Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Is Everyone Here Trained to Kill? a.k.a. My Throne of Glass Read-along

Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series, with its assassin protagonist, is one of the most popular YA literature series of the last decade.  I've seen it in libraries, bookstores, EVERYWHERE on social media, and had it recommended to me by numerous people.  In the midst of the acclaim, I've also heard some strong dislike for the series.

So of course I had to test it out for myself and thus picked it up one recent weekend.  For fun, I kept a running log of my reactions as I read the first seven chapters.  For all of you who recommended it to me as well as those of you who assured me that I'd hate you go.

Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion (aside from a few editorial notes).  This is not an attack on anyone who is a fan of these books, nor is it a criticism of them or their choice of reading material or their opinions.  It is also not an open invitation for a defensive war of these books.  Furthermore, it is not a criticism of Ms. Maas herself, her editors, publishers, or fans.  If you can think of anything else I've missed, take it outside.

It is an opinion-slash-critique of the book itself (story and writing) from my perspective.


trained from birth to protect and kill = Really?  Because that's not cliché at all.  *eye roll* Though to be fair, I think Maas was near the front of the pack of those who have now made it cliché.

End of the first chapter and my current impression is: pretty standard YA fare that could benefit from a line edit.


How long are they going to pound into our heads that she’s an assassin?
Dear grief.  We get it already.  Blah blah blah, she’s been trained to kill.  She’s arrogant.  We get that too.
We don’t need it hammered into our heads.

Princes are not supposed to be handsome! They’re sniveling, stupid, repulsive creatures! This one . . . this . . . How unfair of him to be royal and beautiful. =  I’m sure this is supposed to be funny.  Instead it comes across as overblown and melodramatic. is very teenage, and since that's what she is...score one for them.

“There’s a ‘best part’?” the Crown Prince said, face caught between a wince and a smile. =  This is actually a good line.

Coming within strangling distance of the Crown Prince of Adarlan, son of the man who sentenced her to a slow, miserable death, her self-control balanced on a fragile edge—dancing along a cliff. =  This sentence should have ended with the word 'edge'.  It did not need the ‘dancing along a cliff’ addition.

Less is more, Ms. Maas and editors.  Less is more.  Adding ‘dancing along a cliff’, especially after an em dash and not a comma, detracts from the impact of the sentence and confusticates the point being made.
Confusticates is too a word, textedit, good grief.  What language are you set to.


After all, you aren’t Adarlan’s Assassin for nothing. = *groooans*
Sounds to me like this little brat deserved everything she got in those mines.  Though I wouldn’t wish such treatment on almost anyone.


Of course, he didn’t mention how different she looked now that she was clean. = why would he?  It's not his job to go around complimenting her or making comments on how different she looks from one phase to the next.  What an unnecessary, egotistical sentence.


When are we going to quit with the phrases about being people trained to kill without hesitation, trained to protect which involves being able to kill, everything's about killing.  Is anyone in here NOT trained to kill, other than her fellow slaves?
I mean, there's making it clear that this is an assassin story and then there's, wait for it...OVERKILL.
Ah, yes.  I amuse myself endlessly.


He found her beautiful, = can we please stop saying in fiction that people ‘found others beautiful'? 
Yeah, see?  The whole Eureka thing really doesn't work as well unless it's something equally as entertaining as Diogenes buck naked in the streets of Athens screaming off his head about something no one has any idea of.
I wonder if he was ever forced to explain himself for that stunt.


“Yes,” he said, “you’d vanish with three arrows buried in your spine.” =  THANK you.  It’s nice to know that someone around here is currently capable of giving this balloon-headed wisp of a popinjay a setdown.

The Crown Prince of Adarlan stared at his father unblinkingly, waiting for him to speak. =  He may have actually done this and be good at it, but it reminds me that every time I see this phrase in a story, I want to ask the author if they’ve tried staring unblinkingly—not the childhood game but adult, focused, serious—and if they could do it or not.
It's not as easy as the words make it sound, believe you me.

His father rose from his throne and pointed at the map painted on the far wall of his council chamber. “I am the conqueror of this continent, and soon to be ruler of all Erilea. You will not question me.” =  WHY must all fathers/kings in stories say ‘you will not question me’.
Sidenote, the default I usually hear in my head when I see this used is Anthony Head in his role of Uther Pendragon in BBC's Merlin.  Which was actually a believable instance of its use.
Point is.
Let's stop repeating the same old same old.  Why couldn't he say, "Feel free to question me all you like, if you fancy a night without supper."  Or if he can't manage snark, why couldn't he say, "Not another word, brat..."??

End of the seventh chapter already?  I must admit I'm not impressed yet. 

And there you have it.  My snarky but honest thoughts as I read the first seven chapters of Throne of Glass.  Have you read it?  Can you tell me why you like it without starting a war?  (I prefer to wait to go into a war until I have more information.)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Know Your Novel Part 1: The Rowan Cipher

My writing buddies and anyone who has done NaNo 'with' me or who knows much about me will be able to tell you that I always pick my NaNo project well in advance (read: a month beforetime a.k.a. at the beginning of October) because I need the time to plot it out before I begin.

At the beginning of October 2018, I wasn't at all sure what I wanted to do for NaNo.  Then one night, an idea came, I fleshed it out over the weekend, and by the middle of the next week had pretty much decided it was going to be my NaNo.  This was par for the course for me.  I talked it over with my MuseTwin and brainstorm partner, I threw the idea at Kate, I did a lot of plotting, I described it to a few other people.  The plotting went great, I had enough to go on to start the novel, which I was describing as 'a modern Korean Macbeth with dragons'.  I loved the idea, I was excited about it.

And then life decided that it favored a rather brutal approach to the last week and a half of the month.

And I wasn't sure that was the novel I needed to be doing right then.  I loved the idea, but the more I thought about it, it wasn't quite the right novel for my frame of mind.

What to do?

Fortunately, there was another book I'd mostly plotted and which was waiting, even to having written out several snippets.  I already knew and loved the characters and the plot.  I adored the world.  I'd spent a lot of hours thinking about this novel, playing with collages and aesthetics, figuring out the pieces of this story.

So, I switched novels.

And I'm very glad I did.  The other one waits still, ready for its moment in the spotlight, but this one is the one I need to be writing right now.

The totally sweet and fun and terrific Christine at Musings of an Elf has created a tag for us to showcase our NaNo novels.  I had the answers all written out with the novel I was going to do, so belatedly, here are my answers to the tag with the novel I am doing: The Rowan Cipher, book 1 in the Pendragons and Pimpernels series.

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?
King Arthur.
I've loved the tales of Arthurian Legend since I was a child of seven or eight.  I fell in love with Arthur, with Lancelot too, with Gawain, with the ever-epic Merlin, with Percival, I wanted to be the Lady of the Lake or the best friend of Guenivere (c'mon, girl, let me give you a few tips about handling that many men at a time), wanted to smack a bunch of them and tell them to get their heads out of inconvenient places and THINK a little more, etc.

Arthurian Legend has sparked so many stories for me.

And between re-watching episodes of Merlin with my sister and watching old episodes of Mission Impossible, I had the nucleus of this series come together in my head.  A private security company, missions of high importance, personnel inspired by Arthurian characters.
I liked it.  Mirriam liked it.  Kate liked it.
But something was still missing.
Then one day it hit me, and I texted Mirriam, "IT NEEDS FAE.  MODERN FAE."
And she texted right back, "OMGOSH, IT DOES."


2. Share a blurb!
Hah.  Right.  Well, I don’t have one yet.
I usually have one, but October was hectic and I didn't get one written.  The best I have for a tagline currently is:

Modern Arthurian-style Mission Impossible encounters Celtic Fae, English Mythology, and a Dan-Brown-like cult.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?
The United Kingdom, 2018.

Favorite aspects...I'd love to visit England for a while, so getting to set a story there is great.

And autumn.  I love that it's happening in the autumn.

4. Tell us about your protagonist.
There are, as usual, multiple protagonists but two in particular are main:

Arthur Griffin
College educated, military trained, planner, intuitive leader.

Morgan Rhosdew-Griffin
Arthur's older sister, a baby when his mother married his father, MI-5 trained, intelligence analyst.

    “What, the British Army doesn’t teach its captains to arrive early to important events?” a feminine voice drawled behind him.
    “Hello, Morgan.”  He continued his slow turn, seeking out every corner of the room and filing away the locations of exits and entrances, as well as anything notable about the people gathering.
    “Arthur.”  Her sharp features relaxed into a smile when their eyes met.  “Does there happen to be a reason the head of London’s newest private security company is almost late to his aunt’s funeral?  Especially since I happen to know that he’s supposed to be on holiday?”
    At the signal in her eyes, he fell into step with her, casually angling their path through the room to a side door.
    “Paperwork,” he replied laconically.
    She didn’t call him out for the lie.  “And how is training your supposedly illustrious team going, oh glorious leader?  Really, I don’t know how you can ever accuse me of arrogance after this stunt.  You’ve thrown any future advantage away in one swoop.  The Pendragons?  That’s honestly what you’re calling your team?”
    He raised both eyebrows tauntingly.  “And what else should I have called them, Madam-I’m-dressing-as-Morgan-le-Fey-and-you-have-to-be-Arthur?  Besides, you set the bar by naming your super-investigators after an obscure but brilliant literary hero.  What else would have beaten the bloody Pimpernels?”
    Morgan’s eyes widened, her lips opening in a soundless gasp.  “Nowhere in my office is there the word ‘bloody’.  Would I dare tempt fate that boldly?”
    “No, you’ll just do it subtly,” he muttered.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?
Ohhhhhh boy.  Spoilers, sweetie. 

6. What excites you the most about this novel?
Writing it.

7. Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else?
Series.  It was always going to be a series.  The goal is to keep the books themselves shorter than what I usually write (no longer than 80-85K hopefully) but the series...there are so many books I could write.  Extra novels.  Spin-off novellas.  Short stories.
Who knows how many I'll actually get to, but there is a lot of potential here.

8. Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plansting?
Plotting. Can’t live without it.  This book has less forethought plotting than most of mine, but there's been a lot of shower plotting and then hurrying to scribble down frameworks of chapters to write later.

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.
I am rubbish at answering this question.  My standard answer always wants to be ‘I’m the person writing it?  Everyone brings a unique take to writing?’
I think the chance to try and turn some fae tropes on their sides and change it up a bit.  Arthur and the knights as private security.  Going back to the roots of Morgan le Fey where she was mostly a good, helpful character.

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).
Pinterest board:

Soundtrack: CHVRCHES' new album 'Love is Dead' and Poets of the Fall's new album 'Ultraviolet' are on the playlist for this, as well as several British military marches and songs.

People I'd love to see answer this tag on FB or a blog or in the comments (no obligation, only if you want to):

Mirriam Neal (you don't get a choice, you have to do the tag)
Jennifer Freitag (not technically doing NaNo but you should meet her novel anyway because it's aces)
Katherine Sophia (also not doing NaNo but is working on a delicious novel)
Abigail Hartman
Suzannah Rowntree
Rachael Barcellano
H. L. Burke
Naomi Cohen
Jessica Greyson

If you want to do the tag, fire away!  Link back to Christine's blog post so others can see your answers.