Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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When a favorite author doesn’t work for you —

Spotted this review of Rusalka over at bysinginglight this morning.

Yeah, what she said. I read this book, and part of the second, but I just could not engage with the characters. I don’t remember the books in detail, but I remember that sense of helpless passivity. It’s interesting to think about the feeling of detachment and why it works or doesn’t work in a particular book; I hadn’t thought of CJ Cherryh’s style in those terms before.

The other thing about Rusalka that bothered me was the style of magic — if you wish for something, it might happen, so it’s important not to experience even momentary wishes for bad things — it’s a kind of magic that makes the magic user into almost a victim. Cherryh does something like that in other books as well, (The Goblin Mirror) but for whatever reason, that one worked better for me than Rusalka.

Okay, raising a broader question: sometimes you read fifteen books by one author and love all but one, and when that happens to me, sometimes I can tell why and sometimes I can’t. I actually liked Sharon Shinn’s shapeshifter books, but the protagonist of each is so emotionally overwrought that it’s a near thing; that’s one I can put my finger on. In contrast, Martha Wells’ Emilie and the Hollow World just did not sing for me and I really have no idea why not. Even Patricia McKillip has written one or two books I don’t like — Solstice Wood, for example, where I hated the way she changed the world she had previously established in Winter Rose.

How about you all? Can you think of a time when a favorite author fell flat for you, and could you figure out why?

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3 Comments When a favorite author doesn’t work for you —

  1. Maureen E

    Oh, I thought I was the only one who felt that way about SOLSTICE WOOD. It’s such a nice feeling to find out I’m not alone, and yes, YES that’s exactly what I disliked about it.

    I felt like the magic just barely didn’t work for me–I liked the idea of wishes and the unintended consequences, but we didn’t see enough of Sasha learning about them/his power/how to control it for the whole thing to be okay.

    I love Robin McKinley–The Blue Sword is one of the things that saved me during middle school–but I really don’t like DRAGONHAVEN. I think a lot of longterm McKinley fans feel the same way. The male narrator just didn’t work for me, and I think there were plot holes, though I haven’t read it since it first came out.

  2. Rachel

    I really did love Dragonhaven — the protagonist worked just fine for me, but I’ve totally heard other people complain about that one. My agent thinks the pacing is off for that one, yet I thought it worked to have a slower pace. Interesting how different my take is on this one.

  3. Elaine T

    Me three for SOLSTICE WOOD. McKillip’s OD MAGIC was lacking in magic, as well, although there are some bits I love, like when the gardener is investigating the cactus. Overall it seemed heavy handed.

    McKinley and I bounce around. I really did not like ROSE DAUGHTER, as I highly disapproved of the way the choice was made at the end. And DRAGONHAVEN is another that didn’t work for me. It seemed all one note, no ups and downs.

    CJC has rewritten the Russian series and released the rewrites as e-books. The biggest changes are in the last, YVGENIE, but they’ve all improved. It might be worth sampling them instead of the paper editions. (Just asked my daughter, who has been on a CJC kick and rereading them in both versions for her opinion: RUSALKA’s e-book has the least changes, and it is hardest to read, but you need the background for the other two.) I do think she handled the wishing idea better in FORTRESS. I nearly dropped the Atevi series, and did switch to library book rather than purchases, as I was losing interest (as well as shelf space) due to a sense of padding – she can take up pages with travel, and it can be interesting, but I started noticing that not much plotwise was happening – and noticing a formula. With the rise of Cajieri the formula is switched up and I’m more interested now.

    i guess I don’t notice a sense of detachment in CJC’s writing.

    I don’t love all Bujold, but it’s the Ivan book the leaves me coldest. It just wasn’t that interesting except as an intellectual ‘yes, that’s what an Ivan book *would* be’. I’m not nearly as fond of or impressed by PALADIN as it seems most other readers are, either.

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