Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Recommendation: "The Republic of Thieves" (book 3 in the Gentleman Bastard series)

I loved the first two books in the Gentleman Bastard series, but The Republic of Thieves was a bit of a letdown. It wasn't a bad book, but I wasn't nearly as immersed in it as I was with the two others.

It'll be easier to review this book if I discuss each plotline individually:

1. The election: It's no secret that the election is all a big game. The game is to cheat better than the other side, and the outcomes don't really matter. I suppose this might be some satire on elections in the real world, but that doesn't change the fact that there were no real stakes in this book. It was basically a big vacation for Locke and Jean--one that might have been more interesting if any of the secondary characters were even a little bit memorable.

2. Sabetha: Sabetha was awesome. She is clearly just as sneaky and cunning as Locke, if not more so. I want more Sabetha. (Hell, I'll take a whole book with just Sabetha.)

You know that trope where the female character is just as capable and awesome as the male protagonist (or so the author claims), but for whatever reason, neither she (nor the plot) ever questions her secondary role in the story? What I appreciated about this novel is that it actually acknowledges that trope. At one point, Sabetha actually points out that Locke takes his leadership role for granted--that people implicitly accept him as a leader, even when she has demonstrated stronger aptitude. She never outright claims that this is due to sexism, but the implication is very strong.

3. The romance: It was believable. The romantic bits weren't my favorite part, but they worked.

4. The Bondsmagi: The mythos behind the Bondsmagi is really cool, but this whole element of the plot wasn't well-integrated into the story. There was a lot of info-dump about them early in the story, but afterwards, they were basically forgotten. Even their re-appearance at the end of the story felt more like an after-thought.

5. The backstory chapters: Awesome. (Though I do wish some of them had been condensed more.)

6. The reveal about Locke's true identity: Out of the blue and, for the most part, meaningless. I wish they'd hinted at it more, or at least made it somewhat relevant to the plot.

7. The final chapter: Fucking awesome. Before I reached that chapter, I wasn't sure if I would bother with the fourth book, but now that I've read it, I'm super excited!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A book is more than its subgenre

I recently came across a blog post where an author claimed her book was a "YA answer to Game of Thrones." Why? Because it's epic fantasy. She then went on to list other YA authors who released epic fantasy books within the last couple of years, presumably as evidence that epic fantasy is picking up steam in YA.

*internal screaming*

Could we please stop promoting our books by announcing that they're in the same subgenre as whatever happens to be topping the bestseller list this year? Can we please stop pretending that subgenre tells us anything about a book? Think about it: Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones are both epic fantasy, and yet you couldn't find any two books that are more different. My own book is portal fantasy, and yet it has much more in common with certain contemporary novels than it does with Harry Potter.

When you say, "if you liked Game of Thrones, you'll love [insert random epic fantasy book here]!" you're insulting a very large, very diverse subgenre of books. You're insulting Game of Thrones. And more than that, you're insulting your own novel. You're relying on an established success to build an audience for your novel, instead of letting that work speak for itself.

Even if that strategy works, do you really want your book to be known as "just another epic fantasy"?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

WIP Marathon Final Check-In

Last check-in: Stuck on chapter 8 (~23,300 words)

Currently: Figured out how to fix chapter 8. (For those who were wondering, I did include the fight scene.) Finished chapter 8 (5886 words). Finished editing the first scene of chapter 9 (2795 words). Right now, I'm about 400 words into editing the second scene. (current word count = 30,800 words)

My goal for the entire marathon was to revise/rewrite 7-8 chapters. I've rewritten 6.5 chapters and wrote at least half a chapter's worth of new scenes for the last draft, so I'll take that as meeting my goal.

WIP issues this week:

1. Earlier on, I was having issues making my current scene medically accurate, which is really important, because a) the course of the novel depends on who is and isn't dying in this scene, and b) I'm going to be a doctor, so if I make a serious medical error in this novel, it will haunt me for the rest of my life. This week, I finally figured out a solution: normal saline. (+10 points for chemistry pun) (And no, that isn't a spoiler.)

2. My philosophy with writing is "character first." I cannot make my plot go in a certain direction if my characters won't take it there. And sometimes my characters make decisions that don't exactly contribute to the overall plot. See below.

Most novels:
-Holy shit, a crisis happened! Impulsive group of teenagers to the rescue!

My novel:
-Holy shit, a crisis happened! Unfortunately, most of these teenagers do not have powers that are useful in battle, nor do any of them have real-world fighting experience, so the responsible adults in the story are going to send a carefully-selected group of fellow adults to take care of the problem.
-Aaaand, I guess this means I (the author) should figure out who these adults are, and what powers they have.
-And now that I've introduced and partially-developed these adult characters, I can't just throw them away at the end of the scene. I guess I should find other opportunities for them to pop up in the story.
-Oh, hey, and maybe some of them can actually become part of the plot!

The stuff mentioned above is something I've been gradually figuring out for the last few years. In many ways, this interweaving of additional characters has allowed me to tie up loose plot threads and fill out the overarching story. However, this week I've been tackling a character, who, while unique and important in her own right, contributes very minimally to this particular novel (though I think she might become more relevant in a sequel), so I had to make a decision. Do I get rid of her, or do I find a way to make her more important (or at least give her more of a presence) in the overall story?

Ultimately, I found a way to include her in a future scene. Will she be a major plot-shaping presence in this novel? No, but maybe in a future novel she will be. But she definitely won't be a throwaway character either. (Though I suppose cutting her isn't out of the question. I don't want to make any official decisions until I hear what CPs think and/or until I start outlining the sequel.)

What I learned this week in writing: see above

What distracted me this week while writing: I had a major clinical skills test (in which I get tested on my ability to perform a full physical exam, even though I only learned some of those techniques months ago). I'll find out next week whether I passed it or not. Also, I finished The Bitter Kingdom (book 3 in the Fire and Thorns trilogy) which was amazing.

Plans after WIP Marathon: WIP Marathon has definitely been helpful, so I'll be participating in the monthly check-ins. My goal for the March 1st check-in is to have all of Part One finished. (Part One will probably end up having 15 chapters, but most of those scenes have already been written.) My overall goal is to finish the novel by the end of the year.

Series recommendation: Fire and Thorns trilogy

I just finished The Bitter Kingdom, the final book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and now I'm trapped in a state of WOW and <3 <3 <3 and fangirl squee. I already posted about how I really liked The Girl of Fire and Thorns and loved The Crown of Embers, and OMG OMG The Bitter Kingdom is even better. The perfect end to a smart, beautifully-crafted, fantasy adventure trilogy. Everything about it--the characters, the worldbuilding, the descriptions, the occasional moments of holy-crap-you-did-not-just-do-that--everything is awesome.

Seriously, if you haven't read this series yet then go do it NOW.
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