Did Not Finish Explanation
Received: ARC from publisher
Read pages: 136 of 389
This hurts to write. I mean, not only did I have high hopes for this book, but I even requested it! And now I feel all guilty and sad and like I need to go find some rock to crawl under.
Look, it's not that Cinders & Sapphires is a BAD book. It's a fine book. It's written in a fluffy, straight forward style that makes reading a breeze. It was almost like reading a large type book where I feel like I can award myself "Fast Reader" points because I can fly through a bunch of pages in a really short amount of time. So if you're at all scared off by the large page count, don't be.
I can see readers looking for something light and entertaining devouring Cinders & Sapphires. There will be a large audience for this book, of that I have no doubt.
Except I'm not part of that audience. Ok, I just need to muster up my courage and spit it out already. There are two main reasons I DNF-ed Cinders & Sapphires.
Lay back and think of England, not Oxford
First, this is not a historically accurate book. Ruby and I were talking one night about what makes a historical fiction book something we like and we both agreed that character realism was a must.
If I'm reading about some old timey setting, I don't want the characters spouting off modern ideas that no character in that time period would ever even think about let alone righteously endorse. (*cough*)
So that was strike number one against Cinders & Sapphires. The characters felt entirely too modern in their values, thoughts, and approach to life. If I wanted contemporary characters, then I would read contemporary novels. I can't get lost in a book when I'm being constantly torn out of the time period by anachronisms.
This goes double when the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts with nothing but ridiculously unrealistic thoughts and actions. I didn't even have a believable basis for how the characters' background and experience would ever lead them to act the way they did. They just didn't make any sense.
Don't sell me on Buffy and then give me Dawn
Strike two came about because of comparisons. I know comparisons can be great marketing tools (hey, tell me something is the next Crown Duel and I'll be all over that in a heartbeat), but it can also cause massive eyerolling and lots of disappointment (which is why I pretty much refuse to read anything billed as "The Next Harry Potter" or "The Next Hunger Games").
I've heard Cinders & Sapphires described as Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey, and, yeah, I totally see that comparison. Except, instead of being "inspired by" or "in the genre of" or some other allusion like that, Cinders & Sapphires reads more like unoriginal fan fiction.
And if you're going to write fan fiction, you'd better offer up something inspired. If we're pulling from Gossip Girl, then the scandals had better be way jucier than those in GG. If we're drawing on Downton Abbey then the sprawling period details need to be just as rich (they're barely even there) and, again, the scandals need to be even more shocking (yawn).
So when Mary (spoiler for Downton Abbey season 1) has such phenomenally fantastic unwedded sex with a Turkish man leading him to DROP DEAD IN HER DEVIRGINIZING BED, I'm not going to be very impressed with a few forbidden kisses with a boy from India. Even if he is a revolutionary (just like Tom from Downton!)
And the comparisons don't stop there. Most characters and events beg direct comparisons from either source material...and pretty much every trope in the genre. And they fall short in every instance.
I don't want to read a book and think, "Oh look, that's O'Brian, but less devious" or "Oh, that's Thomas (in C&S's case, the "token gay romance"), but without any character nuance" or "That's Chuck, but he's more like a flimsy shadow" or "That's Blair, without any depth, skill, or flair."
If I had never seen Gossip Girl or Downton Abbey, then Cinders & Sapphires might have been more appealing. As it was, I couldn't stop making comparisons, and Cinders & Sapphires never once came out ahead. A better comparison might have been the Luxe series (which left me with similar complaints).
So, definitely for some readers (a lot, if Goodreads is any indication), but not for me.
Do you have any questions about Cinders & Sapphires that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!
Feel free to ask in the comments!