BOOK REVIEW: THE GENESIS OF MISERY by NEON YANG


The Genesis of Misery and I didn’t exactly gel together.

On both a narrative and craft level, I struggled with The Genesis of MiseryNarratively, it is just too insular. For almost 50% of the book, the only character that’s developed in any kind of capacity, who we get any insight on, is Misery. During that span of the novel, other characters only exist for Misery to react to: to agree with, or act against, or listen to, or speculate about. They are not, in any real sense of the word, developed characters. It’s only after we get past that first 50-60% of the novel that other characters start making a place for themselves in the narrative (i.e. start actually being developed), but by that point it was just too little too late for me. To put it simply: there weren’t enough developed characters in this novel, and by the time we did get some, it was too rushed and just not enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Misery. She has a very strong narrative voice, a fallibility and a rolling-with-the-punches kind of attitude that makes it easy to be endeared to her. Thing is, we were in her head–and only in her head–for so long. It got to be a little frustrating: I wanted her to do something that wasn’t just thinking or speculating or ruminating or dreaming. It’s why I was desperate for more characters, an opportunity to let us get to know Misery through her interactions with other characters, who could then be developed themselves. Also, none of this was helped by the fact that the plot of the book is very sequential: Misery talks to some people, Misery goes to a new location, Misery trains, Misery does a mission, Misery is given another mission, etc. etc. It made me restless, especially because, like I said, all of this was heavily focused on Misery with very little development from other characters until much later on in the story.

In terms of craft, I struggled a bit with the writing of this novel. On the one hand, I liked how colloquial Misery’s voice was (she swears a lot, uses a lot of slang, etc.), and I also didn’t mind the way Yang incorporated some internet lingo throughout the story (there is, in fact, a “yeet” in this book). The thing about The Genesis of Misery, though, is that it operates on two kinds of registers: the super personal, colloquial one, and the super grandiose, larger-than-life one. At a certain point, some things happen in the book that change Misery’s perspective, and that’s when she starts looking at her world with a much grander scope, and where that grandiose register starts popping up. And it’s not even that I didn’t like it, or that it was badly written–it was just so repetitive. We have to read the same kind of super grandiose, over-the-top language over and over and over again, and frankly it started irritating me by the end of the novel.

The Genesis of Misery was the kind of novel that structurally did not work for me–and that in fact could not have worked for me. A novel whose story is primarily invested in only one character, a novel that only substantially develops that one character, is just not the kind of novel that I, personally, enjoy reading. I’m a reader whose investment lies in the interpersonal moreso than anything, and at the end of the day that’s really what I was missing from The Genesis of Misery.

Thanks so much to Tor for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!



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BOOK REVIEW: THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY by MEGAN BANNEN


The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy tries to do a lot of things–to be romantic, to be poignant, to be funny–and it’s not that it fails at those things, exactly, but that it doesn’t quite succeed at them, either.

On paper, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a novel that should’ve been–and that I very much expected to be–an instant favourite. But the execution really let me down here. It attempts a lot, but the writing just doesn’t sustain or hold up all the things it’s attempting. First, the romance: again, on paper all the elements were there, but in practice they didn’t come together–which is a shame, because it really was poised to be such a great romance. For one, there’s the fact that it’s based on You’ve Got Mail, which is one of my all time favourite movies. For another, it’s also such a great setup in general: the enemies-to-lovers, epistolary-romance, dramatic-irony of it all. For me, though, it didn’t quite work. I didn’t really get why the characters hated each other–the novel does eventually tell us why, but its explanation felt flimsy and not very believable given that these characters have disliked each other for 4 whole years–and then when they did stop hating each other, it felt way too abrupt and not organic enough of a development. The novel spends a lot of time in the beginning setting up the characters’ letters to each other, and the letters were nice, but nothing about them really struck me as especially moving or special either. The word I keep reaching for is generic: the letters were nice, sure, but they just never surprised or moved me in any way. (That the romance is inspired by/retells You’ve Got Mail doesn’t do the novel any favours because You’ve Got Mail does it all–the setup, the characters, the dialogue, the conflict, the resolution–so much better.) (Then again it is one of my all time favourite movies, so a lot to live up to there, I guess.)

What I felt about the romance–that it was lackluster, that it was more than a bit disappointing–I pretty much felt about the rest of the novel. The worldbuilding was fine, the plot was fine, but neither elicited anything in particular from me, and they both felt a bit cobbled together in their execution. Had I been more invested in the romance, I wouldn’t have minded the weak worldbuilding or plot–I can forgive a novel a lot if I feel drawn to its characters and/or their relationships–but because I wasn’t, those weaker elements stood out to me all the more.

I think what it comes down to for me is that this novel was really missing a strong sense of narrative voice. (Or maybe that its narrative voice just wasn’t to my taste.) Frankly, I don’t care about the plot or worldbuilding stuff all that much–or at least, I only care about it up to a point. What I’m really here for is the characters, and I just didn’t feel like these characters were that distinct or impressionable. I could tell what The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was trying to do as a novel, but at the same time I could also tell that what it was trying to do wasn’t working for me. I can see this novel working for a lot of readers–and again, it wasn’t a complete write-off for me–but as a whole it just lacked that strong sense of personality that’s at the forefront of the kind of books that I tend to love.

Thanks so much to Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!




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FANTASY BOOKS ON MY TBR


2022 RELEASES

Babel by R. F. Kuang

After reading and really enjoying R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War trilogy, I’ve been super interested to see what she comes out with next, and now we have a new novel by her! Babel sounds like a very ambitious novel–also it’s very long–so I’m interested to see if it delivers on what it promises. I’m kind of concerned that this is going to be more about the ideas than the characters, but we’ll see. I am cautiously optimistic.


A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

I absolutely loved A Marvellous Light when I read it last year, so this one, which is its sequel, was an absolute no-brainer for me. I love fantasy, I love romance, and I just know this book is going to be the perfect blend of those two things. I don’t wanna speak too soon but I just can’t imagine myself not loving this.


The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri

Another no-brainer. The Jasmine Throne is one of my favourite fantasy novels, and I am so incredibly excited for this sequel. I have a feeling it’s going to be even better than the first book–the stakes are about to get so much higher!!! Tasha Suri is one of my favourite authors so I’ll pretty much read anything by her at this point.


Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I feel like this one is gonna be on a lot of people’s fantasy lists this year. This series is unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I’m so curious to see where this story is gonna go next. I’m not even going to try to guess because I just know it’s going to be absolutely wild. Tamsyn Muir really keeps you on your toes. I need to reread the first two books in this series though because I remember nothing from them and also I’m pretty sure I missed/didn’t really get all the important plotty bits the first time around lol.


Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans

One thing I always look for for is fantasy novels that are more on the playful side, and this one sounds like exactly that. It looks like it’s going to be really fun, with characters who get into lots of Antics, so it’s definitely on my list. I have an ARC of this one so I’m hoping to get to it soon.


The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

I’ve heard sort of mixed reviews of this one, but even though I basically know nothing about it plot-wise, it sounds like a novel I might like–very atmospheric, and slower-paced than your typical plotty fantasy novel–so I have it on my TBR. We’ll see if I end up enjoying it, but I still want to at least try it out!


Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

This one has been making the rounds on BookTube, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of it so far. It’s been so popular that Tor picked it up, which makes me very excited about picking it up (also exciting that I actually can pick it up now, since before it was only on Kindle, I think). The idea of a cozy fantasy very much appeals to me, so I’m really hoping I like this one.


BACKLIST

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

I’ve read and loved This is How You Lose the Time War, which was co-authored by Max Gladstone, and since then I’ve really wanted to try out one of his novels. This one sounds interesting and isn’t too long, plus seems to have a very cool world.


A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

I’ve had this one on my TBR for ages and I still haven’t gotten to it lol. I read Sofia Samatar’s short story collection, Tender, a while ago and adored it, so naturally I was very excited when I found out she had a fantasy novel. This one is part of a duology, too, which means that if I enjoy this first book I can also get to its sequel.


The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

EVERYONE loves this series and I don’t wanna feel left out anymore lol. I’ve heard sort of mixed things about the first book (?), but I’ve also heard really rave reviews of this series as a whole (there are so many books in it omg), so I’m hoping that I at least enjoy this one so I can really dive into and become invested in this series. I love getting to see characters grow and develop over the course of a long series, so I’m optimistic about this one.


The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang

And finally, The Sword of Kaigen, which has been an indie fantasy hit, and which I found out about through BookTube. I don’t really know much about this one, but I haven’t heard a single bad thing about it, which is hopefully a good sign. This one I probably won’t get to till later since it’s only available on Kindle and I don’t get ebooks from there so…🤷‍♀️


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