To date, I have read 162 books in 2019. Most of them have been average to great. Some were instant favorites that I will keep forever. Others ranged from below average to downright awful. These are the most disappointing books of the year.
The Most Disappointing Books of 2019:
The Blade of the Courtesans by Keiichiro Ryu
This was billed as an action-packed historical fiction story about a young warrior defending a city from corrupt government officials while dealing with his feelings for a mysterious young woman. What it was was a convoluted tale about a naive warrior fighting every man who insults him, and then going off to treat every woman in the story like a sex object.
Blood of Elves (The Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski
Two short story collections precede the main body of Sapkowski’s Witcher novels. These are cracking tales filled with action, humor, and subversion of traditional European fairy tales. Blood of Elves, on the other hand, was clumsily written (or perhaps clumsily translated) where action scenes happened out of nowhere, characters appeared as it was convenient to the story, and then the scenes would shift to convoluted political and philosophical conversations by characters the reader has never seen before. After the quick pace, sharp focus, and dry humor of the short story collections, Blood of Elves was a letdown.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
This was billed as a sprawling tale of good vs. evil, dragons, a queen born to oppose the ultimate foe, women warriors, and forbidden love. What it ended up being was an overlong and overwritten mishmash of characters arcs that relies on an East vs. West dichotomy that quickly grows tiring, and which focuses on the least interesting aspects of the world Shannon built, as though she was so intent on showing off all the research she had done that she forgot to build a compelling story. Some 700 pages are devoted to building up the final battle, which occurs in a comparative eyeblink to allow an extended denouement so the reader knows exactly what the characters plan to do ten years on.
Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan
Dark forests, soaring cathedrals, eldritch gods, and a heroine who speaks directly with those gods. These are all elements that should have made this book a hit with me, but it failed at nearly every turn. Duncan’s writing feels rushed, and nearly every tired YA trope and cliche appears in this tale, which isn’t half as eerie as it claims to be. The heroine, Nadya, isn’t like other girls. She’s chosen by her gods and is granted special powers. She can’t help but fall for the bad boy with a troubled past. The YA tropes come so often and so fast that you might be tempted to create a drinking game out of it, assuming you weren’t concerned about the state of your liver.
And the Worst Book I Read in 2019?
That dubious honor goes to the book that earned my sole one-star Goodreads rating in 2019:
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas
The opening line begins with Celaena Sardothien being sneaky and ends with a brief discussion of local flatbread. And it’s all downhill from there. Chaol spends most of his time thinking about all the places where he and Celaena had sex instead of keeping his mind on his job as captain of the guard; Dorian is too busy flirting to keep his mind on the fact that his corrupt father is running the country into the ground and slaughtering innocent people; Celaena is so focused on throwing herself a pity party every ten minutes that she can’t be bothered to think about anyone else, even though she has had plenty of chances to see that a lot of people are worse off than she is. A group of badass warrior witches are supposed to be loyal to the death to each other, but are willing to stab each other in the back over antics worthy of a grade school cafeteria; a new love interest is physically and mentally abusive, but he’s good-looking so we’ll overlook his bad qualities. Maas wears her inspirations on her sleeve without making their additions meaningful and has waged a multi-book assault on the proper uses of punctuation. I bought this book used, and then sent it to be recycled rather than inflicting it on an innocent bystander. I am still baffled by Maas’s popularity.