Would you turn the page?

I said last week that it would be more reasonable and fair to try this challenge here with a fantasy novel that is a bestseller. Of course that means some of you might possibly have already encountered this book and have an opinion about it, but let’s try it anyway.

I will add, I’ve never heard of this author or this series. I’m not looking at it closely; I’m trying to keep just to the first page myself, not read the description or the reviews or even really look at the cover. All I did was google “number one fantasy novel Amazon,” click through, and download the sample. I will add that this novel is the #3 fantasy on Amazon today. A sequel is #1, but I backed up to the first book in the series for this challenge.

Let’s take a look at the first page:

***

Conscription Day is always the deadliest. Maybe that’s why the sunrise is especially beautiful this morning — because I know it might be my last.

I tighten the straps of my heavy canvas rucksack and trudge up the wide staircase and trudge up the wide staircase of the stone fortress I call home. My chest heaves with exertion, my lungs burning by the time I reach the stone corridor leading to General Sorrengal’s Office. This is what six months of intense physical training has given me — the ability to barely climb six flights of stairs with a thirty-pound pack.

I’m so fucked.

The thousands of twenty-year-olds waiting outside the gate to enter their chosen quadrant for service are the smartest and strongest in Navarre. Hundreds of them have been preparing for the Riders Quadrant, the chance to become one of the elite, since birth. I’ve had exactly six months.

The expressionless guards lining the wide hallway at the top of the landing avoid my eyes as I pass, but that’s nothing new. Besides, being ignored is the best possible scenario for me.

Basgiath War College isn’t known for being kind to … well, anyone, even those of us whose mothers are in command.

Every Navarran officer, whether they choose to be schooled as healers, scribes, infantry, or riders, is molded within these cruel walls over three years, honed to be weapons to secure our mountainous borders from the violent invasion attempts of the kingdom of Poromiel and their gryphon riders. The weak don’t survive here, especially not in the Riders Quadrant. The dragons make sure of that.

***

O-kay. So, this what do you think?

I think this is apparently aimed at Hunger Game fans, and I think it’s SUPER cliched. Wow, a young person who is an outsider, but whose mother is apparently also the commandant of the war college — two cliches jammed violently together even though they make no sense in combination. Almost no setting, rather clumsy explanation of the world … this is the number one fantasy series on Amazon right now? Well, gryphons and dragons are all very well, but I’m completely unimpressed with this opening.

What book is this?

This is The Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros.

This book has one and a half million ratings and a 4.8 star rating. Lots of laudatory quotes from NYT bestselling authors. Many Gosh Wow comments from Kirkus and wherever.

I guess maybe this book has wide appeal. I mean, I suppose it must have wide appeal. My general opinion is that really popular books must be doing something right, though maybe not something that matters a lot to me. But, based solely on the first page, I have zero interest in going on with the sample.

If any of you have actually read it, I would be very interested in your opinions.

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16 thoughts on “Would you turn the page?”

  1. Yes, I read this book, and I did love it. It’s nowhere near as good a book as, say, the Scolomance series, but it’s all about competence, with some romance. I could not finish the second book though. Boring.

  2. Well, Alison, I’m not sure the Scholomance is quite a fair comparison! I’m not sure any other YA series ever written is anywhere nearly as good as that!

  3. I had looked at the book a while ago because it was so popular, but concluded from the description that I wasn’t the audience for it before getting to the sample.

  4. The first sentence would make me think “I’m probably just going to return the sample and not read the rest of this,” and nothing that followed would change my mind. Honestly, the fact that both gryphons and dragons have been thrown in before I encountered anything that seemed original or interesting would make me close the sample even faster.

  5. Bounced hard when I looked at it after multiple sightings of praise for it. I don’t think I made it past the first page.

    For rating scales, I didn’t care for Scholomance after getting about two thirds through the first book. It was the pacing, I think.

  6. I read it, and finished it, but by the end, I only kept going because I had paid for it. There were parts that were engaging (the dragons, and the non romantic friendships) but it couldn’t make up for the lazy writing and cliches. And then I got caught by the plot twist at the end and wanted to know where it would lead. So I skimmed the second book and was bored (and disgusted at the popularity of something so poorly written) and I’m done with the series and the author and the genre – young adult romantasy, if that’s a thing.

  7. I’m with Kate: I wouldn’t make it past the first paragraph. Reading the full sample that you posted here just confirmed that for me, that would be the right decision.

  8. Yes, cliche abounds. But I did appreciate the author’s portrayal of the MC’s medical ailment, an ailment that I have never before seen in a fantasy novel. I’m kind of curious how true to life the depiction of the ailment is, and just how realistic it is to expect the MC to perhaps too easily overcome the obstacles posited by the ailment (apart from the fact that the book IS a fantasy).

  9. Okay, Jeanine, I admit I am now curious. Let’s assume that no one here cares about a spoiler: what was the ailment?

  10. She has some kind of ligament laxness syndrome where she would dislocate joints easily. But she was also super smart and figured out how to get ahead despite her obvious weakness. I liked how she outsmarted people. I also liked how she gained competence and strength. It’s seriously a fun book to read, unless you are too put off by typical genre elements. But I think I am an audience of one here.

  11. Alas, Alison, it does seem that way! And saying, “Anyway, the second book was too boring to finish” is also kind of not a recommendation! Too bad, though. She sounds a bit like Miles Vorkosigan.

  12. I believe the ailment in question is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which the author is writing about from personal experience.

    I’m not really into the trend of “spicy” (explicit) New Adult fantasy so this one doesn’t really appeal to me, but it seems like there are a lot of fans of it these days.

  13. I got the audio book without sampling – silly me! – based entirely on reviews/popularity, but couldn’t finish. The worldbuilding was ridiculous; what kind of military takes an elite air magical air force and wastes all their time in potentially-to-the-death knife training? To misquote Cazaril from the excellent Chalion series, “a soldier is good at killing your enemies; a duelist is good at killing your allies; which do you want in your army?”

    Yarros builds an army of duelists, and my head started to hurt from all the face-palming.

  14. Well, that definitely does not make me want to rush right out.

    It’s a bit painful to find out that this is the bestselling fantasy series right now.

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