I am not a frequent DNFer but the sheer amount of books I want to read means that I am starting to invest less time in ones that don’t bring much enjoyment. My two most recent abandoned reads were ones I’d been looking forward to for a while, and are also new releases provided from publishers, so I felt extra bad giving up on them, but I do believe that if I’d stuck with them I would have ended up resenting the time I spent reading and probably started a reading slump. As it is, I’m trying to switch up my genres at the moment because I worry I’ve had a fantasy overload so something I might have enjoyed at another time could get dismissed. So, what are my two DNFs?
Stars and Bones by Gareth Powell
Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been cast from a dying Earth to wander the stars in a vast fleet of arks—each shaped by its inhabitants into a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities. When her sister disappears while responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to look for her. What she discovers on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her back to the fleet and people start dying, she is tasked with seeking out a legendary recluse who may just hold the key to humanity’s survival.
Sounds cool right? The other thing that sounded cool was the fact that the human race was cast from earth by huge angel-like beings that have been monitoring sentient life forms from the vastness of space. I say this a lot, but I am massively into huge primordial forces interacting with the human world and so when I started this book I was pretty excited to see where it might go. However, there was something about the writing style, and the way the pace of the story moved that really threw me off. The last straw was the cat aboard main character Eryn’s ship, which has a chip that allows its thought to translate to human speech. This is really cool, but seemed ridiculous in the way that cats think and act, because it felt like reading another human character who just happened to be cat-shaped. Maybe one day I’ll revisit the story to unravel the mystery of it and maybe knowing the things I don’t like will make me overlook them a little, but for now it’s a no from me.
The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan
The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the imperial throne. Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. At his side stands Helena Sedanka, his clerk and protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the empire. When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt and Helena must make a choice: will they abandon the laws they’ve sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?
I have to say, I am so disappointed to have had to DNF this one – I’ve been seeing hyped up reviews for it since before Christmas and couldn’t wait to start reading it. And when I started, things were looking good. It had a slow, brooding start, and I liked the fact that it was Helena the clerk and not Sir Konrad Vonvalt the intimidating Justice that was narrating the story because it gave a different angle. I also liked the bits of world building I got to see early on, especially the familiarity of the empire’s religion incorporating and changing slightly the preexisting beliefs of conquered kingdoms, and the arcane magic possessed by all the Justices.
However, I soon grew tired of Helena as a narrator because she was so petulant and never focused on the events I wanted to follow as the reader – Helena herself notes the silliness of her youth, as she narrates the story from much further in the future, but for me that wasn’t enough of an excuse to put up with it. The unravelling of the mysteries also felt too slow, and overall it just felt like everyone was grey and miserable about everything all the time, with nothing interesting enough going on to justify that. As I often do when I DNF a book after giving it a decent percentage of reading, I skipped to the last couple of chapters to at least get some conclusion, and to be honest I didn’t feel like I missed much. Maybe this was just the wrong read at the wrong time, but I don’t think I’ll be revisit this, sadly. There are plenty of raving reviews, though, so do give the story a fair chance!