May DNFs

Posted 30th May 2023 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Queer Lit, Reviews / 4 Comments

Three DNFs this month: neither more nor less than April!

Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, #1) by Rebecca Yarros
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Disabled MC
ISBN: 1649374046

Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

Reader, I did not even get to the dragons.

‘His eyes are the shade of gold-flecked onyx’ THAT IS NOT A SHADE.


This was just written in a way that is so very not my style, and also I think pretty much everything about it is appallingly bad and makes no sense. (Sure, stick the kids of traitors you executed in your war academy, where they will grow up to run your army while absolutely not holding grudges. Sure, lose half the incoming class by making them climb a thread-thin bridge, which in no way reflects the necessary skillset. Sure, why WOULDN’T the class villain try to kill a dragon, in dragon-rider academy, when dragon-riders are at the top of social hierarchy??? For that matter, WHY WOULD EVEN THE MOST WORK-OBSESSED MOTHER FORCE HER DISABLED DAUGHTER INTO DRAGON-RIDER ACADEMY, WHERE SHE IS 99.9% LIKELY TO DIE, DESPITE HER HAVING SPENT HER LIFE PREPARING TO BE A SCRIBE INSTEAD? Come on. Everything about this is embarrassingly stupid.)

Whatever everyone else is seeing in it, I am not seeing.

Dark Moon, Shallow Sea (The Gods of Night and Day Series) by David R. Slayton
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 31st October 2023
ISBN: 9798200966769

Raef wants revenge on the knights who killed his goddess, the moon. Her death darkened the night sky, stopped the tides, and left the shades of the dead without a path to the underworld.

Seeking revenge, Raef breaks into the knights’ temple and opens a box, expecting to find gold and jewels among the bones. Instead, he finds a living man, Kinos, sleeping inside.

Raef steals Kinos.

As they run from the knights and grow closer, Raef thinks he’s found a friend, love, and perhaps a secret that may lead to his goddess’s return. If they can’t solve the mystery of Kinos's imprisonment, the moon will never rise again and the world will drown in ghosts.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I noped out when the man who told the people chasing them that he was a heretic who worships the moon goddess goes to the goddess’ abandoned temple to hide, saying no one will look for them there.





So dumb.

Even before that, though… the writing isn’t bad as such, but it’s so plain and basic that it might as well be. It was like being fed a meal of plain porridge; absolutely no flavour, and extremely dispiriting to chew through. Everything was blunt, everything was predictable, the setting is just ‘generic Fantasy City’. There’s no description, and there’s a lot of ridiculous cliches. The dialogue was stiff and stilted; it read like a bad script, with none of the natural flow you see when real people talk (even when one or more of the speakers are feeling awkward).

I cannot believe everyone continued to call the casket/chest Kinos was in ‘a box’ – I know, that’s probably terribly petty, but it sounded so ridiculously stupid. ‘The man in the box’ ‘when we find him, we’ll put him back in the box’ ‘he needs to go back in the box!’ Dude. No. Please call it something else.

Speaking of calling it something else, I cannot stand when real-world names show up in fantasy worlds. I know Phoebe is a moon-related name, but it is also a name from our world, so if you call your goddess that, I’m going to flinch. Also, Hyperion for a sun god? Really? Come on. You can do better!

Ultimately it was all just so simple and boring. There were definite hints that the plot was going somewhere a bit more complicated – I liked the hounds of fire, I liked that our knight-of-the-sun-god was a misfit, the bishop is Not Stupid for a change – but I had zero interest in finding out what it might be. Simple prose, simple characters, simple worldbuilding. Forcing myself to read through it made me want to claw my own skin off. Hard DNF.

The Sun and the Void (The Warring Gods, #1) Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Venezuelan-coded setting and cast, F/F
Published on: 25th July 2023
ISBN: 0316336440

In a lush world inspired by the history and folklore of South America, a sweeping epic fantasy of colonialism, ancient magic, and two young women's quest for belonging unfolds.

Reina is desperate.

Stuck living on the edges of society, her only salvation lies in an invitation from a grandmother she’s never known. But the journey is dangerous, and prayer can’t always avert disaster.

Attacked by creatures that stalk the region, Reina is on the verge of death until her grandmother, a dark sorceress, intervenes. Now dependent on the Doña’s magic for her life, Reina will do anything to earn—and keep—her favor. Even the bidding of an ancient god who whispers to her at night.

Eva Kesare is unwanted.

Illegitimate and of mixed heritage, Eva is her family’s shame. She tries her best to be perfect and to hide her oddities. But Eva is hiding a secret: magic calls to her.

Eva knows she should fight the temptation. Magic is the sign of the dark god, and using it is punishable by death. Yet, it’s hard to deny power when it has always been denied to you. Eva is walking a dangerous path, one that gets stranger every day. And, in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I’ve been frantic to read this book for years – it was on my Unmissable SFF list of 2022, before the pub date was pushed back to this year. But when I was able to read it, I choked on it.

The prose is extremely clunky. I talk about writing rhythm quite often: this has a terrible rhythm, stopping and starting and so jerky. It was teeth-grating. But I pushed as far as I could because – Venezuelan-inspired fantasy! Non-humans everywhere! Queer girls and dark gods! What about that doesn’t sound amazing? If the prose was bothering me, surely it would get better, or I’d get used to it?

Well, it didn’t and I didn’t, either.

Eva straightened out, the back of her neck prickling.

The above line is supposed to be Eva sitting up straight in her chair in response to A Thing. Who says straightened out instead of straightened up? It sounds just a little bit off, just a little bit wrong, and that niggly, anxious-unhappy feeling stayed with me through all 22% I read.

the edges of the ore contacted the crystal contraption

??? Contacted? Why can’t you just say touched?

Eva’s jaw rippled in indignation.

Her jaw what?

The dialogue is arguably even worse. No one speaks naturally; every character is a mouthpiece for clumsy into-dumping. The character behaviour is incredibly confusing – less so with the main characters than with the extensive secondary cast, but still, I didn’t understand why anyone was doing or saying the things they did. And granted, it’s a big book – there’s room for the characters to develop more and become more interesting – but for the first quarter of the book, they’re both kind of…limp? The term that springs to mind is ‘milksops’, believe it or not. They both have a little bit of spine, but for the most part they seemed to just…drift through the pages. Reina in particular was sold to me as a Dark Ruthless Girl, and, um, that is definitely not the case in the part I read.

Oddly and sadly, very little is described to us, so this Venezuelan-inspired fantasy I was so excited about? I have no idea how to picture any of it. That was incredibly disappointing; I was so excited for the imagery we’d get in a story like this!

Basically, I wanted lush prose to match lush imagery, and got neither. This read as so awkward and clumsy, more like a first draft than a polished final version. I really wanted to love it, but I just can’t.

Let’s hope Pride brings fewer DNFs!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “May DNFs

  1. Oh dear. I had high hopes for two of those but I shall revise my expectations – internal logic and prose are non-negotiables for me. Thank you for the heads-up!

    • Sia

      I feel like I should try to get less excited about books coming from authors whose writing style I don’t know yet… But thanks! Glad that came through XD

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.