Friday Five: Overrated YA Fantasy Series (and what could make them better)

Everyone likes reading bash reviews. You do, I do, we all do. Some of us even like reading bash reviews; I have to admit I've enjoyed writing some of my more negative reviews. Here, I'd like to focus on what could have been improved in my five least favorite fantasy YA series. 

I am going to be bashing a lot of favorites here. I am so, so sorry.

1. Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Oh god, this book is the definition of wasted potential. There is A LOT that's good here. I firmly believe Tahir has the talent to write some truly amazing fantasy. Unfortunately, it utilizes almost all of my least favorite YA tropes. 

My issues here were surrounding the characters and the romance. I freaking hate Elias and Laia. They're both so stupidly naive. Their idealism is unbelievable in the world they live in. I wanted more brutal protagonists. I even could've handled a lack of dimension if these characters weren't so obnoxiously idealistic. 

In terms of romance, I don't see the need for a love square. Helene and Elias have some decent buildup, while Elias and Laia don't. Why did Elias and Laia need to be a couple at all? They could've been friends and it would've avoided the instalove and the cheesy romantic quotes. 

VERDICT: 1) Less instalove. Elias and Laia shouldn't have been a couple in general. 2) Less idealism and naivety for the characters. 

2. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

My issues here are twofold. 

First, the characters. I can't tolerate self-absorbed, arrogant characters. I cannot deal with creepy guys who are written to be tortured and angsty. And I especially cannot suffer through a jaunt with such idiotic characters. Beyond that, every single character's voice sounds exactly the same. It would've been fine and I would've continued if they weren't quite so actively annoying. Flat is fine for a little while. You can fix that. Annoying is not fine. 

Second, the worldbuilding is just... bad. I actually usually don't care about worldbuilding, but there is none here, and this is a story meant to revolve around the worldbuilding. There's a map here that doesn't have a single city or detail on it. What's the point of a map if there's no detail? I can't picture a single environment here; the setting description is flat-out nonexistent. It's a fantasy novel! I want cool settings! Not only that, but the few bits we have gotten have been complete exposition. There's a hint of conflict between the countries, but the actual culture is nowhere. 

VERDICT: 1) More worldbuilding. Or any at all. The action feels forced. 2) Less naivety for the characters. 

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I'M SO SORRY. Please don't kill me for this entry. Or the next one. 

I know a lot of people think I should just keep reading the series. I might at some point, because I've heard good things about book two from people who didn't love book one.
The main issue here is Celaena as a character. She's arrogant, petty, and obsessed with her own appearance. She doesn't have enough character depth for her unlikability to be tolerable. She's supposed to have a tragic past, but that didn't come across; she's downright lighthearted. Again, that could be super enjoyable to read about! I'd LOVE a book about a slightly unbalanced girl who murders people with a smile on her face. This could be Celeana if she were fleshed out or, y'know, smart. But she's an unbelievable, annoying heroine. 

The focus on the love triangle is pretty annoying as well. It's tropey and unoriginal and most of all, it's pointless. Too much drama, not enough plot. 

VERDICT: 1) Delete the love triangle. 2) Less naivety for the characters.  

4. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

I know a lot of people are going to be annoyed that I dislike this. I know a lot of people think I should just keep reading the series. Well, I actually did! And it does get better. It does. But I still have so many issues with this series it's not even funny. 

My biggest actual problem with this series? I couldn't get invested at all in the characters. Cassandra Clare can write some fairly decent action and witty banter, so with less annoying characters and less relationship drama, I could totally fall in love with this series.  Protagonist Clary is kind of... too stupid to live.  She needed to be more conniving, more morally ambiguous, and far less obsessed with Jace.  Jace is a jerk in book one— he’s essentially Draco Malfoy if everyone excused his actions because he’s super hot.  Simon needed to not cheat on people.  Period.  Delete that entire storyline.  Isabelle needed to be slutshamed less!  I'm sorry, but she's here exclusively to be slut-shamed by the angelic virgin protagonist.  

It's actually fine if none of the characters get that much more dimension. I could tolerate fairly flat characters if they had interesting friendships. Some easy examples: make the love triangle less of a focus, cut out Isabelle and Clary's pointless hatred, cut out Alec and Clary's pointless hatred, focus more on the bonds between Alec and Jace and Isabelle. I could go on. More of Clare's good banter could've improved upon this a ton

VERDICT: 1) Less naivety for the characters. 2) Less discussion about abs. 3) Delete the love triangles. Both of them. 4) Less drama to allow for more banter.

5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

There's actually so, so much potential here. I'm serious, I don't get the outright hatred for the book. The problems are nothing new, definitely nothing worse than any other book. 

The biggest example of wasted potential is Mare's character. She could've been such an amazing antiheroine. The issue is she's portrayed as a typical heroine when she's just... not. She needs to be framed as morally ambiguous and villainous, rather than portrayed as such but have it glossed over. 

The other example of wasted potential is the plotline itself. Aveyard's concept Aveyard should be dark, gritty, and full of morally black characters. Unfortunately, it's all a little plotless. There was entertainment, and the story isn't bad, but all the drama seems much pettier and less manipulative. Cut out the love triangle altogether, cut out Evangeline's pettiness and make her evil more insidious if anything. (I've heard this improves later, at least.)

VERDICT: 1) Mare should be an antiheroine archetype, not a hero archetype. 2) Delete the love triangle. 3) Less drama, more expansion on the politics. 

A Verdict Wrap-Up!

I think a lot of books I've disliked have common threads running throughoutEach book has their own distinct issues, but my main issues seem to be: 

1) I want more antiheros, less naive characters. Many characters in YA right now are written to be so perfect that they become annoying. We need characters with realistic flaws. Characters written without flaws come off as arrogant and often stupidly idealistic. Their idealism and naivety may be meant to make them more appealing, but these traits often only serve to make them come off as superficial

2) Love triangles for no reason. Honestly, love triangles can sometimes be interesting, but when they're only meant for drama and we know exactly who the protagonist will end up with, they're just angering. 

Comment if you think there are any trends I've missed! I'd love to discuss this. 

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