Monday, 13 October 2008

The worst fantasy novel I've ever read...

Adam over at the Wertzone wrote an article about some of the books, movies, etc, that came out ten years ago. I noticed that one of the books mentioned was Raymond Feist's Krondor: The Betrayal. There's nothing particularly significant about that...other than the fact that Krondor: The Betrayal is hands-down the worst fantasy novel that I've ever read.

I've always wondered how Feist - who wrote the classic epic fantasy novel Magician, as well as the very good Serpent War saga - managed to write such a shockingly bad novel.

There's only one redeeming feature about this book: it's not very long. Otherwise, it's a wonderful example of how not to write a fantasy novel. The plot is horribly linear with no surprises or memorable scenes, probably due to the fact that it was based on a video game of a similar name (which ironically was well-received by critics at the time of release).

The characters are depressingly dull and one-dimensional with no dynamic at all in their relationships. The writing itself totally lacks enthusiasm and flair. Granted, Feist was going through a divorce at the time, and clearly his head just wasn't in the right place. But still, that doesn't wholly explain it - the subsequent Krondor books (Assassins and Tear of the Gods) were not much better.

Even when you consider Feist's personal circumstances and the fact that he'd been hamstrung by the limits of the earlier computer game, it's still a terrible novel by his standards. In fact, worse than that - it could be argued that Krondor: The Betrayal signalled the start of Feist's decline in terms of the quality of his work. He might be as popular as ever (there was certainly a big turn-out for the signing I went to not so long ago) but the novels he's written since have been far short of the quality of his earlier work (though I ought to point out I've not read his most recent efforts).

All in all, an awful novel.

So, that's mine. Anyone else like to share their all-time worst fantasy novel?

20 comments:

T.D. Newton said...

I'm not quite sure if this counts as a Fantasy novel... but it is definitely the worst book I have ever forced myself to finish. I even wrote a review for it on Amazon and if it lights that much of a fire under me then you know it's bad.
The Fall of Lucifer

Close runner-ups include:
The Wizard Lord, mostly for the fact of how many times the main character says "oh"
and
The Bastard King, mostly because the author thinks it necessary to rehash every detail and thereby bloat the book to 2-3 times the size it should have been

If you've read any of these, I feel bad for you.

Adam Whitehead said...

Whilst Krondor: The Betrayal is up there, there are a few others that exceeded it's suckiness quotient for me, notably Wizards' First Rule by Tairy and the Mission Earth series by Elron Hubbard.

However, the clear front-runner, by a mile, is the ominbus edition of The Tamuli by David Eddings. There are no words to describe how astonishingly atrocious this book is. I thought The Elenium was okay, but this sequel is dull, boring, stupid and incredibly flat.

Mark Newton said...

If I'm honest, and a book is so irredeemably bad, I never get to the end. There are far too many good books out there to persist with tripe!

Jebus said...

Yeah the Krondor books were pretty damn awful, I still read all Feist's novels but he has gone way way down in quality in recent years.

Worst book I finished was probably Goodkind's "Wzard's First Rule" - I just had to find out how atrociously awful the end was, and he didn't disappoint (from vague memory).

Trying to think of others that I didn't finish 'cause I just had to give up: Cecilia Dart Thornton's "The Ill-Made Mute", I'm trying to think of others but I think I have blocked them from my memory!

Mark Newton said...

Oh, one I certainly didn't finish: Robin Hobb's Fool's Errand. Thought I'd give her books a go, to see what the fuss was about. The lead character dude didn't leave his pastoral cottage for over a hundred pages. It was all about herbs and cosiness. NOTHING HAPPENED. EDITOR PLEASE.

Darren Turpin said...

Mark mate, Fool's Errand is really the fourth book in the ongoing story of the principle character in that series - what you did there was the equivalent of starting with The Return of the King and then wondering what all this fuss about rings is in aid of and why are these two short dudes wandering around in a swamp for ages..? ;)

James said...

TD: Those books do sound pretty bad.

Wert: Not read WFR, though I did read SoT, BotF and TotW in Goodkind's series. Must have liked them...though I was 14 or so. I then tried to read SotF, and abandoned it after three pages because it seemed shit. Maybe previously I wasn't old enough to appreciate how bad Goodkind is...

Jebus: I've flicked through some of Dart-Thornton's books, and her writing is terrible. So overblown. Turgid crap.

Mark: OMG OWNED BY DARREN. OMG FIGHT.

Darren: You're 1-0 up against the Newt-Meister. Now, await his vitriolic slap-down. FIGHT PLS.

Mark Newton said...

Dude, that's even worse — that all that way through the range of books... STILL NOTHING WAS HAPPENING! Book One, or Book Four - there's no excuse for that.

At least the couple of little hairy fellas were fighting orcs and stuff. I would have paid good money to watch that main character be besieged by orcs whilst playing with his damn herbs.

;)

Darren Turpin said...

No, no, no, no no... you've already admitted you hadn't read the first three, so I'm calling you on inadmissable evidence - 2-0 to the home-team before half-time... got anything else in your locker? :p

Mark Newton said...

Well blame the publisher for packaging them as a new series arc, and labelling it as "Book One".

Anyway, if I wanted to read a hundred pages of that, in any book, start or end of series, I'd read an aga saga... ;)

Darren Turpin said...

Oooh, changing the goal-posts and giving us a mutually acceptable to snark at - good move. Call it an honourable draw..? :)

Mark Newton said...

The only way to end this is quite simple:

Remote Control Jousting Knights!

Darren Turpin said...

Oh, you are so on! I'll see you in the lists! :D

(Think we'd better let James have his comment thread back now?)

Mark Newton said...

He started it! :)

James said...

Gentlemen, I think we have to call it a draw as you both raise valid points and I've no wish to see blood spilled on the blog.

OMG REMOTE CONTROL JOUSTING KNIGHTS.

Anrake said...

for the most part I avoid books with bad reviews so I've been pretty lucky, but Tad William's Otherland series was by far the worse. I can't believe I could read over 3000 pages (!!) and not care one bit about any of the characters. How could he even write 3000 pages without moving the plot forward. Then he throws everything at you in the last 200 pages to backfill the story that should have been there from 1000 pages or so ago. "Sliders meets cyberspace" gets my vote for least value per page read.

James said...

Anrake: Not surprised to hear you mention Tad Williams. It took me several attempts to get through The Dragonbone Chair and I eventually abandoned the series halfway through the third book. I think it was the awful songs that did it. Only Tolkien really gets away with having songs in his work...

Plus I thought that the books were rather overblown. He could easily have told the story in fewer words.

T.D. Newton said...

Okay, found a new one.

Have you checked out The Innocent Mage? (Karen Miller)

I read the prologue and first two chapters and wanted to stab myself with something.

Sorry if anyone liked it, but it was one of the worst beginnings I've ever experienced. Had to give up.

Adam Whitehead said...

If you want to get picky, than Fool's Errand is the seventh book in Hobb's world (although the middle three are largely set elsewhere with different characters).

I stuck with Hobb until her sixth book using that pen-name (the final Liveship book). She has a good grasp of character and her writing is good, but by god she badly needs a decent editor.

James said...

TD: I've not read the Miller, but it sounds like bubblegum fantasy with zero innovation (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

I have mentioned before however how boring her promotional video was. OMG DULL. Actually put me off the book.