2020 DNF Round Up Part One

I am somewhat impressed I managed 9 months without a DNF Round-Up. Were there really that few books I struggled with? Or was it just that I powered through more books than I ought to have. I’m still struggling to let myself DNF, if I’m being honest, but considering how many I DNF’d in September (enough long reviews to force me to split this post and release Part One!), I think I need to trust my gut with DNFing more. I’m also noticing more and more the things that make me DNF – lack of world building, unrelated characters, and plotlines that feel shaky.

BROKEN SKY, by L. A. Weatherly

Genre: Dystopia
Age Range: YA
Series: yes - first book
Book cover for BROKEN SKY: title in blue surrounded by stars

This 1940s dystopia about an America where war is illegal and disputes are settled in aerial dog-fights one-on-one was DNF’ed at 34%. The story itself was uninspiring and I felt very uncomfortable with the heavy usage of horoscope reading – which is something I don’t believe in at all.

Having recently read STORM FROM THE EAST, the dog-fights in BROKEN SKY were bland and unemotional – no sense of danger or character in it. The main character had no obvious goals or desires, so I didn’t know what she wanted. Without that, I didn’t care what happened to her, so failed to stay engaged with the story as there was no sense that she was pushing it forwards. Even a third through, I could not tell you what the macro plot was.

She had a boring love interest whom she was angry with but was clearly going to get with after much angst, but all they had was a shared past. I’m not sure what his characteristics were that she was attracted too as he was a cardboard cut out.

There is another POV stuffed in, that had a goal at least, but felt so unconnected to the main character that it could be another book. While it was the more interesting POV, it felt unnecessary and wasn’t enough to keep me reading.

THE RIVEN REALM, by Deck Matthews

I received a digital copy of this book, as part of a blog tour I am no longer on, in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Series: yes
Book cover for THE RIVEN REALM: title in purple before a map

This book is actually a bind up of three novellas that form the start of the series and I gave up after the first one as I was really struggling with the lack of female characters and how they were presented.

There are seven POV in the first book, by my count, and only one is a woman. Of the other three introduced, only one has any real presence in the story (the mother) and she’s killed off. Then her son and another man have a fight about fault and blame and regret – and yes, she’s FRIDGED.

Having 7 POVs in a novella is also confusing as there’s no time to properly get to know any of the characters. Two of them are very disparate and unconnected from the main story, which meant I didn’t care for them at all. There was no plot movement for the unconnected POVs, which felt like they were there to set up stuff in the later books. Given it;’s a bind up, each instalment should feel like it at least has a thematic conclusion and advancement, otherwise they should have been one book from the start.

There are a LOT of proper nouns in the start of the book – which indicates a LOT of world building. It could have been spread out a little more, to make it less overwhelming.

A SONG BELOW WATER, by Bethany C. Morrow

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Series: standalone
Book cover for A SONG BELOW WATER; two girls' fair and braids mingle above their heads against a blue background

A SONG BELOW WATER is a book that a contemporary fantasy set in Portland that blends mythological creatures like Sirens with social justice.

It’s not a book written for me, a white Brit, which is probably a reason why it’s not published in the UK. The world building combines three cultures that are not my own (one is the mythical creatures), so I really struggled to understand and engage with the world, and thus couldn’t get into the story. (Let’s start with having to google Renaissance Fair because I’d guessed they were very different to the Medieval Fayres put on at school.)

American contemporary is always a bit tricky for me. It’s not the culture is the opposite to my own, but that it’s significantly different and yet similar that I struggle with the off-hand references and the subtext of things like college applications that aren’t explained because it’s normal for the target market.

I usually only engage well with thrillers because there are no other completing world building aspects to get my head around. Unfortunately, I was having to focus so much attention on the American contemporary aspects that I couldn’t get to grips with the mythical creatures. I was so confused as to what each were, which were real, and what they could do. This meant I was struggling to follow the story – and the flashbacks didn’t help.

For me, it’s a soft DNF – meaning I hope to come back to it at another time. Maybe when my attention isn’t consumed with university prep and research I’ll have the brain space to approach a book that needs so much

LIGHTBRINGER, by Claire Legrand

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Series: yes - final book of trilogy
Book cover for LIGHTBRINGER: title between crossed gold and red swords and flames on white

I’ll be honest, I opened the eARC and couldn’t remember why I’d requested it. I vaguely remember thinking the first book was OK and the second was boring. Then I realised I must have requested it because I hate not finishing series. Thus I went into this book with low expectations and some bemusement at my own inability to let series go.

Because the first two books are very long and I couldn’t be bothered to re-read them (also they were in a different city), I used Book Series Recaps to remember what happened. Find FURYBORN here and KINGSBANE here.

I decided to DNF at 148 pages because I just didn’t care about what was happening. I was so confused about what was going on with Rielle and Eliana. There’s a lot of mind-bending magic going on, but it made it hard to follow as I couldn’t tell what was bizarre choice and what was magic. If the effect striven for was confusion, it was certainly achieved.

And then the Simon plot strand? It made no sense – he’s now on the Emperor’s side? I remember being confused about it in KINGSBANE, and the prologue in LIGHTBRINGER was clearly supposed to explain it. However, that only made me all the more confused about it. It seems to contradicts all his characterisation, motivations, and actions of the past few books

On the plus side, though, the pacing is quite good – doesn’t read like a long slog. It’s so much more readable than KINGSBANE, which just felt endlessly long.

What books have you DNF’d recently?

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