Monday, May 6, 2013

Quick Reviews: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab & A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Quite obviously, these reviews aren't mini, but they're not quite my usual length either. And, I promise you, both of them are very quick reads - hence the title. I hope you enjoy! :)

Title: The Near Witch

Author: Victoria Schwab

Rating: DNF/2 Stars

You should know, right off the bat, that I am not a patient person. It's not one of my better traits, which is why I make such a conscious effort to be patient, to give every book an equal chance, to really try and connect with the characters. Yet, although the overwhelming majority of readers have loved this book, including some of my most trusted reviewers whose opinions nearly always match up with mine, I was unable to bring myself to actually finish The Near Witch. As Victoria Schwab's debut, it certainly succeeds in getting across its most important point - that Victoria Schwab can write. Schwab can string together words in a manner that can only be described as beautiful, but as far as characters, plot, or even romance goes? Unfortunately, Schwab couldn't even keep my attention for that long.

From the first page itself, The Near Witch is two things. (1) It is boring. Its plot drags on, giving us extraneous detail when we don't need it, revealing to us long and drawn-out conversation that is absolutely unnecessary and does nothing to further the plot. As such, it is very easy to let your mind wander for more than just a little bit. (2) It is shockingly unoriginal. The Near Witch is more of a fairy tale and less of a fantasy novel, but it is a long and drawn-out fairy tale. One which has been told so many times before.

Any seasoned reader of fantasy will tell you that the typical tale starts out in a secluded village (Check!), with a protagonist who is more of a tomboy than the traditional wife she is meant to be (Check!), and everything really only starts with the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Check!). At this point, a few things can happen. Either the girl will somehow wind up traveling away from her village with her stranger and, down the road, they have adventures and fall in love, all while saving their kingdom. Or, the stranger is unaccepted in the village, but the girl somehow meets him and falls in love with him anyway (Check!).

Now, all we need to add to our story is a mystery, a tale of a not-forgotten witch, and a missing child to spice everything up. As a lover of all things fantasy, this traditional set-up didn't turn me off. In fact, some of my favorite novels have followed this same pattern, but what makes them shine while The Near Witch will collect dust in my attic is the fact that their characters were compelling. Lexi, the protagonist of The Near Witch is headstrong and fierce, admirable traits for sure, but I never really felt any type of connection with her. If the plot itself had been a little more engaging, I suspect I may have warmed up to Lexi, but with such a slow plot-line, I couldn't bring myself to really care all that much.

Ultimately, I have to admit that it was the slow pace that made me put this down far before I'd reached the end. In all honesty, the story of The Near Witch could be condensed into a novella and have more success as, really, it is just a simple fairy tale. Schwab's debut is not, in my eyes, a full-blown fantasy novel and it lacks the plot structure to become one. Nevertheless, I have to warn you all to take this review with a grain of salt. Schwab's debut seems to have been a favorite of many readers and I suspect, as always, this is just another case of me being a black sheep. Although I fully intend to read Schwab's The Archived, perhaps I'll go into it with fewer expectations now. Either way, I can only hope Schwab's sophomore novel is far stronger than her debut could hope to be.

Title: A Long, Long Sleep 

Author: Anna Sheehan

Rating: 2 Stars/DNF

Well...this was a disappointment. A Long, Long Sleep is a well-known novel, acclaimed by nearly every single one of my most trusted reviewers. Clearly, there is something wrong with me. Although Sheehan's debut has an original premises with a futuristic twist on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, I unfortunately can't claim to be impressed. At all.

At first, it's difficult not to be enamored with this novel. It all starts with Rose waking up after six decades only to find that her parents and boyfriend have died, along with virtually everyone she knows, because of a great plague. Rose, who was "stassed" or kept alive in a chamber, must now face the futuristic realm she finds herself in, all while getting accustomed to the world of politics and intrigue she has simultaneously been thrown in.

While I loved the idea behind A Long, Long Sleep, I found its execution to be poor. Rose, for one, is a heroine I didn't feel much for. On one hand, I appreciate that she's physically weak from her ordeal and mentally confused, but she fails to make any attempts to improve her lifestyle. Furthermore, she seems fixated both on her first love, Xavier, and her new crush, Bren, who really isn't all that great as a hunk. In fact, the only secondary characters I liked were Otto, an alien, and, ironically enough, the villain who wants to prevent Rose from owning the large corporation her parents built when she comes of age.

A Long, Long Sleep also falls flat in the world-building department. Thankfully, it is present, but since it's told in large chunks, it disrupts the flow of the story and can drag. Moreover, the corporate political path that this book seems to take in the beginning is utterly abandoned in favor of a typical high-school love story. Even more unfortunate is the fact that there is virtually no difference between the futuristic society Rose wakes up in and the one she went to sleep in. I appreciate that Sheehan took pains to distinguish modern phrases, but either than a few technology shifts, not much has happened in six decades.

Granted, I abandoned this book in an interested spot, directly half-way through the narration. Yet, I think it says a lot about a novel that I had no qualms setting it down right as it explained a major plot twist. Even more than a lackluster plot line and execution, this novel failed to make me establish any connections with its cast. All in all, A Long, Long Sleep is just another one of those hyped up novels. Perhaps if I had gone into it without expecting something much greater, I would have been more satisfied. As it stands, I don't plan to re-visit this novel - or its author - again.


  1. I know what you mean about the Near Witch. I liked it though because I loved the writing but it does get a bit boring. The Long Sleep sounds like a good one to pass on!

  2. I haven't heard of neither of these but right now I think I will pass these. I mean I love the cover and idea of A Long, Long Sleep but it seems not worth my time. Thanks for these honest reviews!

  3. Too bad on both of these Keertana! Patience is usually not one of my virtues either, but for some reason with books, my patience seems to be far greater than it is in other areas. I have no idea why, I have this driving need to finish a book though! I've read mixed reviews on The Near Witch, and from what I've read, I think I'm going to leave it alone for now. I hope the next book you pick up is a winner!

  4. Aw... too bad you didn't like it. I didn't mind the Near Witch. It did have it's boring points, but not so much I couldn't get through it. Still, I understand. I think hype is what kept me away from A Long Long Sleep. Might wait a bit longer before I start that one... or try to! :)

  5. aw no! I hadn't heard of A Long Long Sleep before this review, but I'm loving the premise. It's such a bummer that it didn't deliver though! And I have The Near Witch and have been meaning to read it. I tried to before but was having trouble getting into it. I'm disappointed to hear that it's not all that great. I wasn't a huge fan of The Archived, but I was hoping The Near Witch would be more enjoyable. Sorry you didn't like these, keertana!

  6. That's really disappointing to hear you didn't enjoy The Near Witch, Keertana! I am so looking forward to reading this because I have heard great things, and, frankly, I'm more interested in the story this promises to tell than the story for The Archived. I do love fairy-tale retellings, so the more traditional structure shouldn't bother me very much, I'm hoping. And I tend to be a patient and forgiving reader to books with slower starts. I'm crossing my fingers that this'll work out fine for me!

    And I am so glad I skipped over the monthly Kindle deal for A Long, Long Sleep. I wasn't sure about the premise, and I'm glad to know that there's a strong potential I wouldn't have enjoyed it if you didn't. So sorry these two didn't work out for you, but I enjoyed reading your brief thoughts on them, as always.

  7. I've read really mixed reviews about The Near Witch, so I don't really think that it would be a book for me. Whereas A Long Long Sleep however I have had a copy for forever and I definitely think I would enjoy it, so will try and give it a go one day. Sorry these books didn't work out for you Keertana, I sometimes hate feeling the odd one out, but I do like it when another read provides an alternative perspective! :)

  8. Both of these are books I heard of a few years ago and probably added to my to-read list but with no urgency or need to read them so now I will probably skip them if they were boring or under developed in their world building

  9. Sorry that neither of these worked for you! That is always disappointing. I enjoyed The Near Witch b/c I though it was written lyrically well. But I can see your complaints about it being slow - and not totally original. The second one also sounds really cool, but the problems you list make me more hesitant to pick it up. I'm really curious about your reaction to The Archived. I liked it overall, but definitely thought it had a few problems. Thanks for the honest reviews!

  10. The beginning of The Near Witch was solid. The atmosphere was created so perfectly and just fell apart. I wanted the main character to have some agency, to do some things and have some power but she doesn't. Her second book is also problematic, The Archived I mean, but it has one of the most interesting male characters who won me over. I don't like her female protags all that much, honestly.

  11. Thanks for your honesty. I finished The Near Witch and liked it enough, but I don't think it's going to be a book I'm going to return to, and it hasn't been one that I've remembered to continue recommending to others. As for A Long, Long Sleep, I knew there was a reason why I've kept on holding back on whether or not I want to read it, and you've explained why. :)

  12. The Near Witch does lack originality. I agree about that! Funnily enough, though, I still liked it well enough. I had A LOT of problems with it, and wouldn't call it a favourite, but I enjoyed it overall. I skimmed A Long, Long Sleep and think I gave it 3 stars in the end. Now, try as I might, I can't recall a single thing about it. O_O

    Sorry neither of these particularly worked for you, Keertana! Lovely reviews as always.

  13. Oh no, two DNF reviews at once!

    I have to admit, I was really frustrated with A LONG, LONG SLEEP in the beginning, too--the main character infuriated me at times. But I ended up quite liking it, because of the way the second half was handled. I understand why you put it down, though, I almost did as well.

    I'm sorry you didn't enjoy THE NEAR WITCH either. I don't mind slower books and from reading THE ARCHIVED I like her writing style, so I'll probably still give it a go at some point.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  14. Hmm...I know we talked about your feelings about The Near Witch on Goodreads back when you first read it, and weirdly I have to say the fact that you didn't at all enjoy A Long, Long Sleep either gives me hope again that I really WILL enjoy The Near Witch even though you didn't. I'm sorry you didn't find ALLS well executed, I know I'm one of those who really enjoyed it.


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