Assassin's Creed#3: the Secret Crusade

What’s funny about Assassin’s Creed?

I have neglected adding reviews here. So I am going to add two, to make up for it. One funny, one not so funny. The first one will be… 

Assassin’s Creed#3: the Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden. 

(2 out of 5 stars)*

I keep reading this series because it’s easy to read, but it also irritates me because it’s simplistic, implausible and flat. I found this book better than the two previous, yet it still leaves much to be desired. I mean we’re talking about Assassins, you know? Stuff that normally would have rocked your socks to a speed metal mosh pit degree. Instead we get eh, meh, bleh, blah de blah, and dying men who have been stabbed in the neck and still deliver last speeches that amount to whole paragraphs of text. I’m positive that if I’m ever stabbed, I’ll make sounds like a defective sprinkler sputtering to life and a dying goldfish. I won’t have enough breath left to reveal so much before kicking the bucket. Altair’s victims, once they have been given the killing blow, turn incredibly talkative. From now on, next time one of my heroes wants information, he or she won’t threaten to kill the prisoner unless they talk. They will kill the prisoner et voila, they will be given all the information they need and then some. Maybe even offered hedge fund strategy advice. Who knows.

I’m not sure how the writer would have handled things if he had been given freedom to do what he wanted instead of following a predetermined plot. Maybe the result would have been better. Personally, I’m waiting for the movie with Fassbender and hope it will be worthwhile, because the books I’ve read so far have failed to give me my fix.

And now for the next one…
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
(1 out of 5 stars)*

While I love serial killers and reading about the darkness of human soul (one of my favourite books is Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Brite), I didn’t enjoy this one. I could not get into the narrative. I felt I was reading the diary of a ten-year old with serious expression and consistency problems. I also felt that the book aimed at shock value. I found it artificial and forced. I understand that the writer chose the particular style of narration to show the chaotic, emotionally stunted inside of the killer’s head, but unfortunately it made the book unreadable for me.

I have tried to read a short story by the same writer with similar results. I fear it is a matter of taste; Mrs. Oates doesn’t work for me.

 

*My star rating and what it means: 

Zero stars: Why me?!? I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh…I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay.Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average.Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good!Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.
Keep Calm and Drink Tequila

Murder doesn’t sound so bad

Spoke with two different editors concerning my finished SF Romance novel. Gave them the word count and details. Asked for an estimation for a full editing service. Both quoted the same amount: 1100 to 1200 British pounds. Which translates to eh, about 1500 euro? Which translates to a number of possible scenarios.

1) I murder someone and harvest their organs. Pay the editor and got money left for advertising the book too. I celebrate the publishing of my first novel behind bars.

2) I sell one of my kidneys. Humans can survive with one, right?

3) I start eating my cats to save money on food. Nah, I don’t think I can do that. I mean the hairs will be the end of me. Death by indigestion.

4) I feed my cats less to save money for editing. They eat me alive.

5) I summon a demon and offer my soul in exchange for money. The demon takes a look at it and leaves disgusted. He won’t even tell me why.

6) I summon Cthulhu. He eats me. Mission definitely not accomplished.

7) I ask for a raise. The population of the entire continent laughs so much that the tectonic plate wobbles violently, collides with its neighbouring one and is hurled into space. Finally it smashes on the moon that breaks in two. No more full moons, ever, and millions dead. The orbit of the Earth changes randomly. Days last for seconds or years. Future generations curse my name forever. I am named Lizbeth the Accursed One, Earth Destroyer, Bringer of Celestial Doom. I did dream of posterity, but not like that.

8) I hire a dock bruiser to make the editor take my manuscript for free. The editor obliges, but I am found beaten within an inch of my life when I attempt to pay the bruiser with cats due to lack of funds.

9) I study occult until my final days trying to discover a way to become disgustingly rich. I die as confused as ever, with ten different nonsensical honorific titles, an army of useless disciples and with the book still unedited.

10) I let scientists study me in exchange for $$$. They commit mass suicide. One of them is found having swallowed his own tongue, with both feet somehow firmly wedged inside his ears. He was the one I was reading my stories to. They lock me in a dungeon, throw away the key, and I gnaw my way towards freedom. Eventually I become a feral, if toothless, underground troll. Perhaps an improvement, but still unedited.

11) I persuade readers to buy my published book, the Theater of Dusk. I’ll only need to sway, let’s see, more than three thousand people in order to acquire the necessary money. I’ll probably have better luck farming cicadas. I think in some country they eat them. Not sure.

12) I shoot porn. With my cats. It consists of me in sexy lingerie rubbing my face on their tummies and blowing  raspberry. And getting my eyes clawed out. Probably wrong effect for porn. Damn.

13) I pray feverishly to dark deities and sacrifice ice-creams. I develop carpet burns from kneeling and nothing changes, except for the aforesaid deities becoming sick of my nagging and making sure I die in a freak accident. They turn my head into a vase for frogathons. (Frogathons are similar to frogs, but they use them in, um, er, marathons and black metal bands. They are really nasty when they bloom. And when they gestribulate.)

Enough. I can go on all night. It’s in the description, really. Bloody writers. Fumbling with a keyboard a lot, accomplishing nothing. I need 1200 British pounds. Any ideas how to find that money while remaining alive and intact? (You do notice I didn’t say sane.)

Do not judge me by my need for cheese!

Her Sinful Angel by Felicity Heaton (3 out of 5 stars)*

Generally speaking, I don’t like Paranormal Romance. It’s simplistic, badly written, and full of stereotypes. Also, it often has elements I find deeply disturbing. I have seen rape and torture glorified and used as  romance elements, heroines with a death wish that are every thinking woman’s nightmare, male heroes that behave like crack addicts dying from testosterone poisoning, and more insta-love that I can stomach. But. I still read this genre because I can’t really help it. It’s like standing in the aisle of snacks in the supermarket, and looking at the most disgusting, artificial flavour and colour, fake cheese greasy eeewww sticks, and buying the biggest pack you can find. It’s every dietician’s and trainer’s worst enemy, it’s something that you will regret eating, it’s the epitome of “once on your lips, forever on your hips” junk food. BUT. You crave the damn things. You want to eat them. You NEED that cheesy, disgusting, greasy, full fat, salt and calorie nightmare. You know you’re going to stuff your face and have yellow teeth and nails and indigestion for three days, but you want them, and you’re going to have them, and may God help anyone who tries to stop you. That’s EXACTLY my relationship with Paranormal Romance. I know it’s bad, I know I am going to regret reading it… But I want it. It’s a guilty pleasure that more often than not, I don’t enjoy. But I need to try to make sure, because, you know, this time it might be different.

Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s review this one. Actually, Her Sinful Angel was a pleasant surprise among the usual rubbish. Needless to say, lots of corn, cheese and growling in the ingredients. I mean for fudge’s sake, the devil falls in love with a mortal woman. Duh. So:

Insta-love, check.

Tragic male hero, check.

Tortured heroine, check.

A bad boy who’s in reality a big softie who loves to be bossed around in bedroom, check.

Plausible? Yes. Don’t expect scientific research or anything… But a lot more plausible than others of the same genre.

Easy to read? Yes, the language is good and the text flows without distracting the reader.

Sex? Plenty, although to be honest I didn’t care much for it.

A bit simplistic? Yes, but if you’re looking for something mentally challenging, try Nietzsche.

So with these in mind, if you like your male heroes dark, powerful, tortured and dangerous and your heroines with a bit of backbone and compassionate, grab this one. You’ll enjoy it. I didn’t feel cheated when I finished it and believe me, for me that’s an exception with this genre.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

 

Hot sex with Ian Somerhalder

Image: http://richestcelebrities.org/richest-actors/ian-somerhalder-net-worth/

So last night I am about to have sex with Ian Somerhalder. We are all over each other, kissing and fondling, and sweet baby Jesus and Buddha serene, he’s criminally handsome.  He’s got that evil twinkle in his unbelievable, transparent blue eyes, and he’s flashing me his bad boy sideways grin, turning me into a useless heap of hormones. He’s just amazing, caring and passionate and just as rough as he should be, and I am trembling and kissing him and pulling him in my embrace like a woman possessed. He is entirely focused on me, doing everything he can to make me melt, generous in the manner of an experienced lover who puts the other person’s pleasure before their own. I feel the luckiest woman in the world to have his full attention. He’s just, oh hell, his hands feel so good on me, his body feels so hot and alive writhing under my fingers. His face was made to destroy women (and some men, I’m sure) and it’s all mine to kiss and feel and feast upon. There is only one word to describe the situation: heaven.

So, just as things are about to get from hot to steamy and what little clothing we still had on is going to be hastily discarded to the floor, my waking mind together with my conscience seep though. So I turn and say to him, “Wait a minute. Aren’t you married? You should go and talk with your wife about this, and then come back to continue.” And naturally, he stopped and I woke up.

GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! I want to shoot me dead! I want to take a hammer and pound me unconscious! I’ve been snapping at people since I woke up. Any ideas why? 😛

Does any of you know a fail safe way to have the same dream two nights in a row? I won’t open my mouth this time even if I have to tape it to make sure. I mean look at this. I said no to this face. It was the only chance I had and wasted it. I’m sure if I try to dream of him again tonight, I’ll dream of my surly school headmaster yelling at me. It will serve me right.

 

 

Giveaway for The Theater of Dusk

New giveaway running from the 27th of April till the 4th of May for one signed copy of my book! If you are a member of Goodreads, this is your chance!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/183897-the-theater-of-dusk 

Good luck!

Here is the latest review for the book by someone who knows and understands. Thank you so much.

“Let me begin by saying The Theater of Dusk is not easy or light reading. Though humour isn’t completely absent, the writer deals with subjects which make most people uncomfortable. Pain, blood, suicide, abusive relationships, rape, deceit, greed, BDSM, power games, betrayal and death are dishes on the menu. Killers, vampires, demons and humans paint a fragmented canvas of red, black and grey. Obsession walks hand in hand with self-destruction; there are no easy answers and often no way out. But should you make it to the final curtain, Love will appear to guide you into the light.

Is this book for you? I guess the real question is, can you embrace the dark and still find your way back home? If you want to kill a few hours, this isn’t what you’re looking for. If, on the other hand, darkness is a friend, then this little book will be a safe place. For those rare and genuinely dark souls out there, for the empaths, the open-minded and the eccentric, for all those who have fire-walked in their personal hells, The Theater of Dusk will be a rewarding experience.

Please note that due to its subject matter, this collection is recommended for mature readers.”

Review link:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1143705803?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1 

Gimme five!

This photo depicts my mood. I recently got two reviews for my short story collection. They made me smile, because both readers seem to understand what the stories are talking about. Here is the first:

The Theater of Dusk (Paperback)

“In its entirety this book is a book filled with darkness. Each individual story contributes a little more to the depth created within the darkness and each story brings the reader further from the light and deeper into the whole that the book becomes. We become each character, however horrific that thought is, and we remain there throughout the book only to realise through each tale that the element of love does not exist. We reach the final curtain of the book to be shown that darkness doesn’t have to be all there is.

This little read takes the reader by surprise. Each short story takes you along a road of self-discovery in some ways and the reader can almost recognise some elements of the darkness within the self. At the end of the last story we are shown that not all is as it seems – light and darkness co-exist but each individual has to open up and allow the other in.

These stories certainly can make a person think deep thoughts. If you aren’t a lover of depth and darkness then this probably isn’t the read for you but I would recommend it to anyone prepared to brave the deep.”

Amazon review link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/review/R1O7BT233OT85V?ref_=glimp_1rv_cl

And here is the second review, translated from French. If there are mistakes in the translation please blame my very basic French aided by Google Translate.

“An author to discover!

In these 13 short stories Lizbeth Gabriel depicts with skill and talent human beings in all their complexity and plurality. These stories are often imbued with a dark and strange ambience. Sometimes on the border between reality and dreams, they will certainly not leave you indifferent and open your minds like doors to worlds, feelings, new desires. Thank you to the author for this book and for sharing her imagination.”

Amazon review link: 

https://www.amazon.fr/review/R3BBKBH52NPOZL/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1505867517&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=52042011&store=english-books 

Thank you both so much for your kind words on my work, and for taking the time and trouble to write reviews. I appreciate it more than I can express.

If you too would like to see for yourself what the fuss is about, you can find my work here: 

Both ebook and paperback are very reasonably priced, and every book you buy means I can keep on writing. Every review I receive is that extra push that keeps me going. Thank you in advance.

(Photo source: 

Show me love!

From my published book, the Theater of Dusk. Wonderful picture/ word combination by Katherine. 🙂

Do you remember the SF romance I told you about? Well, I’m almost done with editing! Soon I’ll send the manuscript to my editor, and I really, desperately, urgently need all the help I can get. What do I need? I need all the sales and reviews you can give me. If you planned on buying my book, now is a good time. If you felt like writing a review, this is an excellent time to do it. I don’t mind negative reviews if they are honest opinions on my book and not personal attacks on me. The latter is not reviewing; it’s slander. It doesn’t help other readers decide and doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the reviewer either. 

If I want to be honest, it is not a coincidence I haven’t got a single negative review so far. It’s not because my friends are reviewing me because this isn’t the case. I owe it to two facts. The first is pretty straightforward: I haven’t had enough exposure to get negative reviews. I do have in mind a list of possible negative reviewers if I hit a bigger audience. Homophobes will bash me, the overly religious will throw fits, the women-hating crowd will get their panties in a bunch… Well, I’ll live. I mean the world is a big place and there’s space for everyone. Live and let live.

The second reason is even stranger. For some reason, people like my writing. Believe me, I am surprised. When your friends like your writing, there is always a nagging suspition at the back of your head: they say they enjoy it because they are your friends. They don’t want to hurt you. It’s vastly different when random strangers enjoy your book. I casually browse my Goodreads Author page and a complete stranger has left a four or five star review for my published book, the Theater of Dusk. It wows me completely and utterly. It mystifies me. It doesn’t surprise me because I consider myself a bad writer, but because my subject matter isn’t easy. I write about loss, deceit, self-doubt, betrayal, suicide, killers… My writing is intimate, unusual, sad and weird, and what do you know, someone else out there, a person I’ve never met, read it and liked it. They identified with my stories and my heroes and got something out of it. I don’t know what and it doesn’t matter. I hid a message in a bottle and threw it in the sea. The bottle reached a shore and someone found it and read it. The bottle could have been lost, broken, and yet… it wasn’t. It’s a small miracle.

I need more small miracles to happen. Miracles like a review, or telling a friend you enjoyed my book, or sharing one of my blog entries. Here are some suggestions:

 

Please give me a chance to continue writing. Help me get my second book out. I need a very handsome amount for the editor, and every single penny counts. I need reviewers and reviews for my work, and every review makes a difference. It’s been an uphill struggle with nothing to show for my efforts except for the books themselves. For me, that is a reward in itself. Please help me. I honestly, truly need it. And for those of you who already bought my book, reviewed it or promoted me, thank you so so much. I am deeply grateful. It means more than I can explain. You are my small miracles, and you give me the strength to continue. Thank you.

Here is my book:
http://www.amazon.com/Lizbeth-Gabriel/e/B00HVCOFMY/

Create Space: (an Amazon company)
https://www.createspace.com/5204932

Attention: This is for buying physical copies of my book, not the ebook version. For the ebook version please go to Amazon.

Occult reading: how to do a number on your head, no hammer needed.

So here are two reviews… Liber Null is a Chaos Magick classic. As I’ve said before, I am always wary of the classics.

Liber Null and Psychonaut by Peter J. Carroll (3 out of 5 stars)*

My head hurts. It really hurts. Also, my copy is missing a page of text and half its contents table. Damn to demise all marshmallows in existence and some theoretical ones.

How can someone actively choose to experiment on everything that makes them who they are AND work 9-5? The advice is pretty clear: change your personality, change your sexuality, do all the things that normally you would not do, try a different lifestyle, support a point of view you don’t agree with and so on. Keep doing that that until you manage to disentangle your inner core from your present personality, because personality is essentially a completely arbitrary construction based on experience and chance. Once you stop identifying with your personality/ ego, magick can happen because you don’t identify with any desire, and consequently don’t sabotage your own efforts by fear or need. Also, by deconstructing your personality you peel away all those superficial/ ego gratification needs that don’t originate from your inner core, but from your fears, complexes and so on. What remains is aligned with the portion of you that is transcendent, in other words, with the needs of your soul. Yep, do all that AND at the same time hold down a job, maintain your relationships, practice magick and try to see life for the cosmic joke it is. Excellent theory, but I am afraid that this can only be done by not having to work, not being in a relationship and not having a family of any kind. And probably having friends who don’t mind dealing with a person whose completely inconsistent and erratic behavior changes from day to day.

It’s an interesting book with some excellent ideas but very little practical application for the practitioner who also wants to have a life outside the occult. It’s also difficult to follow at parts. Still a good read for someone who wants to be introduced to Chaos Magick. One of the classics. As with all classics, pick and choose the elements that suit you and ignore the rest.

 The Pseudonomicon by Phil Hine (4 out of 5 stars)*
 

I read this one many years ago, and back then I did not fully appreciate it. Now that I re-read it, I can say it is one of the best of its kind. I am not particularly interested in becoming acquainted with the Old Ones on a personal level, let alone going mad. (Or at least, not madder than I already am. 😉 However this little volume gives a plethora of information on how the Old Ones can be understood in relation to our human perception of the world, as well as some very valid observations on the way magickal experience cannot be explained or communicated. The writing is crystal clear, avoids metaphysical jargon, has an excellent sense of humour and offers interesting hints/ information if someone wants to get personally involved. Though short in length, it can be used as a solid introduction for someone who is tickled by the idea of the Old Ones in magickal work, and they can expand from there. Highly recommended.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

Waiting for reviews

I haven’t been very active lately. Life gets in the way. It’s a matter of tiredness and to be honest, also frustration.

For those who think that once you publish a book, you don’t have to do anything more, I have bad news. Once the book is out, your troubles have just begun. In the case of traditional publishing, the publisher will also promote you to some degree. If you are self-published like I am, getting noticed is tricky business. 

When I published my first book, I made some mistakes due to inexperience. For example, I didn’t know I had to find possible reviewers before I published the book, or establish my presence in social media. Here is a link to a blog with useful information:

 

As I said in a previous post, reviews are vital. Not only do they encourage possible buyers to invest in your work, but also serve as promotion and free advertisement when the reviewer posts them on their reviewing blog and any other social media they may be using. So I busted my behind looking for reviewers and reviews. I went through a list of reviewing blogs, located genre-related bloggers and sent more than thirty five emails asking for reviews on my book. I also organised two giveaways on Goodreads. (For those of you who don’t know, giveaways on Goodreads are a way to create buzz. Randomly selected winners get free copies they are expected to review. Strictly speaking, it’s not compulsory for winners to write a review, but this is why giveaways are organised in the first place; to offer the writer exposure and reviews).

So, let’s see what I’ve achieved so far. In the case of emails, I received five replies: three ‘no’ and two ‘yes’. The rest never replied. The two who said yes, they are interested, haven’t contacted me since September. I am still waiting to hear from them. 

In the case of Goodreads giveaways, out of eight books, three got lost in the post and I had to buy new copies and resend them. So far I’ve got two ratings and just one review. Five more members have copies of my book in their possession, some for ten months now, some for eight, and they haven’t rated it or reviewed it. I know better than pressure them; I only contacted them once, to make sure they got their copies safely. They will rate or review the book when they have time, which may well be in two years from now or never.There is nothing I can really do except perhaps organise another giveaway, and hope winners will respond more promptly this time and books won’t be lost in the post.

The thing about being a writer is that you need to have patience, lots and lots of it. Your book may be your number one priority, but other people have different priorities and problems. They have jobs, families, friends, pets, and everything else life entails, like sickness, heartache, accidents, divorces and plain, mind-numbing tiredness. That’s why you have to wait, and wait, and wait some more while trying to think of ways to promote your work. The real problem is that you don’t know what makes a difference in sales. Is it reviews? Is it advertisement? Giveaways? Word of mouth? Connections? Plain dumb luck? All these combined? So you have to try any stratagems you can think of, (in my case, with a very limited budget at your disposal…) and keep your fingers crossed. There are several internet articles on promotion, but they more or less say the same: I wish we knew what makes a difference to do it too. 😉 So patience, insistence and hard work. It’s discouraging, frustrating, even downright maddening in some cases, but no-one built a fan base overnight. As I said in the previous post, that’s how real life works, contrary to descriptions found in YA genre.

Here are four lists of reviewing blogs. Good luck! I hope it all works out.

 
 
 
 

Here is also some advice on review requesting:

Thoughts on success and the YA genre

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (1 out of 5 stars)*

I admit this book made me ponder on success. Over the years, I’ve discovered I don’t share the same opinions with the general public. When a book becomes a huge success, I’m usually part of the minority that didn’t like it. Everyone around me sings praises on how wonderful that book is, how much they enjoyed it and how it changed their life, and I find myself wondering if we are talking about the same book. To draw a comparison, I’d be equally puzzled if someone went to the average burger-and-fries chain and claimed with tears in their eyes they’ve eaten the best food of their lives. So I’ve come to formulate a theory.

My theory is the following. Readers of fiction books can be divided in two categories. The categories have nothing to do with genre preference. The first category is the majority. It consists of those who want to kill a few hours and read something that doesn’t challenge them. They want to be swept away in a fantasy land where everything is easy to accomplish, situations are familiar (read between the lines: exclusive use of clichés in story lines and characters) and everyone is safe. The ones who die are the bad guys and they deserved to die, and a hero is as great and awesome as their writer claims them to be, no proof needed. If the book delivers what the genre promised (i.e. impressive, mindless action, maudlin romance etc) these readers are happy with their share. They are basically trying to escape our reality because it is hard, messy and unfair. I feel for them because I read for the same reason. I want to escape reality. The difference is I don’t want to go to Barbie land because I belong to the second category.

The second category is the minority who wants to be challenged. They expect the fantasy world to be as hard, real and unforgiving as this one. They love a solid set of social rules that might be different than the ones we have, but just as difficult to bend. They don’t want the heroes to be safe and the path familiar. The protagonists need to prove themselves and earn the respect of both their readers and the other characters. There might be dragons in that world, or magic, or advanced technology, but if a character does something stupid, they’ll pay. These readers love realism and hate easy solutions with a passion. They don’t want the heroes to be safe. They want them to be real, and bleed, and ache, and most of all, they want them to grow.

Throne of Glass is wildly popular and unfortunately targets the first category. Instead of writing a review that focuses on the details of the characters and plot, I wish to focus on why the female protagonist fails completely at being the so-called best assassin of that world. Her role as an assassin is the core of both the character and the book, so I want to discuss this.

What does it mean to be an assassin? I’ll write down my thoughts. Assassins belong to a specialised class that undergoes rigorous training, in order to acquire the physical, mental and emotional traits of their role, the most important being strict discipline. They are made immune to hardship by regular exposure to it; rough weather, physical pain, lack of food and water, lack of sleep. Snipers, for example, can stay awake for up to 72 hours during a mission. The mental and emotional training of an assassin is just as strict, creating a ‘one track mind’. Such people ignore every distraction, including verbal provocations, a handsome lass (or lad), unfavourable odds and heart-wrenching pleas for mercy. Depending on the type and universe, we can assume they have a daily routine that includes specialised exercise, perhaps meditation or reciting the beliefs of their sect etc. And I am pretty certain that even if they begin training at a very early age, even the most talented ones don’t make master assassins at the age of 17.

The problem with the Young Adult genre is how easily something is accomplished. Since readers of this genre are often in their teens, they need a protagonist of the same age to identify with. So these books present us with a variety of characters with superhuman powers or ‘master’ status in their field at the ripe age of 16, 17 and 18. These books also conveniently forget to mention the method of achieving master status. (I’ll let you into the secret because I’m feeling generous. You slave away for years at your chosen subject until you grow utterly sick of it, and then you slave away for some more years.) Because every teenager want to be the best, but no-one wants to be seen as an uncool, hard-working nerd, YA novels have these super characters who are ‘chosen’, ‘special’, ‘unique’ etc because reasons. The protagonist Celaena is such a special girl. She is the best assassin there is, but everything she says and does verifies the opposite. Why? Because the writer didn’t want to create a realistic character who IS badass, but rather one who SOUNDS badass. Let me elaborate.

A trained assassin, even a female one, doesn’t care about her looks or what others think of her. She tries to draw as little attention as possible, has a permanent poker face, and is immune to hardship. She’s also immune to the good looks of the Prince and the Captain of the Guard. (By the way, I know that the title ‘Captain of the Guard’ brings to mind a forty-something gruff veteran, but the Captain in question is 22 years old, so that Celaena is spoiled for choice between him and the Prince.)  An assassin doesn’t brag, doesn’t expect others to pet her, spoil her or take her side, doesn’t engage in lengthy conversations with her captors, doesn’t get in fits of rage over a game of billiards, and generally doesn’t do any of the things Celaena does. Let’s face it; which teenage girl would identify with the aloof, secretive, cynical, fashion-oblivious hardened soldier that a professional assassin is? None. So in order to create a heroine a teenage girl can identify with, you essentially create another teenage girl who is the best assassin of the land because you, the writer, says so.

With that as a given, I can rant for hours on how implausible Celaena is. The best assassin of the land spends the night before the critical tournament that will determine her freedom or death by reading books until four in the morning. (By the way, since this is a medieval-ish setting, may I point out that back then books were very rare and 99% of people couldn’t read? The books that did exist around that time weren’t meant for recreation; they were usually gargantuan, hand-copied tomes on religion, philosophy and history that made someone develop a headache after ten minutes of reading. But anyway, let’s take for granted that in that fantasy world typography and recreational books already exist and most people can read; it’s a minor blunder compared to other inconsistencies.) The following morning she doesn’t want to get out of bed and complains about the cold floor. Then her next problem is her unfashionable clothes. People sneak in and out of her room at all hours and this terrifying assassin whose fame precedes her just keeps on snoring. She twirls her (blonde) hair around her finger and opens her mouth to show the food she’s been chewing to annoy others. Someone is killing the tournament participants in a brutal way, but when she finds a bag of candy in her room (no note or name on it), she gobbles it down without a worry in the world. She spends her days in front of a mirror or playing the piano or reading, admiring her pretty dresses and wondering why she is not invited at balls. And so on, and so forth. I can continue, but I doubt this will serve any purpose. As I said, those readers who don’t mind the absurdity of the plot and characters will love it, and the ones who can’t abide it will just cringe, like I did.

I find books of the YA genre oversimplified in a dangerous way. Life is not a series of easy, magical solutions. The only place someone can be an assassin, mage, neurosurgeon etc just by claiming they are one, is a video game (or perhaps social media). How about books which show that someone doesn’t have to be the best and coolest in order to be important, or alternatively, showing how hard it is to become the best? How about YA books that deal with second best, or even failure? How about helping a teenager understand that they don’t have to prove something, but should enjoy life instead, because there is plenty of time to discover themselves and their passions along the way?

I am afraid that for me YA has become the equivalent of a warning label. “Danger of wasted time. Read at your own risk.” I honestly hope I am wrong and I just haven’t read the good ones yet. 

And another pet peeve of mine. This is the writer. 

 

 

Now please explain to me why she is on the cover of her own book, because I can’t for the life of me make sense of it.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

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