More here means both “a post containing additional unpopular opinions” and “opinions more unpopular than ever before.”
The thing about my posting schedule (which lately consists of a single post, then three months of nothing, then a handful of posts, then five months of nothing, and so on until, presumably, either my brain breaks or all of yours do) is that it’s mostly downsides.
It is not convenient to be as unreliable and lazy as me.
But there are some positives. It’s very little work, for example. Also, and most importantly here, it means I have about 800 backlogged reviews to post.
So again – very little work.
We’ve got a lot to catch up on, and while realistically we’ll never catch up, we can sure try. And because of who I am as a person, the backlog consists mostly of unpopular opinions.
What can I say. I’m a grump.
Today we’re going to talk about three of them!
(Don’t kill me.)
FIND MORE UNPOPULAR OPINIONS -> HERE
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Excuse me, uh. Who cares?
This is not a rhetorical question. I truly want to know. I read this whole ass book and I am still at a complete loss for something, anything, to care about. Not a plot point, not a character trait, not a single line of quirky banter I could get myself emotionally invested in.
This is a book about fairies and it was a trial for me to get through. Me, a person who loves fairies so much she spent her entire third grade year absolutely convinced, in a non-ironic manner, that she was one.
It doesn’t get much more dream audience for this book than me. And I couldn’t give two sh*ts, or one sh*t, or even a fraction of a sh*t, for so much as a moment. So. Who among you was able to pull off such a feat?
Okay, to be fair, maybe I’m not the dream audience. Holly Black and I have a rocky past. I grew up on the Spiderwick books (well, mostly the Field Guide, which I used as a means of learning about my own species. See the above “I thought I was a fairy” admission). But The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one of 9 books I’ve DNFed in my entire goddamn life, and The Darkest Part of the Forest was another snoozefest.
I like character-driven stories. I like slow books with beautiful writing. But I don’t like Holly Black characters, and I don’t love Holly Black’s writing, and basically all of her books put me to sleep every time. And also make me feel like I’m reading the exact same book over and over. Seriously, they all read the same. Including Spiderwick, which is shocking because that 1) is middle grade and 2) has a good deal less sexual tension than a lot of her other stuff.
This book was so, so boring.
Nothing really happens until past the 200-page mark, and by then everything is so silly and ridiculous that I was mostly along for the ride. What, you say? More of the synopsis is out the window? We’re just deleting more character development from our brains? Delightful.
Because, again, who cares.
I know a lot of people love this book because they love Jude. I don’t know why they love Jude. Is she supposedly “strong” or “powerful” or “badass” or one of those words we assign to characters when there isn’t much to describe? Because I’m not seeing anything to fall in love with.
I know a lot of people love this book because they love Cardan. I know exactly why they love Cardan. It is because Cardan is one of three or four YA boy character archetypes that draw in blatant adoration (and delightful fan art) from readers WITHOUT. FAIL.
Basically, here are the acceptable YA male traits. You pick a combination of these, and you have your flat, uninteresting, repeat character.
– handsome OR beautiful OR hot
– funny OR mysterious OR charming
– banter-y OR bully-y OR flirty
And that’s it. I often like the handsome/funny/banter-y archetype. From time to time, I’ll enjoy a hot/charming/flirty one.
I always, always, always hate the beautiful/mysterious/bully-y one. I hated Will Herondale, and boy oh boy do I hate Cardan.
And I know a lot of people love this book because of the plot and the world. But the plot to me was nonexistent, because for 200 pages this book largely made me drag myself through it, with no action or momentum to pull me along. And the world is just Every Holly Black Book But With A Slight Twist, Maybe. And that world hasn’t worked for me since I was nine and thought myself a resident, my dear boy.
Bottom line: I guess the thing with Holly Black is that if one book works for you, they all will. But baby, that goes both ways!
In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
It was on my currently reading shelf for five months. At one point, I noticed I left it in a friend’s apartment and I didn’t even mention it for days. Eventually, after weeks passed without me opening the book and I remained unable to even gaze upon it without shuddering, I had to hunker down and act like it was a homework assignment.
The upside of that was that my actual reading assignments (on the subject of the socioeconomic impact of globalization on Sri Lanka) seemed very interesting in comparison.
I think there are some books that have no excuse to be boring. There should be some synopses and plotlines that are just way too creative and objectively fun-sounding to be lame in execution.
This is one of them. And yet.
This is about assassin boarding school. It’s been described as Hogwarts, but with murder. It’s supposed to be filled with fascinating anti-heroes and humorous asides and a storyline to blow you away.
This is what I expected.
What I got was a very long book with an inexplicably small (borderline unreadable) font size and tons of footnotes about various mundane details in made-up high-fantasy history delivered in what seemed to be intended to be dry, uproarious humor and instead felt condescending and pretentious and so, so monotonous, not to mention like a crime against sentences. The sex scenes made me cringe (and I’ve read Jay Kristoff described as a male author capable of writing full, realistic female characters, but after the way Mia was sexualized I must beg to differ).
Like, of course this is what would happen when A Man writes a book with a female protagonist. Of course she would have absolutely no healthy friendships with women. Of course there’d be more instances of the word “bitch” than of proper verb use. (Yes, I’m still stuck on the sentence structure.) Of course we’d hear nonstop about the “rare treat” of her “curves” and her “bow-shaped lips.” AND OF COURSE THERE’D BE THIS MUCH DISGUSTING TERRIBLE SMUT.
Also, for someone whose whole character centers around her not wanting to murder innocents, she’s sure okay with murdering innocents.
All I wanted was some action, maybe some nefarious plots and some murder and some backstabbing of both the literal and figurative variety. Which I realize is a lot to ask for…FROM ASSASSIN BOARDING SCHOOL.
(It actually doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for from assassin boarding school.)
But this book was so, so long, and so, so little of it contained any of that, and what did was so, so drowned in self-serious prose and heavy-handed style and unrelenting monotony (plus smut with enough overwrought description to make bodice-ripper writers shake their heads) as to make it not even fun.
This is maybe the most pretentious book I’ve ever read, and also boring, and also AGAIN WHAT WAS THAT SENTENCE STRUCTURE.
I am so glad I’m not reading this anymore.
Bottom line: No thank you please forever!
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
If you opened up a PDF of this book and control-F searched it for the phrase “kind of girl,” your computer would explode. Or suddenly bypass decades of hypothesized technological progress and instantly become cognizant and emotional, developing the ability to feel just so it could ask you, personally, why the author of this book thought she could possibly write anything remotely empowering to women while taking down women at large at every turn.
This book is so bad and so unfeminist it could cause the singularity.
Here are the main ways this book is bad:
1) IT’S SEXIST
This whole thing posits itself as if it were a confection baked in a feminist bakery. An equality cupcake with empowerment frosting and the death of misogyny on top. It is, after all, a revisionist history in which we all get to pretend that a girl (a girl! Named Audrey Rose) was pivotal in the solving of the Jack the Ripper case (and please ignore the part where that case isn’t actually solved), and also that girl is a mortician living a secret life. Because she’s rich! And respected! And the whole thing should be so deliciously contrary to gender roles and also dead body-y and we get to have a great, corpsey time. This is what I wanted.
If you’ve ever read one of my reviews before, this is where you get worried. (If you weren’t already worried when you saw that sweet sweet one star rating.) Because I never, never, NEVER!!! get what I want from books. And true to form, this book took one look at my hopes and dreams and asked “Oh, are these your expectations?” And then when I nodded excitedly, it ate them.
Clearly, and for so many reasons we’ll get into later, this author has no f*cking idea how to write a powerful female character. Instead, she has to resort to tearing down other girls to make her value brand spoiled brat of a wannabe badass seem strong.
Here are some examples.
Instead of writing a character who is more focused on her work/dreams/achievements/family/friends/the scene outside her window/the history of umbrellas/weekly school board meetings/ostriches than the cute boy nearby, she writes: “I was thankful I wasn’t the kind of girl to lose my mind over a handsome face.” Pity that all that internalized sexism was for naught anyway, considering our lovely protagonist spends the entire f*cking book losing her mind over that exact handsome face.
Instead of writing a powerful, brave, unrelenting narrator who doesn’t give up when the going gets tough, she writes: “I wasn’t the sort of girl who backed down.” Important clarification, considering how many girls I encounter every day who just seem to do NOTHING but back down. They relish it! Classic girls, am I right? Weak fools.
And instead of writing…actually, you know what, I don’t even know. This line is so completely useless from a characterization standpoint, or any standpoint of any kind, that I have actually no idea what the author was going for. I’ll just type it here and see if you have any guesses: “I enjoyed applying makeup as any girl my age would, only I did so with a lighter hand.” So…not only some fun generalizations about girls, but also some makeup-shaming? Ah, we have fun.
But let’s not deprive ourselves of discussing everyone’s favorite insufferable brat.
2) THE MAIN CHARACTER IS TERRIBLE
Something that tends to be true about every book is that you spend a lot of time with the main character. Sometimes this is pleasant; sometimes it is whatever; sometimes it is less than ideal. Rarely is it a continual, never-ending process of irritation and profound suffering.
That last scenario is what we get here, with our dear Audrey Rose. (And first off, I have to say: I know that Audrey is like an ancient name and everything, but “Audrey Rose” reads much more like “John Green character” than “nineteenth-century girl of title.”)
Here’s my Audrey Rose impression: “I am powerful and fearless!! Everyone underestimates me!!! I am not like other girls who cannot even use a knife at a tea party!!! Oh, what’s that? A mildly scary or gruesome thing? *faints immediately*”
I would estimate that 57% of that is directly from the text.
Also, we are reading about pretty touchy stuff here. These are real-life murder victims, real women who were often just minding their business and living their lives best they could when they were brutally attacked in their own neighborhoods. This is sad even almost 150 years later, and our protagonist is reacting in real time. So she should be stricken.
Instead, this girl will be like “This is the saddest thing that has ever happened!! We should pay undying respect!!” on one page, and then be crackin’ jokes and comparing her dumbass problems (I have a curfew! My brother doesn’t get me!) to those of brutal murder victims on the next. We stan consistency and compassion.
She has zero common sense, very little personality outside of the comparisons to other girls, and a whole lot of entitlement. She jumps right into situations she knows nothing about and screws everything up, always, all the time. Everything she does on this case is sheer luck between moments of making dizzying eye contact with the hot guy she works with.
Speaking of which.
3) HOW IS THE ROMANCE SO TERRIBLE?
I don’t have much to say beyond that category title, really. How is this so bad? There is no chemistry. There is no slow burn, or rooting for the characters, or any real hate-to-love outside of some surface-level attempts at cashing in on America’s favorite trope. The characters spend the whole time being separately insufferable and at occasional moments coming together to combine their insufferableness into one insufferable mountain of insufferability.
The number one reason I don’t think I can continue with this series is my awareness that I will be expected to root for these two buffoons to mash their faces together.
4) THE OTHER BUFFOON
I also — and it brings me no joy to say this — cannot stand Thomas.
I don’t think he’s quirky, or smart, or funny. I find him neither lovable nor charming nor interesting. He does not live up to the descriptors “swoon-worthy” or “book boyfriend material.” He is an inconsistently characterized mishmash of every fictional crush cliché from whatever Cole Sprouse is on Riverdale to Will Herondale, and it DOESN’T. WORK.
He’s annoying and omnipresent and condescending and mean and nonsensical. I don’t get why Audrey Rose likes him, and I especially don’t understand why he likes her.
Everything about this book feels like an evil factory took every piece of content that’s Popular With The Teens and blended it into this unholy smoothie of suffering and unoriginality.
5) IT’S GREAT WHEN HISTORICAL FICTION IS HISTORICALLY INACCURATE, AND WHEN BOOKS WITH SCIENCE GET THE SCIENCE WRONG
The author has a big note at the end of the book explaining all the various ways she f*cked up history while writing this book. Which is very fun, I think, when writing historical fiction. Why stay faithful in any way to history? It’s just historical, after all!
That author’s note mostly, if not entirely, had to do with the ways she messed with the Jack the Ripper case itself. Kind of insane, considering that’s what this entire book centers around, but whatever. It’s not my biggest qualm.
That would be the fact that while reading this, I, a person who has not taken a history class in three or so years, would occasionally think “Hm! That doesn’t sound right!” and Google. Or sometimes I, a person who has hated science for her entire life, would think, “Huh! Not sure if that’s scientifically accurate!” and do some light research.
And it would turn out the person who wrote this book, who ostensibly did extensive studying on the late nineteenth century, and at least a little on science and anatomy, considering her protagonist was into both…would have made what we call an oopsie.
Here are a few of the things I just happened to Google that were in some way misrepresented in the book. Extra details included if I remember them.
– photography (the technology just wasn’t at the level it’s presented as, and this is one I’m confident about, considering I was in a history of photography class at the time I was reading this)
– exposure immunity as a concept
– cross contamination as a concept
– popularity of the Petri dish (it existed but was not in common use)
– contagiousness of leprosy scabs late in the illness (leprosy isn’t really contagious like that)
– transplants (the first successful one was in 1954, nearly 70 years after the events of this book)
– popularity of cigarettes (use wasn’t widespread in the West until the 20th century)
– the concept of medication for mental illness (the idea that someone would think, in the 19th century, that someone’s “salvation” from his mental illness would “come in the form of tonics working on his physiology” is just absurd. Even if it’s coming from our protagonist, who we’re supposed to believe without evidence is brilliant)
This book is so careless that it’s impossible for me to care about it.
6) VERY, VERY, VERY POORLY WRITTEN
This is not very well-written. Which is fine, in some ways — it’s a debut, after all. However, there’s something about trying to write in an old-timey style that just ties some authors up in knots.
Let’s explore some of those knots.
“Consequences come with a high cost, some more than others.” Uh…consequences ARE that high cost. You’re talking about the consequences…of consequences.
“If only there were a way to cure life’s most fatal disease […] Death.” So, in other words: If only there were a way to cure life’s most death-causing disease: Death. OBVIOUSLY DEATH IS FATAL. IT’S DEATH.
“Jack was coming undone, it seemed.” Huh. Really? You mean that guy who’s been murdering women and cutting their organs out? That dude? He always seemed pretty mentally sound to me.
Also, at one point, a character says “Uh-huh.” You know. The way rich British people in the late nineteenth century famously talked.
7) BAD PLOT. VERY BAD
Like a middling episode of a value-brand version of CSI, we spend this whole book following our intrepid cast as they think they’ve cracked the case, and are wrong. And then wait no actually now they’ve got it! Oh wait scratch that, they’re wrong. And then third time’s the charm we got this you guys we got him!!! We know it! And then they’re wrong.
And then the actual answer falls into their laps through no real sleuthing or skill of their own, and it was the ending you knew it’d be for a long, long time.
What plotline could be more satisfying than that?
Bottom line: This book was brutal. And not in the fun, old-timey murder way I expected.