cannot write to please everyone. We write what is in us and wants out.

  6. Alex Willging said,

    You have my sympathies, Cassandra. I’ve gotten into some stories, shows, or movies where I’m interested but wind up increasingly disappointed by the characters and the overall plot (the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series comes to mind…). And yes, sometimes I’ve reached a low point where I’m just wishing for the villain or big threat to just finish them off and have done with it. Unless an author’s going for that path and using a Villain Protagonist, it’s not a good reaction for a reader to have.

    I hope you have better luck with your next read, and with the rest of your blog tour.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Thanks Alex – I’m not really reading anything at the moment but my TBR pile is sitting here demanding some action. I’ll have to pick something to start next week.

  7. Ollin said,

    Oh, I’m a snobby reader. I’m also a snobby movie watcher too. I need to hear positive feedback from critics, then some mainstream popularity, then a good friend of mine has to recommend it before I will shell out the money to buy or watch the movie.

    So to answer your question, I think the most I will give a book is half way through. I try not to give up on the first couple of chapters even if they suck. The truth is, I guess it’s on a case by case basis. There are some really bad writers who have great storytelling skills, and some really good writers who have really bad storytelling skills, so sometimes its a give and take. lol.

    You are far more generous of a reader than I am. Good for you, I’m sure the writer appreciated you trying to stick with him/her. :)

  8. Misha said,

    I hate when that happens. What you described always seems to me that the author intended only the one book, but was pressured into writing sequals – in as short a time as possible.

    A properly thought through trilogy won’t let all of a character’s secrets and obstacles end with the first book.

    I tend to force myself to finish what I started to read, because I can learn what went wrong that way.

  9. Glynis Smy said,

    I always had a policy to read no mattter what. I have just gotten to the third book of a collection and …yawn it is the same but different.
    Then I started on another and it was so gross on the first two pages it made me feel physically sick. I was a nurse, I have a tough gut but I could not read the rest of the book at all.

    Interesting post.

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