Cross-posted from The Bradford Bunch blog
A few weeks ago I came across a fantasy novel on Amazon. The reviews for the book were glowing and called it noire historical fantasy, saying it was both dark and humorous. Just the thing I love to read. So, I ordered it and eagerly started in.
Basically, the novel follows the stories of about five different characters. They’re scattered all over this fictional world and none of them seem to have any link to the other. It was a little like reading five different novels in one. However, I suspected the stories at some time would begin to converge, so I kept on with it.
But the book was long, too, and slooooow. The pacing was so slow that I almost put it down several times. By then it was the characters that kept me reading. Almost every single last one of them are anti-heroes, so twisted and flawed that you wonder how you could be rooting for them, let alone care about them. This author has a real talent with character development.
So, even though the book was slow and disjointed like crazy, I didn’t put it down.
Then I got to the last third of the book and, wow!, the plot took off. The various storylines of the characters converged and the action picked up. I couldn’t stop reading until I got to the end and I practically sprained a finger in my haste to order the next book in the series.
Then I was really, really bummed because I won’t have the next book to read for several days. Meh.
So I picked out an urban fantasy book from my TBR pile last night that I’ve been meaning to read and settled in with it. The heroine was the typical kind I often read in urban fantasy–shallow. In this book the heroine is mostly concerned with her weight (and making snide remarks about other people’s weight) and appearance, guys, and getting that perfect designer dress on sale.
Now, I know that many times heroines start out this way and through the course of the book they grow, change, and get “deeper”. Hell, most of my heroines start out that way, though in my case my heroines start out powerless and then get more and more powerful as the story progresses. They rarely start out shallow.
There’s nothing wrong with a heroine starting off shallow and then developing throughout the story. Usually I love those kinds of books. But for some reason this heroine grated on me and I had to put the book down. I doubt I’ll pick it back up because I don’t think I can read this heroine long enough to get to the part where she starts to mature. It’s in first person, see, and I don’t want to be in her head. Normally I’m fine with first person, just not THIS time.
Ultimately, I think the deal is that I just couldn’t care enough about the character to continue.
I’m still trying to lay my finger on why, exactly, I was able to find those anti-heroes in the fantasy novel care-worthy enough for me to continue on with the book (even though the beginning was slow and disjointed), and why I can’t find it in me to continue with the urban fantasy novel with the shallow heroine.
It’s not about character likability. The characters in the noire historical aren’t likable at all. I think it has to do with whether or not the characters intrigue me. Are they interesting and different enough for me to want to invest my time in them? I think it must come down to that.
So, here’s my question for you all — what are some reasons you put down books you paid good money for? Does it come down to character? Pacing? Point-of-view? All of the above?
Conversely, what elements might keep you reading if there are several things about the book that niggle?