This year for my reading challenge, I chose to read the first books of twelve fat fantasy series I’d not read before. It sounded easy enough. Fantasy novels, after all, are not known as difficult reading. It should, in fact, have been a doddle. I’ve read and enjoyed fat fantasy novels in the past, so I foresaw no difficulty in reading twelve of them in one year. And it’d be interesting to see whether or not each book persuaded me to read the rest of the series. I had a bit of help putting together a list of a dozen – people suggested titles, both here on my blog and on LibraryThing, and I picked twelve which appealed. Then I started reading…
I lasted six months and then gave up. This is how it went:
January: Pawn of Prophecy, David Eddings. The first book of the Belgariad. These books are now marketted as YA, and it’s easy to see why. The novel also felt like a cynical attempt to jump on the fantasy bandwagon by someone who hadn’t quite mastered the spirit of the thing. I’m told the series improves as it progresses. I shall never know. Full review here.
February: Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb. The first book of the Farseer Trilogy. An engaging narrator, readable prose… but what a dull world. And a prince called Verity. Too little happened in this book’s 480 pages, the story took far too long to kick into gear. Full review here.
March: The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie. The first book of the First Law Trilogy. Everyone raved about this book. It was, apparently, a superb new fantasy novel, different to everything that had gone before. Well, yes. The characters were despicable prats, the narrative circled about the plot without actually engaging with it, and the combat scenes were quite gory. I was not impressed. Full review here.
April: Colours in the Steel, KJ Parker. The first book of the Fencer trilogy. This one was a surprise: I actually enjoyed it and thought it quite good. It’s in serious need of editing – whole passages should have been cut as they add nothing to the narrative – but otherwise the writing flows along, the world is well-built, and the characters are engaging. I’ve since picked up the second book of the trilogy, The Belly of the Bow. Full review here.
May: The One Kingdom, Sean Russell. The first book of the Swan’s War trilogy. This had an interesting world, but the story was so incredibly slow that reading the book proved a chore. I’d like to know what happened, but I’m not prepared to read through 1000+ pages of lethargic prose in order to find out. Full review here.
June: King’s Dragon, Kate Elliott. The first book of the Crown of Stars series. I couldn’t finish this. I got about 100 pages into this 700-page brick and gave up. One narrative thread had a sixteen-year-old girl in slavery and raped nightly by her owner, the other was about a young man who mucks out the stables. I didn’t have the patience to work my way through these to find out what happened.
Unfortunately, King’s Dragon was not only unfinishable, it also put me off reading the remaining six books of the challenge. For the record, they were:
- Magician, Raymond E Feist (1982)
- The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams (1988)
- The Sum of All Men, David Farland (1998)
- The Darkness That Comes Before, R Scott Bakker (2003)
- The Wizard Hunters, Martha Wells (2003)
- Winterbirth, Brian Ruckley (2006)
Yes, maybe I made some bad choices – although all the books were recommended to me by others. And, to be honest, there’s still a couple on the list above I’d like to try: the Wells, for example; and the Ruckley. One day, I might indeed read them. But the rest I’ve no interest in tackling. Still, I suppose in one respect the challenge was not a complete failure as it introduced me to a writer whose books I will continue to read: KJ Parker. It also introduced me to some writers whose books I will now assiduously avoid.
Now I just have to think of a reading challenge for 2011.