I’m taking a short break from my Bronte reviews for something different. I’m a big fan of fantasy and strong female characters. I also read a lot of young adult literature. The Naming, by Alison Croggon, combines all of these things. It’s about a slave girl named Maerad who finds out she has special powers and goes on a journey to develop them. It’s the first of four in the Pellinor Series. It sounds like a winner, right?
Wrong. The Naming, to me, is a prime example of why you should not judge a book by its cover- or in this case, the spine. I was browsing the YA section at my local Borders and this series caught my eye. The spines have a really nice design on them that I thought would look pretty on my shelf. Before you start laughing at me for blindly buying a book for that reason, just wait. I actually did read the blurb on the back and went home and read several reviews before I purchased it. The large majority of the reviews on Goodreads are very positive and it did sound good from all the summaries! It’s supposed to be an “epic fantasy!”
Long story short, I was hugely disappointed. The storyline is very derivative, which is admittedly not necessarily a bad thing. There are no really original ideas anymore so everything depends on the execution- the author needs to put her own spin on things. Croggon did do this a little bit- her magical characters, or Bards, have powers based on language and music- that idea isn’t all that common as far as I know. Yet this book only ended up as a poor man’s Lord of the Rings for me. For one- it’s boring. While nearly 600 pages, it’s mind-numbingly slow-paced and nearly nothing happens! The majority of the book is just descriptions of the landscape and scenery on the journey Maerad and her mentor, Cadvan take. Croggon is apparently a poet and loves to describe all the forest and mountains and things in poetic detail. Although poetry’s not really my thing, I thought it was nice at first. But it ended up probably taking up 2/3 of the book! I didn’t need to read about every little thing the characters were eating.
Secondly, the characters are two-dimensional at best. At worst, less than one-dimensional. I knew nothing more about Maerad’s personality at the end of the book than I did at the beginning, ditto Cadvan… and all of the other characters! I think the root of this problem was in the dialogue, or lack thereof. In between paragraphs of descriptions, the characters would have a couple lines of dialogue that usually sounded more like recited speeches than actual conversations. All the opportunities for character development were wasted.
I could go on and on about several more specific issues that bothered (or rather, bored) me, but this book isn’t really worth it. It was dull and cliched; the few action scenes were not enough to save the rest of the story. I’m still baffled as to how this series is apparently so popular! There is a minority of negative reviews similar to my own that I’ve read, but very few. I won’t be bothering with the rest of the series, no matter how pretty the set looks!
My rating: 4/10