Q&A Most Disappointing Fantasy Book

After I’ve published my review of Blood And Iron by Jon Sprunk I’ve had a comment by a fellow blogger that he didn’t liked the book as much as I do. I respect everyone’s opinion and I’ve read his review of that book with interest and it made me think.
And also after seeing all those ‘best of’-posts on the internet I was thinking about doing something different. So, why not combine these two things?
Therefore I asked fellow fantasy book bloggers the following question:

Which fantasy book that you’ve heard only good things about from everyone was the biggest letdown of your reading life, and why?

I hope you enjoy our answers and I’ll also hope to hear from you guys what your most disappointing book was. I look forward to the comments on this post.


Cindy (Draumr Kopa Fantasy Book Blog)
CindyI haven’t really been disappointed by any of the adult Fantasy novels I’ve read so far. Of course there have been a few that were a bit of a letdown, but never have I encountered one that had dozens of good reviews or was very popular that I didn’t like even a bit. There are, however, two series that sprang to mind when I read the question. They are both Young Adult series and I read them a few years ago. They are immensely popular and one of them has even been turned into a movie. I’m talking about “The Iron Fey” by Julie Kagawa and “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare. I was into Young Adult Fantasy right then, more than I am now and I had heard nothing but good things about these books. I read all of the Iron Fey books but couldn’t understand why everyone thought them so good. I couldn’t connect with most of the characters, there was a love triangle (surprise, surprise) and the girl chose the ‘bad boy’ that hurt her a dozen times over the funny, good, loving guy. Why someone would think this is a good message towards teenage girls, I have no idea.

I started in the first book of “The Mortal Instruments” series, “City of Bones”, because everyone was raving about the series. It was featured on every YA blog. I got maybe 50 pages in and I couldn’t continue. This was my first DNF book. I thought the writing was just awful, really not my thing. The story itself wasn’t that bad, but it didn’t succeed in pulling me in. “City of Bones” has now been adapted for the big screen. I haven’t seen, but honestly, I’m not really interested in watching it.


Dominick (Fantastical Imaginations)
DominickI couldn’t post this list without giving my own choice of the most disappointing fantasy book I’ve ever read. I know that a lot of readers will look surprised when they hear my choice, but I can’t help it. I just didn’t like this book that is called ‘the best stand-alone fantasy book of all time’ by many readers and authors: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay.
I must admit that, from the first pages on, I was enchanted with the beautiful prose, but I couldn’t get a connection with the characters. My main problem was the huge amount of illogical decisions these characters made throughout the story. I’ve tried to read on, but after 250 pages I’ve closed the book and never looked at it again. It was the moment where the brother (I think) of one of the protagonists only yelled ‘Tigana’ when they seized him that made me close the book. That was just so stupid at that moment and after all the annoyances I’ve had with the story up to that point it was enough to never want to read this book again.
I know it’s about racism and exterminating a whole race or nation, but Rowena Cory Daniells’ The Outcast Chronicles are about this very same subject and those books are way more interesting and better developed, believe me.
So, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see why almost everyone finds Tigana such a great read.


Lisa (Over The Effing Rainbow)
LisaMy biggest letdown in a book… This took some thinking about, because it really isn’t often at all that I find a book I genuinely don’t like. The main reason for this is probably that my measure of a bad book is one that I honestly can’t say anything good about, which narrows that field down quite a lot! So I’d say rather than having things I hate about books, or even books I hate, my biggest letdowns come from books that are good, but just don’t draw me in or resonate with me in any significant way. Ones that are readable, but not unputdownable… I’ve had a few of those, the biggest of which (and the one that might put me in a sad little reader box for one at this point) was Prince Of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence.
Yeah, yeah, I know – but seriously! I just… didn’t get it. Or rather, the book didn’t get its hooks into me. I’ve wondered why more than once, but the fact remains that while I thought the story was good and the characters interesting, they just weren’t good or interesting enough to excite me. So, yes… I tend to sidle quietly away whenever someone mentions how much they enjoyed it, heh!


Mieneke (A Fantastical Librarian)
MienekeOne of the books which everyone seemed to love and which in theory should have fit my reading tastes to a tee, was Lynn Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin. When it came out everyone was talking about it and was enthusiastic about it. However, I never made it past page 20 and in my case that’s a pretty good achievement for a book as I usually always finish books I start. I just couldn’t get into the writing style and the story.
But I think the one that is really and truly going to cost me my geek card, which isn’t actually fantasy but SF, is Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I read the first book in the big omnibus and I just didn’t get it. I didn’t think it was that funny and I just thought ‘Meh’. That was over 15 years ago and anyone else who ever mentions the book always says how fantastic and seminal the books are and I just didn’t see it.


Mihir (Fantasy Book Critic)
MihirI’m pretty sure with this question Dominick will get a nice list of confessions that will be sure to raise the ire of the fans but I think this will be a good discussion. My good friend Zachary Jernigan had mentioned oncegreat literature will always have a sizable number of detractors. Great literature, in other words, is divisive. It will be received passionately and denounced on occasion.”
I think this maxim applies nicely to all the books that potentially could be mentioned in this post. Of course some of them might just be plain shit but I’m hoping that the former might be the case. That being said, with regards to the question stated, my choice is easy. Hands down my vote goes to Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.
Now I know that there a lot of RH lovers out there and many of them are people whom I respect, trust and call friends. With this book & its sequels, my opinion diverges wildly from theirs. Going on to why I disliked this book so much, firstly there was this great buildup that RH’s characterization skills were par none and how this story is one of the best ever told.
Unfortunately my reading experience went counter to that what I had been told. For me Assassin’s Apprentice was slow and the characters mind numbing. The main character Fitz is interesting however his training or the whole of the book (as you might say) basically slows down the pace of the story and there’s no plot resolution either. Because this was book 1 of a trilogy, I was forgiving about the lack of plot resolution but overall this book was easily one of the dullest reads for me. Of course fans might say that this is how the author builds Fitz who shows fortitude after a series of abandonments from everyone related to him. Then again I truly couldn’t connect with Fitz and his struggles and that lead to my massive disappointment.
Of course I still wanted to give RH a chance and read the second book Royal Assassin along with the third, both books however were letdowns with regards to the main character and the overall plot. Since then I’ve always politely smiled & kept mum when it comes to discussion about RH and her work. Clearly I’m not a fan and will never be (I concluded this after reading the first of Soldier Son books as well).  Suffice to say I’m interested to know which other darlings were chosen by the other participants.


Nathan (Fantasy Review Barn)
NathanIt is a tough question. Obviously I have read my share of bad books, but I don’t think we are looking for books that a couple early reviews raved about but turned out to be…not so good. And I can think of a few examples that get highly praised throughout that just didn’t do it for me so much. The Night Angel series comes to mind immediately, yet the first book wasn’t bad, just not one of the top fantasy series like I had been led to believe.
Bar none the biggest let down for me was Dune. It is a classic, a must read for everyone who considers themselves a speculative fiction fan, and an influence on more stuff than we can count.  And it even starts out great, I was hooked for half the book. But ultimately it bored me to tears with its self-importance. I despised Paul as a character, even more so as a messiah. And I know that this was in fact the point of the tale, but it wasn’t the book I wanted. I wanted the political action tale the book started with, not what it became. That may say more about me than the book of course, but it is my answer.


Rabindranauth (Drunken Dragon Reviews)
RabindranauthMy answer is The Lord of the Rings. Crazy, right? Here’s why.
I absolutely loved the movies, which I saw before I read the books. Reading the books was a very different experience for me: they’re the first fantasy novels I read that weren’t really targeted for kids or YA.
As it progressed, as much as I loved how absorbing Tolkien’s writing was, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the movie; for a large part of it I felt like I slogged through as much as I was absorbed and kept reading. And then there are the songs. Tolkien’s songs just completely threw me for a loop, every few pages, there’s a song, and I have absolutely no feelings for poetry, so this really aggravated the slogging I had to do. So in the end it became a book I liked, but one that DEFINITELY fell very far short of the hype for me.


Wendell (Bookwraiths)
WendellThe Dark Tower Book VII. This final novel in the Dark Tower series was supposed to be the dramatic climax of the epic quest of Roland Deschain of Gilead and his ka-tet to reach the Dark Tower and set to right the destruction of the worlds. And, as a fan and reader, I just knew that somehow, someway Stephen King would tie up all the loose plots and erase all my frustration about the endless lore changes, the confusing multi-verse, and writing himself into the story. Instead of being letdown, I expected to be swept up in an ending to rival the Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, what I got was a huge disappointment to me.
Without spoiling things with a current or future reader, all I can say is that something completely unexpected happens in this finale to a sweeping epic. Nothing. That is right. You won’t find any of your most important questions answered. In fact, you won’t even find a dramatic ending. Instead, after reading seven novels about Roland the Gunslinger, a reader is given a choice: stop the book without knowing what happens to Roland once he actually gets to the Dark Tower or read the ending and be disappointed because the story doesn’t actually end.
The awful truth about The Dark Tower Book VII is that it is the abyss of bad endings.


Zoë (Markham Reviews)
[Answer deleted by request of the author]


About Dominick

Husband, father, author and fantasy-freak

Posted on 15/05/2014, in Books, Miscellaneous and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Hmm. Well, that was fun. Glad I was at work when it blew up and missed all the good fun.

    Not much to add, going to just stay away from the arguing the best I can. I will point out that I see a lot of difference in a list of ‘disappointments’ vs a ‘worst’ list. For me, and I hope I made it clear in my response, this was as much about ME as the the book. Expectations going in vs what I got from it, rather than just a blasting of the book.

  2. Mark Lawrence is an Abercrombie disciple is he? You have the right to dislike a book, but then to raise stupid conjecture about something you know nothing about (and then make assumptions) is somewhat low. Lisa’s review was much better, even though I disagreed with her, I still enjoyed her reasoning. To hate on a book and say it’s “empty violence” and how the authors (who right better than you or I ever will) are just rapid disciples of each other is just insulting.

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