Cecile’s Worst 3 Books of 2011

It sounds crude to say that the books mentioned below are the worst. They weren’t bad enough to stop reading and start with a different book, but they just weren’t good enough to make a memorable impression either.

The Black Magician Trilogy by T. Canavan

What I remember about this series is that I couldn’t stop reading it, which, in general, is a very good thing. My main problem, however, is the slapdash storyline of the books. Each book deals with a clear rounded off topic.

Book one is solely about the protagonist – Sonea – who early on in the story finds out that she is a mage. The Guild of Magicians wants her captured and trained properly, but to Sonea they are heartless beings that want to kill her, so she flees. The second book is a combination of Cinderella and Harry Potter. It focuses on the magical training of Sonea. But since she is a commoner who happens to do witchcraft, she is shunned by everyone else. In book three, Sonea, together with the High Lord (headmaster kind of figure), is expelled because they used black magic. While they are banned, an adjacent kingdom invades Sonea’s homeland.

The way the conflicts in the stories are resolved annoyed me the most. For example, after their banishment, a lot of serious and time consuming obstacles occur, which are all resolved within a matter of sentences. Then the pace of the story picks up and resorts to the opposite effect – skipping important details on how things are actually done.

The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

My choice of fantasy books was a bit hopeless last year. The Black Magician was not very impressive. I decided to read, The First Law by Abercrombie, which was not much of a success either. (I haven’t completely finished book 3 yet.) I’m not sure why I kept reading after concluding that the function of book one is introducing the many characters. Hardly anything significant else happens. (The humour used to introduce the Northman in the first chapter and the personality of the cripple Inquisitor Glokta is probably the answer).

In book two the situation in the kingdom escalates and the different parties ready themselves for an inevitable war. A deluded prince is readied for battle but thinks of war as nothing but a game; the cripple inquisitor is sent to the south where another country decides to wage war. And a third party led by an ancient wizard sets off on a journey to find a magical object, it remains unclear what exactly it is the party is looking for, that’s supposed to guarantee victory.

In the last book, war breaks out and the different parties do their best to fight back and that’s as far as I got. The pace in the series is slow and some of the hints that are dropped are too obvious to miss. However, the characters are well described and feel very real indeed.

Aleph by Paulo Coelho

This is a book I would not have chosen to read myself, if I hadn’t promised someone to read it.

Aleph starts out promising, a bit mystical – hinting at magic and past lives. But a little into the book and it turns out to be a semi-autobiographical story with hardly anything happening. I yearned for the moments that the protagonist, who shares the same name as the author, went back to his past lives, but those moments were rare. Which was strange in a way since the protagonist went on the journey to come to terms with himself. Instead of facing his past properly as I hoped he would, the protagonist did a lot of self-reflecting, unfortunately that wasn’t enough to hold my interest.

Perhaps this book isn’t that bad at all, maybe I’m just not cut out for books where little happens and the reader is more occupied with the protagonist’s thoughts and philosophical ideas. The only question I wondered about (and the main reason to keep on reading) was whether the protagonist was going to give in to his fantasy or not.

Cecile

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