I don’t like abandoning books, especially books I’ve accepted from Netgalley (because this was received free from the publisher through Netgalley for review, thank you to them). But after fighting the prose to about 15%, I decided to cut my losses and move on to one of the others.
I did not enjoy Graynelore. But I have to give it credit for helping me pin down exactly why I don’t like it and similar books.
See, there are rules of writing and spelling and syntax. The rules exist for a reason. They have evolved in order to make it more certain that what one person says or writes will be understood by someone hearing or reading it. Disregarding the rules increase the chances that that pretty shiny thought gleaming in your brain will not transfer as you want it to be into someone else’s brain.
That being said, good writers disregard rules all the time, all over the place. It’s fun, and can be fun to read… so … what’s the difference between those books that break the rules in a good way and these books that break the rules in such a way that I want to hire a skywriter to blazon “Strunk & White” from here to the horizon? (In other words, why do I complain about some and not others?) It was reading another page filled with sentence fragments and missing commas and misplaced modifiers that the answer came up, looked over my shoulder at the Kindle, and shook its head in despair: I have to be able to see the point to breaking the rules. Whether or not the author had a point is irrelevant if I can’t perceive it. Using sentence fragments and eccentric punctuation can be a stylistic choice (though I doubt that misplaced modifiers ever are, are they?), but it needs to be clear that that’s the case, and that it’s all not … well, bad writing.
I think part of the object of the tone and choices in vocabulary were to make it sound … antique. Tales of old. Unfortunately, a good many words made me picture Inigo Montoya looking down at the author with his brow furrowed in puzzlement. “You keep using such words…”
Once someone asked me what I thought of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and what I came up with was “dense and chewy”. I don’t know if I can define that without throwing an encyclopedia’s worth of words at it, but for me it’s the perfect description. And the adjectives that came to mind almost immediately reading this were “thick and soupy”. It has a beautiful cover and an intriguing synopsis, but by 15% I should have had a clear idea of what the story was shaping up to be. I had no idea. And I just couldn’t settle into the writing in order to find out. Two stars for what I read because I have read worse, but … I use the highlight feature on my Kindle to mark text and make notes, either as criticism or out of appreciation. If I highlight a lot of a book it’s a sign that either I loved it or it was driving me crazy. I highlighted a large percentage of the small percentage I read of Graynelore.