Have you ever had that feeling of pure excitement when you read a book’s summary, only to have your expectations utterly crushed when you discover none of what was promised was delivered in the book? It makes me want to screech “LIAR” at the book blurb. More often than not, it happens when I’m reading fantasy/scifi, as I feel they usually fail to deliver fully-realised worldbuilding – often opting to focus on more conventionally marketable plot points.
Warning, unpopular opinion on very well loved series below. Don’t hate me too much 😄
Here are some things that really bugs me:
Romance, Love Triangles, YA Love Interest #3123543
Young adult books is increasingly synonymous with romance, I can barely come up with an example of a recent read that was free of romance. This is by no means a bad thing, I love me some swoon – but I get increasingly annoyed when these elements start to overshadow the actual plot and world development:
- One of the reasons I didn’t like Throne of Glass was because for a book marketed as high fantasy. it was incredibly vague on world building. The castle of glass is neat, but beyond that and a few cryptic Wyrd marks, we never got to see expansion on the world’s mythology. Instead, I had to read through 300 pages of exclamation marks!!! and a love triangle I had zilch interest in. Thankfully, this vastly improved in Crown of Midnight, I can now say I’m a fan!
- A Thousand Pieces of You is a book I actually enjoyed, but I wish there were more of the science fiction mentioned on the blurb and less of a focus on the love story. Most of the science fiction is dismissed by the protagonist as ‘Oh, I don’t understand Physics’ – and while I don’t expect a lesson in theoretical physics ala The Three Body Problem, it feels like a bit of a cop out.
- Legacy of Kings disappointed me in so many ways, most of all because it’s set in an Ancient Greece we barely got to see. I was not after a history book, but I wanted less hormones, less ‘scheming’ (omg some of the political plotting was so harebrained), and more complete immersion into the world and mythology. What was present was accurate, but I wanted more.
Wasted Cultural Backdrops
Romance is not always at fault. Sometimes, it’s the promise of another culture is either depicted inaccurately or make no significant appearance in the plot:
- The Grisha Trilogy is inspired by Russia, I am often told. To be honest, it could have been set in an entirely European setting and nothing would have changed, apart from maybe the character’s names.
- Shadowdancer seem to have been written for me: Japanese steampunk? YES PLEASE. But I DNF in about 100 pages because of all the blatant disregard for Japanese culture. Such as ‘sama’ used as pronoun instead of a suffix, or scattering ‘hai’ in every other sentences. It feels like exoticising. It makes me a bit nervous for Illuminae. Boo.
- New Beijing in Cinder could have literally been anywhere else. Aside from providing us Asian-looking protagonist, there was no other aspects of New Beijing that felt based on China in any way.
I know there’s that argument that they are based on, rather than set in, the actual locations so liberties can be taken. IMO, why bother if you’re not going to feature the culture in any significant way? Just so that your book can be set up in an exotic new world? Cultures are more than a couple of exotic sounding names and a smattering of foreign words you Googled.
I honestly sad face whenever I read for the promise of a brand new world, and get a half-baked shell of a setting. What are some books that you felt did not meet their worldbuilding potential? Am I being too horrible and picky, or do you feel the same on the topic?