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.