Sunday, April 27, 2014

DNF Explanation: A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey

DNF Explanation

Read: 177 of 496
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Released: January 7, 2014

First impressions

 My immediate impressions were that I loved it. It had that bright, fun feeling of Bewitching Season and I LOVE those kinds of light historicals (even while I'm always slightly disappointed that they're usually not all that deeply historical). But still, they usually have adorably intrepid main characters, sweet and ever so slightly sizzling romances and a bouncing mystery to keep the plot rollicking.

And then. At first I wasn't exactly sure what the problem was, but even early on I was feeling like this was going to be no more than a 3.5 star read. One of those "nice" but largely forgettable books.

Who are these people?!

Here's my problem, which I think is exacerbated even more by the ever-shifting POVs and absolutely gigantic cast of characters: I didn't connect with any of the characters and I had an extremely hard time distinguishing any of them.

Whenever someone spoke I had to keep mentally reminding myself, "Oh, she's the one with the bottle" or "she's the one with the ring" or so on. And I was only ever mildly certain that I was even matching them properly.

By the 130 page mark, I still hadn't entirely figured out who was who (nor cared much to try), which is a ridiculous amount of page time to still be wondering, "Wait, who is speaking?" They're very much "types" but even with that authorial crutch, they're very ill-defined. Even worse, there are are few types used twice (Cormac's three sisters are nearly identical to the three main girls).

Still, I liked all of them, I think, because I like the overall "type" of character they are. Put a character in period-dresses, make them speak in that girlishly proper way, and then add a dash of "game for escapades" and I'm usually good to go.

Take thee to an editor!

I feel like a whole lot of stuff got left on the cutting room floor. This whole book feels like it's suffering from something that seems to be happening to a lot of YA books lately: It feels thrown together. A rush job. A SLOPPY rush job.

I'm all for jumping right into the action. That's great and I don't think that's necessarily the problem. I think it's more that no time has been spent on actually developing things properly. The rules, the characters, the basic framework of the plot. It's all just thrown together with a haphazard "oh they'll figure it out" feel.

Let's take the page count, for example. 496? Ok, that means either a TON of things are happening, or there's a lot of filler (and in A Breath of Frost's case, it's a mix of filler and extensive, yet vague and haphazard, set up). Either way, the book shouldn't be suffering from fuzzy characterizations and an overall feeling of "I'm missing something."

There is a serious amount of editing and re-writing that needs to go on to tighten up this narrative and better ground the world, plot, and characters. I know I read an ARC, but it felt extremely unpolished and I have little faith that the finished version will miraculously fix these things.

It's historically WRONG

Look, I'm not expecting exacting period detail here (and I've made peace with that), but some ground rules still must be followed if I'm going to have any kind of historical immersion.

For example, a minor slip of anachronistic fashion is fine, but the girls couldn't go walking around in pants without reprisal. Likewise, I'm all for Emma breaking some social norms of propriety and cornering Cormac in an unchaperoned corner of the ballroom to demand some answers (as she well should!), but she doesn't do that.

What she did instead (and the character reactions surrounding it) was SO historically unbelievable I nearly gagged. Not only that, but in not paying attention to the particulars of her historical setting, the author inadvertently damned her character to TSTL status and at that point I was really starting to lose interest.

But the magic IS fun

I like the idea of animal familiars, and they did seem to have interesting potential. But, potential. Because, like everything else, I didn't fully understand this magic system. I'm sure it's explained more later on, but I feel like I should have a better grounding than I had after reading over 177 pages.

He did WHAT?!

The love interest engaged in some actions that landed him on my Unforgivable list, which is a terrible place for a romantic hero to be. How am I supposed to swoon at a man who does that?

I thought maybe, just maybe there was the tiniest chance he could be redeemed, but then read a spoiler for something he (and the heroine, gah!) does toward the end of the book and, nope, he's firmly persona non grata. That was the last straw for me and I DNF-ed then and there.

Bottom line

There was a lot of potential, and I really, really wish it had been realized. Just a little more editing to pull things together, even out the narrative, flesh out the characters (and remove the awful things they do) and I could have loved this book!

Sadly, DNF.

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  1. Sounds like a miss for me! I hate books that seem rushed - I just read The Taking by Kimberly Derting and I had the same feeling about that one.

  2. I'm sorry, I think that I would have a very similar reaction to yours!!
    Hope your next read is awesome

  3. I have not even heard of this book but thank you for this review. Summed up very well. I think the historical inaccuracies would be the downfall for me if I read it.

  4. I gave this one a try and didn't make it very far either. So disappointed since I LOVED the Drake series!

  5. I've tried reading Harvey's books in the past (e.g. Drake Chronicles) but could never get into them, Small, so I just don't even bother attempting to read her books anymore. I hate when there's a giant cast of characters and POVs and you can't tell anyone apart ... it sucks even more with this one because it's so long. I'm kind of curious to know what the love interest did that's so unforgivable.

  6. Woah, those are some very serious reasons to DNF.

  7. I'm a little more patient reader than you are, so I stuck this one out. I agree it took me SO MUCH time to figure out the cast of characters and I was still mixing them up even by the end of the book. I liked the story, though and it did hold my interest. I'm thinking about continuing with the series. Will see how the second book fares in reviews before I make my final decision. And yes..... it was a VERY LONG book.


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