A Court Of Mist And Fury

Last week I wrote about how I was less than impressed with Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and RosesThis past weekend I decided to give book 2 a try, and I’m glad I did. A Court of Mist and Fury had the original storylines that book 1 was lacking, and I found myself drawn deeper into them.

As soon as I started reading A Court of Mist and Fury, I had no sense that I had read this book before. I found the events interesting and refreshing, and completely original. Predictable, because I found the author very obvious with her foreshadowing, but still original. And I was thoroughly impressed by the ending. She threw in a spin that I truly had no idea was coming, and it completely threw me. After I finished this book, I actually had dreams that night about what might happen to the characters afterward. It was pretty exciting.

Since this post is going up late, I’ve also already finished book 3, A Court of Wings and Ruin. I’m not going to devote an entire post to it, because it would say mostly the same things. I found the storyline original and interesting, although I think the ending was a bit rushed. With only a few chapters left, the characters were scattered and involved in their own plots. Using a few cheap literary tricks, the author very quickly brings them all together again and sums everything up with a handful of descriptive lines. I think the ending could have been drawn out more, to fully explain the stories of those that got passed over, but it would have either made the book much longer or required a fourth book to wrap everything up. Either way, I did end up enjoying the series a lot more than I expected to after I was so disappointed in the first book.

Now I have a dilemma. The trilogy is finished. Everyone lives happily ever after, and I feel free to move on to something new. However, there’s another book coming out in May. It’s listed as a companion piece, but there’s always the chance that it’s going to spin off into a series of its own. The problem is, I don’t typically start a series before all the books have been published. It drives me nuts having to wait to read the next one. I much prefer to rent them all at the same time, and consume them one after the other. I just need to make up my mind if I’m going to read this new one or not.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

In my effort to find more quality young adult series to read, last week I asked the library clerk for a recommendation. She’s a big fan of Sarah J. Maas, so she recommended her newest series, the first of which is A Court of Thorns and Roses. I had other errands to run, so I didn’t bother to read more than the first few lines on the inside cover. Basically, a girl kills a wolf in the woods, and gets stolen into the land of the faeries in retribution. It sounded promising, so I scooped up all 3 books and checked them out.

I read A Court of Thorns and Roses over the weekend, and I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly impressed. Namely, because there wasn’t much of the story that was original. Instead, I felt like I’d read nearly all the different components before.

First off, the story steals from The Hunger Games in its base element: Teenage girl whose family falls into poverty, who takes to the woods and teaches herself how to hunt. In this way, she keeps her family alive and fed, but barely.

One of the major overarching storylines mimics Beauty and the Beast, and this one is obvious and rampant. After being stolen by the faerie, Feyre (the main character) is taken to his manor in the enchanted Spring Court of faerieland. Her captor, Tamlin, who can turn into a terrifying beast at will, is gruff and rude and overall a bad host. She is granted the run of the manor, but does have dinner with him every night. He, and all the members of his court, are under a couple of curses. The first is that they are all wearing masks that can’t be removed (sound like the enchanted castle, anyone?), so she can’t tell what any of them actually look like. The second curse is a love curse. Tamlin has to fall in love with a human, and earn her love in return, before his time is up and he’s taken away by the evil queen. Evil queen notwithstanding, this is the whole basis of Beauty and the Beast. One smaller detail: when Tamlin finds out Feyre loves to paint, he gifts her access to his own closed up gallery, full of amazing things Feyre has never seen before (like Belle and the library).

The other story heavily copied in this book would only be recognized by fans of the genre, and that is the Fever series by Karen Marie Moningpublished in 2006. I’m not going to list all the specific ways they overlap, because they’re seen in the dialogue and how the characters interact with each other, and I don’t know if I can properly capture the nuance. But, both stories deal with innocent humans unknowingly getting caught up in the realms and lives of faeries. The faerie nobility are all exceptionally beautiful, and spur depths of lust never before felt on the part of the heroines. They’re sensual, deceptive, and intriguing. Reading A Court of Thorns and Roses felt like reading a rip-off of the Fever series, just not as well written.

In addition to the unoriginality, I found the human characters poorly written and their motives difficult to believe. Not to say I hated the book entirely. I enjoyed all the stories it’s based on, so I enjoyed the individual elements of this book. It just felt like reading something I’ve already read before. And, there were a few elements that were unique, and hopefully those will play out more strongly in the subsequent books. I’ve toyed with whether or not I want to read the next book, and I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.  

Writing Like The Hunger Games

If you haven’t read The Hunger Games, here’s a very brief overview: It’s set in the future, in near-post-apocalyptic conditions. Teenagers from all over the country are forced to fight to the death battle-royale style. The whole thing is filmed and broadcast for the entire country to watch.

The series has its strengths and weaknesses, as any creative work does. But it occurred to me the other day, as I was working on my young adult project, that there’s one aspect of the Games that I’m mimicking. In fact, I’m using it as a driving force. I wouldn’t have noticed the correlation if I hadn’t reread the series a couple weeks ago.

In the Games, the death of the contestants is used as entertainment. If the battle goes on too long without someone dying, or something else incredibly interesting happening, the viewers get bored, which is very bad. So, if the contestants are being boring, the people who run the Games will do something vicious to get them up and moving and maybe kill off a few of them.

I’m about the start chapter 6 of my project, and I’ve been striving to keep the action going.  I don’t let my protagonist wander too long without doing something vicious to her. Or at least, something interesting. In just 5 chapters, she’s discovered a parallel dimension, run off to find her long-lost father, been attacked by monsters, and taken out by a rockslide. I left her at the end of chapter 5 at the bottom of said rockslide, hurt and unconscious and alone.

Just like the gamemakers, I don’t want my viewers to get bored. And if that means I have to keep punishing her, then so be it. Besides, aren’t those the kinds of stories we all love best? The ones where the hero keeps getting pounded, and somehow always fights their way back to the top? Being cruel to her is the best way to tell her story the best that I can.

1,000 Words A Day

When I first started my new young adult project, little more than a week ago, I had a friend ask me how long the whole thing was going to take. At the time, I had 300 words and was still battling over past tense or present tense. My response was that if I wrote 1,000 words a day, it could be done in 3 months, but that was never going to happen, because I don’t write every day and sometimes even getting 1,000 words down is a struggle.

Then I surprised myself. I made my tense breakthrough, and finished chapter 1 in 2 days. I wrote chapter 2 in a single day. Chapter 3 took me 2 days. And this morning, I started chapter 4, and I’m already 1,800 words in, more than half done.

I knew going into this that a young adult project would be different for me. They tend to be shorter, 60-90,000 words, and consequently, the chapters tend to be shorter. Indeed, I’m aiming for 2,500-3,000 word chapters instead of the 5,000 in my fantasy project. But still. I’m making incredible progress. When I sit down to write, the words just flow out. All I have to do is keep up.

This is a new experience for me. I’ve always struggled to get what I considered enough words down to feel like I’ve had a productive writing day.  Now, it’s easy to imagine that I can write an entire chapter in a single sitting. It might be the newness of the story taking over. It might be the setting, which is more modern and I can use “real” language and jargon and patterns of speech that more closely resemble how I would speak myself. It might be that I’ve been dwelling on this story for months, so even though I haven’t formally planned it, it’s been marinating in my head regardless.

Whatever the reason, I’m relishing this crazy momentum I’m on, and I’m taking advantage of it to get as much of the story out as I can. Right now, it’s easy to see how this project could be done in 3 months, or even less if I continue writing a chapter every 2 days. Realistically, I don’t expect this pace to continue, but as long as it does, I’m going to revel in it. Now, if only Kasey would stop stealing my laptop and taking it to work with him…