YA Fantasy Roundup

25 Nov

This week was jackpot week. Not just one but three books going into my BUY NOW! List.

You’d think this news would make me happy (and it does) but at the same time it saddened me a little. You see, all three books that wowed me are by well established authors, two of which have been publishing for over twenty years.

Fortunately there are first-time authors like Wendy Desol (from a few weeks ago) who redeem us debut and not-yet-published authors from all being branded with the word no authors wants to hear: “Next!”

  • Pastworld by Ian Beck: Another prologue book. (Really I’m not against prologues at all. When they’re used well, they’re awesome, but it’s hard to use them well). This one is no exception. Total information-dump, I’m bored before I even get to the first chapter. Next!
  • The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith: I read the first chapter and was really getting into the character and her situation (I could even get past the present tense narration which normally doesn’t work for me) and then it jumped so far to a second point of view that it convinced me that it wasn’t a novel but a short story collection. I actually had to read the Amazon reviews to discover that it wasn’t. If I’m that confused at the beginning, I’m not going to commit $10 to get unconfused. Next!
  • Night Star by Alyson Noël: It’s great that we’re dropped right away into action, but the fight that’s going on is too unclear. Is it a game? Is it a life-or-death fight? A sports competition? I think it’s a real battle, maybe between two vampires. I’m all for in media res, but sometimes that can go too far. I have too many questions that are pulling me out of the story and when I’m pulled out of the story, it gets a… Next!
  • House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan: Someone lost somewhere with hounds after her. With the road melting in front of her. Is it a dream? Doesn’t seem to be. Then we jump back to what put her in that situation. My belief is that if the opening scene isn’t really where you’re starting the story, then don’t put it first. Of course, everyone (including myself) is welcome to break that “rule” but do it knowing that you might lose readers. As this book lost me. Next!
  • Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson: Ooh, a prelude rather than a prologue… Let’s see what it’s got in store for us. Uh-oh. Not so good. The prelude opens with a description of the weather and the first paragraph ends with a bit of tourism trivia (the Mansion of Honor, built by the owners of the Carlsberg Brewery as a home for Denmark’s most distinguised citizen, the world-renowned physicist Niels Bohr). Does that grab your attention? Mine neither. Next!
  • The Painted Boy by Charles de Lint: No brainer here. I’ve been a fan of his since his first novel back in the early 80s. If de Lint’s written it, it’s going to be good. Period. And look! A prologue! One that works! If it weren’t for my “one book at a time” rule, I’d click the Buy Now button, but I’ll be a good boy and finish the Spanish novel I’m reading right now.
  • The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith: Another setting-the-scene prologue that doesn’t need to exist. Someone please tell me why don’t writers trust their storytelling abilities enough to give us a story without having the main character (or some fictive dry textbook) explain things to us first. Thank you. I’ll love you forever. Apart from that, it seems like an okay story but I don’t connect at all with the main character’s voice. Next!
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi: I’ve never read Bacigalupi but I have the impression that he’s well loved in the Steampunk world. And if this book is any example of his usual skill I can see why. Tossed into the middle of the story, with lots of background information being given and not much of anything actually happening and yet the book has me mezmerized. I’ve only read one chapter and the Distopian world and the characters have me so fascinated that I’m thinking about them when I’m supposed to be working. I want to find out more about them and the world they live in.
  • Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card & Sammy Yuen Jr: I discovered Card about the same time I found de Lint and while not all of his books grab me the way de Lint’s books do, I always react to a new title from Card with a thrill of excitement. And the thrill kept building throughout the sample. While the book feels like classic Card, there’s a touch of someone different to the mix–Yuen–and that just adds to the desire to buy it and start reading right away. Note to self: info-dumping, when done like this book does, rocks. In the second chapter we’re introduced to the second point of view character but not with anything he does. Instead we’re told about the world the two characters live in and told this second character’s place in it. And yet, there’s no “telling” (of the kind writing experts always warn us against) going on at all. It’s a definite Buy, but with three books to choose from, I’m now left with a dilemma… Which first?

What about you? Read any of these? Sampled them? Tell me about it! Do you agree or should I give another one a second try?

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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in Book Reviews


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