There's a saying that "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover", but in the case of a Robert Stanek novel, you CAN judge by the cover.
A monkey could design better book covers!
This is self-published dreck of the worst sort. I normally wouldn't spend any time actually shouting out a self-published novel here except for the one fact: Stanek habitually games the online rating systems.
A suspicious number of positive reviews have been posted at Amazon.com concerning this authors Rune Mist saga, ranging from one to five stars. Rumor has it that Rob has been padding Amazon.com with fake reviews in an effort to hawk his own books. After reading book one, it was immediately apparent (after the first page) that the rumor is true. Stanek is, quite simply, the worst author I have had the misfortune of reading. He possesses not a single atom of writing ability. Ill put it like this: Keeper Martins Tale evinces all the skill of an adolescent girl, writing her first creative piece on a prancing pony. Keep away from his books if you value your sanity. His prose is so bad, it'll make your eyes bleed. I even dedicated some time a few years ago to writing a post about how Robert Stanek is gaming Amazon with hordes of fake reviews.
Not ONLY is Stanek a bad author, he's also a nasty character. Fake reviews, aggressive behavior towards people who call out his practices, and his penchant for outright lying (a photoshopped picture of him at a panel with legitimate authors likeBrian Jacques? Puhleeezzz!).
Because of all this, Stanek wins The Best Fantasy Books award for being the worst fantasy author and writing the worst fantasy novels. In fact, I'll go one further. Stanek is not just a bad fantasy writer, he's the nemesis of the fantasy world, the Dark Lord of fantasy authors. Please, if you see a Robert Stanek novel, run like hell, because you're risking your literary soul merely by opening the book.
This one falls under the "Terribly Written Books" category
Oh man, what can I say about this except that it's probably one of the worst written novels in the history of publishing, let alone fantasy.
What happens when you blatantly copy a bad fantasy writer? Simply, you write a really bad fantasy book. The only books Newcomb ever read were Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth and maybe a few badly written bondage novels. At least Goodkind can write ONE novel half decently which is more than Newcomb can claim by a few miles. The blurb on The Fifth Sorceress claims it is the epic fantasy of the year. Uh...
While Newcomb certainly has a fertile imagination, it's fertile in the same way a sexually frustrated, disturbed teenage boy's might be. We get sultry sorceress after sorceress whose only role in the story is to satisfy the author's fantasies about bad, bad, bad women in leather tights. If you are going to write soft porn scenes every ten pages, by golly at least make them GOOD sex scenes. Newcomb can't even manage to do that right.
With page after page of painful exposition, Newcomb attempts to translate his pornographic fantasies into credible plot devices. I'm not even going to describe the insult to both women and the English language THAT attempt has birthed into the world.
His books are so riddled with cliches, it's no surprise Newcomb sinks to the bottom of the quality barrel. I can't tell you how offensive to your eyes it is to just look at a page written by this man. This is one man I'd gladly help support by PAYING HIM to stop writing.
Look, it says something when the series even garnered its very own website about how bad it really is. And rarely will you ever see a book that gets hundreds of essay-sized one-star amazon reviews throughly bashing the novel every way since Sunday.
It took to about book five of this dreck before the publisher mercifully put Newcomb out of his writing misery. When that moment happened, I'm sure there were angelic choirs singing in full force.
This one falls under the "Terribly Written Books" category AND the "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype". Woah, double kill!
Some people might be wondering why bestselling author Terry Goodkind is missing from the top 25 best fantasy books. This is one of the most "asked" questions emailed to me and left in the comments section on the top list. I've drastically updated this section to more solidly make my case, to all the Goodkind fanboys out there who've been leaving the hate mail in my inbox, about just WHY Sword of Truth is so very bad. I hope this helps show why I feel these books are bad, rather than just stating that they are.
Well gents and ladies, I have been saving a special spot in the Worst Fantasy section for him. Wait, you tell me: He is a best seller. Yea, but then again so is Snooky from Jersey Shore. Let's be clear: popularity does not equal quality.
Even after a full year up here, Goodkind is still staying firmly planted at the number 3 spot, and I don't plan on moving him anytime soon, unless someone manages to top the level of drivel spewing forth from his pen. Though there are some new contenders for worst title, there are no real challengers just yet. Maybe next year (2013) will bring something new to the table.
Tell Me Whyyyyyyy....
So Why is BadKind so Good. Sorry, that came out wrong. Why is NoGoodkind so Good? Opps, sorry, he's so bad I'm getting my words twisted up here. One more time: why is Goodkind so Bad? There we go!
Because, he is just like, major bad dude.
Seriously people, if you think Goodkind is the Second Coming of Christ to the fantasy genre, you haven't read any real fantasy books yet. Don't ask me to add his name to any of the Best Book Lists, because I'm not going to.
I'll admit that Goodkind's first few novels were kind of entertaining in a sick sort of way, but the entertainment soon got lost behind the sheer awfulness of the man's writing. The idea was good, but the problem is that Goodkind lacked the actual writing skills to translate ideas to paper. He broke just about every 'don't do this when you're writing a novel' rule in this book. Heck, he probably even broke a few writing rules that haven't been invented yet!
NoGoodKind's books are a "College English 101: Fiction Class case study" for what not to do when writing a novel. If anything, the man could sell his books as part of a Creative Writing syllabus on "Bad Books NOT to Copy".
Richard Raul is THE MAN
Dude, the hero of The Sword of Truth is THE MAN. He's the Chuck Norris of the fantasy landscape, able to defeat every dark god without breaking a sweat. He's so full of altruistic goodness that he's got a halo, except when you disagree with him and he kills you. Hell, he even goes all Chuck Norris in Book 8 on a bunch of unarmed farmer pacificists because they don't have his vision of moral clarity by not believing in absolute good and evil. So he slaughters these weak cowards and is continually praised for this over the course of the novel by Goodkind. But wait, isn't killing people who disagree with you Fascism? Nooo, that couldn't be the case, since Goodkind is so enlightened.
But wait, there is more badness to come. Oh yea, he's so bad (and by baaad, I mean good) that he rips a man's spinal cord out with his bare freaking hands -- you can practically hear the Mortal Kombat "Finish Him" voiceover in the background. Hell Yea! If that's not manly and badassism, I don't know what is. A few other godlike traits: he's super intelligent on top of being a hunky male model, he's got a princess-lover who's so pure and beautiful that even Jesus would have a hard'on, and he bashes in the skull of a seven-year-old bratty kid.
To delve into more of the hero's badism, let's sum it up a bit (avoid this paragraph if you don't want to read spoilers) the entire series:
Farm boy finds a super sword and becomes the super Seeker of Truth, basically a badass dimwit with the big, big sword who goes around stabbing bad guys or simply any character who actually has the gall to disagree with his -- cough Goodkind's-- philosophy (which is in fact a badly written version of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead). But wait, there's more to big ol' teddy bear Richard. You see, he's really also a hidden prince too, and a pretty damn handsum one at that. No but wait, he's also a Wizard. Did I forget to mention that he's also a War Wizard on top of being a regular wizard which is basically a Wizard 2.0 with even deadlier magic than Wizard 1.0s? Oh, let's not forget about the part where he becomes KING ruler of an entire continent.
Did I miss anything? Oh yes, I forgot: Richard also has a harem of attractive women who want to rip his clothes off, and rape him in a series of bad S&M scenes. Can't forget the other character: Kahland Amnell, Richards love interest princess and Mary Sue extraordinaire. Forgetting anything else? Opps one more: one of the SOT villains is an evil chicken. Yeaaaaa.....
Richard Rauhl is pretty much the fantasy version of Goku from Dragon Ball Z -- always just one step away from powering up to some new super ability to save the day. The only difference: replace the stupid endless posturing of the characters with endless plot-destroying Randism pontificating by Richard. I'd like to say it's a more intelligent series than an anime made for kids, but I dont' think I can even give the series that sort of credit.
Now let's get to the badly written sex and Goodkind's treatment of women in the books.
Goodkind has a disturbing fascination with the domination and rape of women. I mean you have to wonder about the guy when pretty much every page involves some sadistic torture and rape of yet another innocent and lovely woman. Man, we get it guy: lovely women need to be humiliated over and over in as many different ways as possible. Now stop writing about the same damn thing for 10,000 pages! I'm beginning to suspect that John Norman from the Gor series helped ghostwrite the SOT novels or maybe Goodkind gets a kick out of reading Gor. Either way, enough of your boy fantasies please!
Prose, Like, Actually Counts Dude
Now if only the public could be stabbed with that same Sword of Truth that Richard Rhaul carries around, the truth of how bad this series really is would be revealed to the world. The writing itself is absolutely hideous amateurishly written prose that will give you eyebleeds. The interesting world-building hinted at in the first novel was about the only redeeming quality of the entire series but this one small bit of potential soon gets drowned in the badlly written prose, stupid cardboard characters (with some of them bordering on ridiculous), and the dirty S&M rape scenes oh-so-generously sprinkled around every few pages.
Goodkind has really mastered the literary trick of TELLING his reader, not SHOWING them. Did I mention that the writing quality is bad, like atrociously bad with -ly adverbs thrown in before practically every single verb, horrible grammar, and a plot so full of holes that it sinks to the bottom of the quality barrel?
We are not in your ff'in Church, Goodkind
But by far the worst literary crime is Goodkind's penchant for pausing the story while he pontificates and pontificates and pontificates about the nature of good and evil through his characters. I mean, it gets absolutely ridiculous in the later books. The early books actually have the semblance of a plot and characters, but by the 6th book, something starts to go seriously wrong with the story threads, and Goodkind decides he's going to write his own version of The Fountainhead starring Richard, Kahland, and evil Emperor dude who wants to kill the world. The 8th book (The Naked Empire) was by far the worst offender, with a significant portion of the book given to Goodkind's bad philosophizing there were literally pages end on end of bad philosophy spewing from the mouth of Goodkind's hero. At one point I think I skipped something like 30 pages of Richard pontificating and the plot or story didn't miss a single beat.
If you want to read Goodkind, you can save yourself a lot of pain and just skip straight to the source: read Ann Rynd's Fountainhead, the book that inspired the Sword of Truth series.
Now, I wouldn't toss Goodkind on this list only because of A Wizard's First Rule. No, it took a string of absolute trash to land him on the worst fantasy book list. His recent book titles can be used as a euphemism for crap, puke and other less-than-wholesome words.
Goodkind's book quality goes like this:
'first book -- readable with some interesting world-building, but terrible prose
'books 2 - 3 -- less readable
'books 4 - 6 -- even less readable and preachy
'books 7 - 9 -- oh my god, my eyes are bleeding and I'm going deaf from all the bad Fountainhead preaching
'books 10 - 12 -- thank god the series is done. Oh but wait, he's signed up for MORE novels.
'Sword of Truth Tie Ins -- doesn't even qualify as a novel
I now hear that Goodkind has decided to embrace the self-publishing movement and inflict even more books on the public, this time with even less editorial control, since he's now going to be the author, editor, and publisher. God save us from the horror of it all!
I fully expect putting Goodkind in this section will rile up some of his fans (and feel free to express yourself in the comment section), but before posting anything nasty or libeling my character and tastes, please read the top 5 books on my Top 25 Best Fantasy Book list, THEN come and tell me why NoGoodkind should be taken off this list.
No saving this one from the fall. Unashamedly put in the Terribly Written Books category.
A shameless rip from Tolkien. And I mean a really, really, really shameless rip. If Terry Brooks 'borrows' ideas from Tolkien, McKiernan straight out copies them word for word, changing a couple of syllables here and there. Shame on the man for lacking even the creativity to change the characters to something NOT directly copied from Tolkien. Frankly, if Tolkien was still alive, McKiernan would have been sued.
And it gets worse as you read. I almost hope a copyright theft lawsuit by the Tolkien estate stops this crime of a series from doing any more damage to tender young fantasy minds.
Apparently this is how the whole sordid mess started: McKiernan suffered a terrible motorcycle crash, and upon waking, decided he wanted to write a sequel to LOTR (and I think he did so). A publisher expressed interest in this terrible idea given literary form and sent a letter to the Tolkien Estate seeking the rights to publish the sequel. The Estate was not pleased and denied to grant the rights; McKiernan was then told by the publisher to re-write LOTR with different character names as the backstory to the sequel. And the demon known as The Iron Tower was infamously birthed into this world.
This one falls under the "Books That Were Good When You Were Young /New to Fantasy" category.
These are simplistic popcorn-style fantasy that don't offer anything new to the genre or even attempt to provide anything outside of a strictly regimented and never-changing formula.
Popcorn can be good, but by golly at least make sure it's good popcorn. Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms are bad popcorn, folks, with very little to recommend them to anyone outside of those who are rabid D&D fans. I'm not against popcorn fantasy, but I am against badly made popcorn fantasy.
These books may have been entertaining when you were a kid or new to fantasy, but if you manage to evolve your taste in fantasy, these books taste about as good as stale bread.
Why so bad? Badly written fantasy cliches ripped straight from Tolkien's world. Bad prose that's more wordy than a drunk Snookie, re-used plots that are about as unoriginal as a copy of the Mona Lisa, and cardboard characters so flat you could use them as paper. Yea yea, there are worse out there. I'm not going so far as to label these in the "Terribly Written Books" category, but on the whole there is soooo much better to read out there right now.
This badly written popcorn fantasy is the kinda stuff that gives the fantasy genre a bad name as a whole. Avoid these novels! They're like that cheap type of bread you pick up for fifty cents in the discounted section at Safeway. You might think you got a good dealtill you find it crumbles to pieces on the way home. Pick up a real author like George Martin or Joe Abercrombie and enjoy a real feast.
This one falls under the "Books That Were Good When You Were Young /New to Fantasy" category.
Basically see the #5 ranking (Dragonlance) for my reasoning why Forgotten Realms is some of the worst fantasy tripe out there. Both series are pretty much the same. Between Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, I'll choose Dragonlance -- but this is like making the choice between whether to jump from the Empire State Building or run out of oxygen while on a deep water scuba dive -- either choice sucks and sucks bad.
Falls in the Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype, Books That Were Good When You Were Young /New to Fantasy andBooks That Don't Age Well categories of bad. Triple Kill!!
I'm not a big fan of the Shannara series at all. I've been getting email after email wondering why Brooks is not on the Top 25 Fantasy list. Let me state it right here: he's not on the list because he hasn't written any books that are good enough to be there.
Shannara was Brook's attempt to milk the whole Tolkien craze during the 80s. He "generously borrowed" Tolkien's mythology (which isn't a bad thing, as quite a few other people did as well), but committed the cardinal sin of not doing anything new at all over his 20+ years writing fantasy books. Brooks is the literary version of the band Nickleback: both have sold out all creativity and churn out the same sort of crap over and over.
Commercially successful? Yes. Intellectually stimulating? About as much as watching Bevis and Butthead reruns. There is a marketing concept called first-mover advantage. This basically means that the person/company that does something first has a competitive advantage. Brooks with his (bad) rewrite of Lord of the Rings did just this. As far as I'm concerned, Brooks is a hack writer who made it big because he was in the Tolkien Clone market first.
If you've read one Shannara book, you've read all twenty of them, or thirty (I can't remember the exact number as Brooks churns them out like a Chinese noodle factory does noodle boxes).
One Shannara book is the same as the rest of them. Hell for me would be being locked into a room with an infinite supply of Shannara books to read. I'd start puking my eyes out around book 20, and by book 40, I'd probably bite my own throat out.
I beg you Terry Brooks, stop writing new Shanara books. If someone points a gun to your head and forces you to read a Shannara novel, perhaps Elfstones is the best of the bunch. But then again, that's like asking which limb you want broken. The correct answer is "none of them."
And dammit, let's get into the Shannara's continuing use of "The Elfstones", a name that itself is borrowed directly from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Man, these Elfstones are simply an outrageous naked plot device that Brooks recycles over and over for more plot fodder, with each additional book having new powers associated with them. After book 20, I still don't think even Brooks knows what the hell these things actually do. In the first book, they help you find stuff, act as a nice magical flashlight and come in handy when battling magical demon types, and even work as a sort of "demon alarm system" if there are, like, nasty demons loafing around. But hey, use the stones too much and your descendents gain special freaking powers that have NOTHING at all to do with the origional Elfstone powers. Talk about no internal rules of magic here. About the only things you can't do with these special stones are your tax forms and your college homework.
I'm not insulting Terry Brooks as an author. Ok, well I kinda am. But the man's not THAT bad of a writer -- Brooks did write a few NON-Shannara books that I found entertaining: Magic Kingdom For Sale was a light, entertaining series, and his Void series is pretty good, even though he ends up tying it to the whole Shannara universe (big mistake).
So yes, Brooks writes some decent books (And God knows he's had enough practice over the years with the dozens of books he's churned out), but just avoid anything with the word Shannara in the title and you'll probably be OK.
These books are thrown into the "Books That Were Good When You Were Young /New to Fantasy" and "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" categories. I'm sorely tempted to add the "Terribly Written Books" category in there too, but there are frankly much worse books out there and the prose is not THAT bad. The main problem with these as they are so unoriginal that it's almost funny. If there was an award for the most inspidly unoriginal and cliche-ridden story out there, Icewind Dale would get it (maybe right up there with the infamous Eye of Argon short story).
Also called The Icewind Dreck Trilogy. Every time I think about this series, a horrible taste comes to my mouth. What is that taste? I think it's literary puke.
One of the more popular comments people leave on this blog (especially on the Top 25 list) is "WHERE IS R.A. Salvatore." And my response is the same one given when people ask why I've left Terry Goodkind of the best lists: "Because R.A. Salvatore has not yet written any fantasy book worth putting on the top lists, people." If he ever writes something worthy of being read, I'll consider adding him. Until then, NO.
The series is the poster boy for fantasy banality -- there is not a single speck of creativity to this series. The same can be said of pretty much all the rest of R.A. Salvatore's works. This author has the (dubious) distinction of getting TWO of his series tossed onto this list. I know there was a PC RPG made from this series, but with the number of fantasy cliches present in the novel, it reads more like a straight GAME-TO-BOOK tie-in novel than the other way around. You can literally hear the sound of the dice rolling in the background as you read. Bleh.
Wikipedia defines hack writer as "writers who are paid to churn out sensational, lower-quality "pulp" fiction." That about rings true when it comes to R.A. Salvatore, with one or two new low-quality fantasy novels coming out each year -- and not a one that has a single iota of originality.
To cover all bases, I'll throw Salvatore's other popular fantasy series in here for good measure, The Dark Elf series. An atrocious mix of bad writing with a not-so-subtle attempt at creating a sympathetic and misunderstood bad-boy character. If there was Twilight for men, The Dark Elf trilogy gets my vote.
R.A. Salvatore is one of those authors that does a disservice to the rest of the real writers out there. He writes bad popcorn fantasy over and over. Now maybe he's fine with this, and maybe his hordes of fans are fine with reading this stuff too. But really, I can't honestly recommend any of Salvatore's work to any fantasy reader. To me, that's the same as telling someone to eat fast food instead of something healthy.
If you want to read shallow fantasy that offers about as much nutrition as a hastily made McDonald's cheeseburger, then R.A. Salvatore's works are exactly what you need. For the rest of you who value your time, read something better. If you have to read action heroic fantasy, read David Gemmell or Michael Stackpool -- these writers are many times superior to Salvatore.
I feel no shame whatesoever attaching the "Terribly Written Books" category to this book/series.
Superlatively insipid. And what an awful waste of time this book is. The number of stupid characters present in the novel is borderline ridiculous. There is supposed to be a plot and all, but frankly, it gets lost amid the sappy ham-fisted romance and terrible plot lines. Frankly, I can't remember just how bad the writing was -- probably because the plot was so boring, and the characters so insipid that I was sleeping through most of the book.
This book really belongs on the Harlequin romance shelves and NOT the fantasy shelf. Plowing through The Wayfarer Redemption has scared me away from ever touching anything written by an author with the name of Douglass ever again. There is some other sequel or prequel trilogy called The Axis trilogy or something, but frankly, I can't even bring myself to care enough to write something bad about it other than to say: avoid at the peril of losing your soul.
There is no redemption for The Wayfarer Redemption. These books are going straight to literary hell.
Rightly in the "Terribly Written Books" category of baaaad fantasy.
This one is pretty close to tying with IceWind Dale for the "most Insipidly Bland" fantasy series ever.
Oh boy, where do I start with this one? The main character is an utter dolt, the supporting cast cookie-cut out, and the plot...what plot? There were holes in the plot the size of Australia and characters appear from nowhere only to wander out of the plot just as fast as they were introduced. I'm not even going to get into the characterization -- it was about as laughable as the nonsensical plot threads found in every single one of the books.
This series competes with Ice Wind Dale for the "most unoriginality award".
David Drake (or should I maybe start calling him David Dreck? Ok, that was just mean, I admit...) should stick to writing Science Fiction -- he had a better knack for that, sorta.
This plot, characters, and writing was so bad in this book that, with a not-so-heavy heart, I have to rightly put in the "Terribly Written Books" category of baaaad fantasy. Maybe it's not as bad, prose-wise, as some of the other stinkers in the genre, but the fact that Eddings has been re-writing the same story over and over and over and over has earned this book this dubious award.
The Redemption of Althalus had nothing redeemable about it. The characters were cookie cutouts of bad stereotypes and the plot was boring. The only thing I wanted to have redeemed after reading it was my wasted time. God forgive the author for the slaughter of trees involved in producing that crap. I would say that Eddings has his own vanilla style of prose, but then again, vanilla actually has some flavor.
Eddings does write some entertaining fantasy for kids, but he's pretty much rewritten his original series four or five times over. The fantasy world has long since evolved. Eddings has not.
Ok, I might take a lot of flak for this, but I think she is, in general, a horrific author. Her plots tend to muddle around in never-never-land and characters are flat as a cookie. The only time she manages to crawl her way out of the bowels of mediocrity is on the contrails of more talented coauthors. Not all her books are bad; several books she coauthors (with more talented co-authors I might add) are actually quite good (The Shadow of a Lion). I wish I could say the same about the rest of her books.
I put this in the "Terribly Written Books" category.
A new entry on this 2012 list.
There were some initially vague similarities to The Wheel of Time, but that soon changed -- and not for the better.
The story started out strong, but somehow everything just grinds to a halt, and I stopped caring about the characters or story. It just sort of dies a slow death, with each of the following books killing the series even more.
The characters were two-dimensional and absolutely do not evolve during the course of the series.
And the writing. The author tries way too hard with his use of similes. After a while, the book felt to me like it was an unfinished Creative Writing 101 project that's been collectively written with the sole intent of coming up with jarring, awkward similes.
There's a ton of inconsistency too when it comes to the story elements. Characters actions are inconsistent from moment to moment -- at one point, they are in charge and confident, and at another point, they are dimwit followers who act out of character. And the Rune Stone, a major plot element, just loses its free will at one point in the story without any reason.
It's almost as if the author was suddenly inspired by Edding's The Belgariad and started pumping out characters taken straight from it. Meli is a re-named Polgara, Travis comes off as a less feisty version of Garion, Falken is borrowed from Belgarath, and Beltan is Mandorellan's clone.
The world is fairly undefined too. It seems as though the characters just walk and walk around in some vaguely midieval landscape.
I have a bit of a problem when, several books into a series, the author suddenly decides to make the main character gay. Now that's fine if this is the case from the start of the series, but when the author suddenly pulls homesexuality out of a hat way into the novel without warning, well that's not quite fair.
Frankly, the author has failed to create a believable world or to create an interesting plot that takes you anywhere, with fully fleshed out characters. The whole series lacks any sort of soul too it; all in all, everything from the characters to the world and the plot are wafer thin. If mediocrocy could be celebrated, this series would get an award.
I'd put this in the "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" category. I can't argue with Card's genius as a writer and the fact that he's usually a great writer, usually. But this book just doesn't merit the sort of praise people seem to give it.
Card is a superbly talented writer, creating works of celebrated genius like Ender's Game. However, when he starts bringing his religion into his writing and using his characters and settings to pontificate his strident political views, things take a decided turn for the worse.
Card basically decided he would write a fantasy version of The Book of Morman, staring Alvin as Joseph Smith. That's fine if you are writing a book for Mormons, but alas most of us are not. To really understand anything about this series, you'll need to have read both the Bible and The Book of Mormon. For most of you, climbing Everest would be more appealing.
The whole religious thing aside, the story itself and the plot wasn't very interesting. Overall, this whole series was meh, highly overrated and quite boring to read.
Epic fantasy that goes bad. In short, I would say the magic system is quite fascinating and unique, almost making up for the fact that everything else is pretty bad. Almost.
With the exception of maybe Sanderson's allomancy magic in the Mistborn series, The Rune Lord's magic system just about tops off all the other magic systems out there. Stealing attributes from other people and adding them to your own to gain powers is genius. Keep taking people's abilities and become even more powerful till you achieve something like Godlike superhuman abilities.
Everything else about the series comes off as pretty crappy, however. The plot -- there is a bad guy to kill and giant cockroaches to stamp out. There's a young prince with some amazing gifts who just might be the one to save the world from evil. Pretty typical stuff. The whole plot threads get even more muddled later on in the series when Farland, perhaps to keep the money train flowing his way, starts writing a sequel, turning the whole series into a sort of angels vs. demons story right along with a fantasy version of Jesus (the lightbringer) and a bad god/dark lord who's a sort of Satan. It's pretty clear that this whole good vs evil thing was hastily added to the canon of the world to continually milk the series. The whole thing brings to mind Raymond E. Feist's milking of the Riftwar universe by having the heroes continually struggling against a world-crushing dark god (who the heroes conveniently find out by book 10 is the real one pulling the threads behind all the lower bad guy dark lords they keep defeating). Bah, absolute garbage.
All in all, Farland's writing comes off as tasteless and bland, devoid of any sort of actual style. There's also some pretty big inconsistency between what he's trying to say with his words and what he actually describes. This is even more true in the sections where he's trying to convey something grand and dramatic, but in actuality the whole thing comes off as unintentionally funny (because it's so gosh darn corny and badly written).
There are certainly worse books out there, and in the epic fantasy category, there's plenty of dreck. The Rune Lords are not terribly bad, but there is something missing in them. Only read these if you've plowed through everything else that's good. The books are not really bad enough to label as the worst, but I feel I should point them out as books you should try to avoid unless desperate.
A well deserved "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" and "Terribly Written Books" and "Books That Don't Age Well" and "Books That Were Good When You Were Young /New to Fantasy" categores apply to this series.
Wow, The Belgariad seems to score an impressive 5 out of 6 on our list of "bad fantasy book" categories. Impressive indeed, and made only more impressive by that fact that Eddings strikes again with another entry on the Worst Fantasy Ever list. You have to give the man a clap here -- this is truly an astounding feat, matched only by RA Salvatore who also makes the list twice, but with fewer bad categories applied to his name.
Bad Bad Bad. Ok, where to start here. Belgariad is an extremely long-winded series that somehow manages to throw in every fantasy cliche under the sun and then a few more that haven’t even been invented yet.
I think we should take the time to use Eddings as a case study along the lines of something like "The Portrait of a Fantasy Hack Writer." Because this guy is a hack. First, let's give the Wikipedia definition of a hack writer:
I don't know if the wiki writer had Eddings in mind, but he sure fits the bill. Let's see "low-quality". Check. "Rushed". Check again (at his writing peak, Eddings was pumping out novels like McDonalds does Big Macs). I'll throw in a few that are missing: unoriginal, copy-cat, and mediocre. Check, check, and double check. Yup, he's a hack.
What’s even more unforgivable is that the series makes a horrible, yet failed attempt at a level of seriousness and depth that’s clearly beyond the narrative ability of the author. A big no no. If you can't write well, stick to at least being honest about your lack of writing skills and stick to writing insipid dreck that you are comfortable doing.
To add even more literary crimes to the list, Eddings manages to create a sequel series that’s even MORE longwinded and MORE pointless than the original. Let me put it this way: Eddings is the hack writers’ hack writer. Hell, he's more than willing to hack write his own hack written stuff that's a hack of a hack of Lord of the Rings.
Now the original series was not a “bad” read by any means – there are indeed worse fantasy books out there, truth be told. But the level of commercial success Eddings achieved for what amounts to a subpar hackjob is ridiculous. These are books that have not aged well with the evolving conventions of fantasy -- they are highly simplistic. You may enjoy them if they are some of the first fantasy books you've read in the genre, but probably not if you've read some of the much better fantasy on the market.
On the positive side, the books are pretty entertaining for the 10-13-year-old age range, meaning your kids will enjoy reading them or having you read the books out loud to them.
So infamously bad that's its good. This short story has been a running joke for the past several decades and is actually quite infamous at various science fiction conventions and among writers. There's a running debate about whether this is actually a real story written by an eager 16 year old, or if it's a satire on the genre written by a collective group of real, published authors.
Apparently, it's so bad that people actually publish copies just to laugh at it!
The book famously breaks just about every "don't do" literary rule in the book. The sad thing is that there are actually some real writers like Goodkind and Newcomb who come pretty close to actually writing stories that fall pretty close to the level of badness The Eye of Argon evinces.
If you're curious, you can read the hilarious annotated online version here:
Gets the "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" as the book did get more praise than it rightly deserved. I'd also tack on the "Terribly Written Books" category too. However, in this case, she's got fantastic writing skills, but her plot, story, and characters are about as thin as a piece of paper. This is the one shining example I can give that good fabulous prose doesn't necessarly make a good book -- not by a long shot.
Probably the worst example of literary pretentiousness by any author. These books are so thick with forgotten English words that you practically need a thesaurus to translate her works.
Hidden among all those self-indulgent, pretentious celtic descriptions, there may be a story somewhere, but if it's there, I haven't found it. Perhaps I wasn't using the right thesaurus?
If an author can have sex with a thesaurus, Celcia Thorn Darton does so with unabated passion. Her descriptions border on the raise-your-eyes ridonculous. Not only is she content with plowing through the thesaurus to find the most obscure and forgotten English words-- as if trying to penetrate her opaque prose isn't difficult enough -- but she readily throws in an abundance of made-up words as well. Good luck at trying to guess which ones are made up and which are real!
The whole plot grinds to a halt every few pages as the author gets lost in the pleasure of describing...well...everything. What kind of horses to the breed of horse to the type of trees that are in the castle. Then it was the spoons, the forks, the clothing every character wears, the weather, the varying shades of shadow found in the cracks between cobblestones in a castle, the color of every strange hair on a head. Then the plot continues for a few more pages before grinding to a stop once again while the author goes off on a descriptive tangent, yet again.
The sad thing is that at the very beginning of the book, you feel like a new fantasy voice has arrived -- the descriptions are lovely, the story is promising, and the character comes off as potentially interesting. But then reality quickly sets in as you realize the author is writing her very own mishmash, chick-lit wish-fullfilment, celtic mythology, and her not-so-secret fantasy about male-model loving.
Oh man, let's not even get into the actual characterization here. Well, maybe just a little, because it's so god-awfully bad. The main character in the classic cliche wakes up with no memories, has no voice and looks like something dredged up from the set of Tales from the Crypt. Naturally, what should this heroine do but set out on a wild quest to reclaim what she's lost and discover who she really is. Everyone is mean and vicious to her because she's god-awful uuugly, except for the main love interest who, despite disliking ugly things, somehow still likes her. Of course, being an ugly girl Imrhein spends most of the novel in a sulky state because everyone doesn't appreciate her for her...personality (welcome to the real world, girly). During her quest to regain what she's lost, it becomes sadly apparent that she's more interested in the quest for a pretty face than actually finding her voice; vanity rules the day yet again -- no moral didactic here.
And of course is it shocking that when Imrhein regains what she's lost that she naturally has the face and body of a goddess. A shock, no?
Another annoying thing about this book/series is that the author is dead set on rekindling the forgotten fires of Celtic mythology and is not so subtle about it by pretty much stuffing Celtic folklore tales down our throats time and time again; this comes off in the descriptions she writes, and in the the minor stories in which pretty much every goddamn character in the novel seems obligated to prattle on about fairy tales.
I'm not going to dispute that Cecilia Dart-Thornton doesn't write beautifully -- she's got the gift of literary gab and she can write wonderful, beautiful descriptions. But she's way too full of herself and her abuse of the thesaurus comes off as a showy way to impress us all with how talented a writer she just really is. Combine the nearly impenetrable prose with a two-dimensional heroine who's only real goal is to become beautiful again, and a smothering amount of Celtic folklore and you have a very bad book.
Geez, the woman should be arrested for dictionary abuse. You could easily cut out half the book by ripping out the thesauri
These belong to the "Controversial Books" category. A few people love them, but most hate the books -- mainly due to the author's strident views towards women.
There's supposed to be a plot to these novels, somewhere. And there is in the first couple of books. But after, the books turn into thinly veiled misogynistic dreck.
The early novels in the series are straight out male-centric adventours in a savage landscape, drawing heavily from the Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars novels. Decent enough for some light fantasy reading with a bit of kink to it. However, by around book 3 or 4, the true face of Gor (and John Norman) appears and the books take on a dark, misogynistic view.
Women (especially any woman who shows a strong, independent spirit) are gleefully forced into slavery where they are tortured and raped until they are broken and learn to "love it." I kid you not, this is a passage taken from the book:
"You are a slave," I said.
"Yes", she said.
"You must obey me," I said.
"Yes, master," she said.
"Don't speak unless spoken to," I said.
"Yes, master," she said.
"What did I just tell you?" I said.
There are over twenty novels in the Gor series and if you continue on reading, most novels basically center on the enslavement and torture of women. Let's see. We have women beaten, thrown into a pit of rapists, beaten and raped again, and yes, publicly humiliated and forced to crawl around on the ground. I'm sure you can add a few hundred "let's humiliate women in even more hideous ways" scenerios taken from the books to this list without breaking a sweat.
This attitude torwards women goes way past simple chauvinism, and way into pure hostility; Norman's view of women reflects the old American South attitude torward black people, where blacks were held to be inferior and believed to actually like being enslaved to the white masters, because they didn't have to think for themselves.
Wit'ch Fire, part one of The Banned and the Banished by James Clemens.
Way, way too predictable, terribly written with a cast of unrealistic cardboard characters. These, of course are the standard fare found in bad fantasy. Where James Clemens sets himself apart from the crowd of bad fantasy authors and ends up on this list, however, is that he puts an annoying apostrophe on practically every other word in each sentence. Witch becomes Wit'ch, Elvin as el'vin, ogre as og're. He also takes it upon himself to write characters in bad colloquial speech as well.
But where things really start to derail, and I started to get a creepy Lolita vibe from the author is when the main character starts falling in love with the prepubescent girl who's the main character, and eventually has relations with her. I don't know if the author is writing his own fantasies into the plot, but it didn't mesh with me.
Clemens tries to give the whole setting a dark edge with some gruesome violence, dark monsters, brutality and sexuality (all contrasted with an innocent, virgin 13-year-old girl), but the whole thing just doesn't work. There's a hideous number of positive reviews for the series on Amazon and they all read pretty similarly; I'm suspicious that they may in fact be fake reviews.
Stolen from an Amazon reviewer: "Pu'tting a'postrop'hes in str'ange pl'aces is n'o subs'titute fo'r cr'eatin'g a ne'w and uni'que worl'd!"
A terribly written series with book covers that look like they were ripped from a bad graphic artist who was on downers.
I bought the first book, only to give it away a few days later. I think I even paid the guy to take the books, fancy that! Really, the actual prose was offensive to anyone who reads English.
The potential of these books might have been there with the plot, but the awful execution killed it. The first book in particular was bad, suffering from terrible writing. It gets a bit better in later books I hear, but the problem is that you've been so damaged by the first book, there's little will left to continue the series.
The author has a couple of other series out there -- I'm not sure if he's redeemed himself in later books. Frankly, I can't stomach reading any of them to find out, after reading the train wreck that was the first book.
"Terribly Written Books"
Supposedly the novel that founded Scientology. Too bad Scientology got off to a bad start -- there couldn't be a worse novel to found your faith on. Unless it's a Terry Goodkind novel...The scary thing is that dude might end up pulling an "L Ron Hubbard" and try starting some creepy Objectivism cult.
Ok, Scientology jokes aside, why is Battlefield Earth such dreck? Let's see, aliens manage to easily defeat an entire planet in less than an hour, then brutally enslave the population for over a thousand years. These slaves rise up and defeat these alien overlords using their own technology against them, despite not being trained to use the technology and living just above the level of primitive savages. Somehow, they are still physically fit enough to win this revolution against their alien masters and while they're at it, manage to destroy the technologically advanced alien home planet with just a single nuclear weapon. This sort of broken plot doesn't even merit any more commentary. This is straight-out fantasy masquerading as Sci-Fi. As science fiction novels go, it's a straight-out bad one. Science Fiction without the science in the title.
Reading this was like stapling my fingers together -- it bloody well hurt like hell. I can sort of understand why Tom Cruise went crazy on TV -- being forced to read this book would do that to anyone. Treating it like some sort of Bible, well...
"Terribly Written Books"
One word: porn for adolescents. I mean, when one of the Xanth books is called "The Color of Her Panties" what more do I need to say about it?
The man's obsession with young girls' panties is pretty damn disturbing -- a recurring theme in his Xanth novels. His Xanth novels are only surpassed by his personal blog in which he discusses his sordid sex life, bowel movements, and his fantasies.
I think he's even got a series called Pornocopia.
Look, I'll just come out and say it: I think the man is a rancid pervert or at the very least, a very dirty old man with too much time -- and lube -- on his hands. Based on what I've read in his books and about his personal life, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see this author show up on a 'To Catch A Predator' episode. Based on his bizarre sexual fetish for young, pubecent girls and their underthings, I would avoid these books and anything else written by this man.
There, said it.
"Terribly Written Books" because it's so unoriginal.
Here's the bestfantasybooks.com blurb for the publisher of this fiction: Fantasy taken to new heights...of banality. I guess that means BestFanasyBooks.com won't be getting any free ARC copies from the publisher to review, yes?
Definitely gets the "Terribly Written Books" tag.
My God, terrible, terrible books. I do like some of Feist's other work, namely his Magician series and his Empire trilogy. But when I was reading this, I had the feeling Feist just gave up halfway through writing the novel, opting to finish it in a couple of nights just to get 'er done.
I'm not quite sure about the reason for such an insult to the written word, produced by a man who should know better; maybe he suffered a crisis. Regardless of the reason, the Betrayal of Krondor was a betrayal to the fantasy genre. One can argue that Krondor was the low point Feist never quite recovered from. All his novels since then have been pretty bad and they are getting worse and worse. Yes, I know he still has oodles of fans, but that doesn't excuse the man for giving up. He actually had some talent. Pity.
What really irks me about Feist's Midkemia books is that to continually generate new books (I wonder why...CA-CHING $$$), he throws in a "there is a dark ultimately evil god pulling the strings behind all the lesser evil beings" plot and then uses that to milk the series for another 10 or so books, with each new book being a battle against this dark god's lesser but still connected minions. Feist has sold his soul for money and at this point, he is unable to write anything else other than re-hashed dreck. He's turned his universe into a D&D version of man vs. Satan.
Let me predict his next book: there will be Pug or some descendent of Pug playing a key role. There will be some dark god or maybe the ultimate dark god machinating yet another "Let's take over the universe" scheme. There will be a small band of magical heroes who find some magical way of standing up against it.
You can take Betrayal of Krondor as the generic fill-in for ALL his other Midkemia books. I would not read anything other than his Magican, the sequels, Empire, and his Talon Silverhawk. The rest is dreck.
"Terribly Written Books" and "Books That Were Good When You Were Young /New to Fantasy: and "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" categories fit this series nicely.
What do you get when you combine Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and a 15-year-old's writing skills? A heap of trash called Eragon and its sequels. In this novel, the art of Bad Writing is truely mastered and brought to a new level.
I admire the kid for writing something, but Eragon was a work best left in the hands of a smiling Grade 7 teacher who would have patted the little Paolini on the head, taken the manuscript home, then quietly burned it. How the heck this unholy mess was picked up by publishers, sold to millions of readers, and made into a terrible movie, is surely one of the great questions of the universe (wait, what if his parents had powerful connections to a publishing company and worked in publishing. Wouldn't that be funny if it is true. Oh wait, IT IS TRUE.. I guess that goes to tell you the power of the marketing industry -- if they can sell Eragon to the masses, they can sell anything.)
The level of commercial success this badly written series has received is nothing short of astounding. The series is a bad copy of copied clichs: Eragon is a mishmash of Lord of the Rings, Dragon Riders of Pern, Dragonlance, and Star Wars; and let me tell you, the force is certainly not with this one.
The only thing exceptionally good about Paolini's stories are when they are over. Im glad the demon birthed by Paolini has finally come to a sordid end. But I toss and turn at night with the knowledge that the former kid writer is cooking up some other sort of literary catastrophe to inflict on the masses.
I had Eragon on some of the other lists (the Best Children's Fantasy List for one), but I realized just how confusing and senseless that choice really was. The bottom line is that Eragon is pure drivel and I don't care if it was written by a 15-year-old, it has no business being published or read. I've taken it off all lists. A bad book is a bad book, regardless of what age group it targets. A good book is timeless and appeals to all ages, something Eragon does not do.
Takes the "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" and"Terribly Written Books" categories
Confessions of a bitchy teenage drama queen and her brooding badboy vampire.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was this vampire with bad hair. There was this awkward girl who didn't fit in. For some absurd reason, this vampire fell in love with the girl. But because of some artificial plot device, they couldn't be together. Both vampire and girl are unhappy and they proceed to stare ravishingly at each other for thee long and endless books. The end.
Yea, that about describes the level of complexity present in Twilight. I'll acknowledge that Twilight fills a romantic need in young adolescents, but how anyone over the age of 14 can think this series is actually "the best books ever" is perhaps the most indicative of just how illiterate our society has become. For some this is a good book, yes, but for the discerning readers, it's an atrocity to the written word. Please, please, read a real vampire book such as George Martin's Fevre Dream.
With the whole flood of vamp fiction raining down on the public like some sort of Biblical apocalypse, Twilight certainly isn’t the worst that’s out there in the genre. But it’s not nearly the best either. Rather, what it does excel at being is exceptionally mediocre.
It wasn’t the first vampire book out there but it was one of the first wildly successful vampire novels (because of a great marketing campaign by the publisher) that inundated the reader with shoot-yourself annoying teen angst. The magical Twilight recipe that’s terrorized lovers of quality fiction seems to be pretty simple: toss in a horny vamp with bad hair and a dangerous bad-boy edge, an average girl with a self-doubt complex who’s not eating enough, and sprinkle some extra romantic attention from a couple of half-dog humans and Twilight is born. If anything, this book should be on the list of “Books Your Young Daughter Should Not Read if You Don't Want Her To Date Assholes and Get Pregnant Before 21” The whole distilled message of this book comes down to: girls should worship and fawn over bad boys.” Ah, yea good idea, just make sure you include birth control in the book cover too.
The only reason this series was ever successful was there was a teen vampire niche already carved out by the hit TV series, Buffy. Twilight simply rode on the contrails of Buffy’s success.
This series is the poster boy that shows society rewards and even celebrates literary banality. Really, there is nothing exceptional about the series – it’s about as tasty as those flat apple pies you buy mass produced from the local supermarket. You can eat them, but WHY when there’s so much that’s better out there?
"Books with Bad Sequels" and for part of the book due to the absolute ridicious plot threads and characters the Terribly Written Books category.
I absolutely loved the first book -- I thought it was a vividly realised world with a lot of potential. The magic system was quite interesting and the basic premise (demons control the night and hunt humans that are not bound behind protective and magical wards) was fascinating, horrific, and so entertaining to read about. There were a lot of flaws in the novel, but overall it was a great debut with a lot of potential.
However, the sequel really dropped the ball. I liked part of it (the part that follows the life of Jedir, growing up in a sort of darker, more gritty fantasy version of Arabian Nights). However, part way through the novel, Brett completely went bonkers and started to tie plot threads together that had no business being tied together.
After finishing the book, I literally wanted to pick up that same Desert Spear and drive it through the eye of one of the main characters, Lesha. Please oh god of Books, kill her off and about half the rest of the characters too.
SPOILERS ABOUND HERE (DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST OR SECOND BOOK)
Some of the plot threads were completely nonsensical. Lesha who becomes the perfectly annoying Mary Sue decides she's going to talk the main villian back to his home city where she pretends to consider his offer of marriage, all the while spreading her own vein of Mary Sue feminism far and wide accross the city. Let's not forget this same villain and his men just finished raping a bunch of women.
While the actual interesting character of the novel, the Warded Man, is completely ignored for most of the book, the other character spends his time pining over him, and eventually ends up having hardcore sex with him over and over while refusing to accept his proposal of becoming his second wife and sharing him with his actual wife. Makes a lot of sense.
The Warded Man comes back into play, having spent most of the short time he's been present in the novel hanging out with, then eventually sleeping with an old character that was suddenly introduced in the book (seemingly from nowhere). Everyone gets together for the perfect demon-bashing party near the end of the novel to defend the town, including a bunch of ignorant villagers who go from cowering from demons to pheno demon slayers (including 70+ year old men who wield spears like heroes from a Greek saga.
I'll stop there. Let's just say that Brett was smoking something pretty strong half way through the novel. I really don't know if there is a way to save the narrative at this point, other than to kill off a few of the main characters and return the story to what it should have been. Book 3 is coming out next year, so we'll see if Brett can come up with something magical. I think the demons win this one and another story ends up in the trash.
Probably a book that most of you haven't read but it's basically a bunch of drivel about a conniving cast of college kids who get sucked into a D&D board game and become actual characters in this world, and soon learn that the world is not all play. A few of the girls are raped, several characters die, they invent hydro guns that shoot bullets and your regular style guns and they eventually abolish slavery because it's like, the right thing to do, dude.
The premise is so ridiculously stupid that it's funny. I mean come on, getting sucked into a D&D game? Is that all you can come up with Joe? Add to the fact that some attractive female players get sucked into the game world too and the whole thing is just not believable. When was the last time you saw a bunch of female models rolling D&D dice? Like, never.
All right, let's talk about the characters. Wait, there is nothing to talk about because there is no characterization. The characters talk and act like the game characters they ostensibly are with little real motivation. I literally felt this was a bad game-to-novel tie-in hastily pumped out the month before the game gets released. Oh wait, that's the premise of the entire story. Woah man, that's like seriously existential dude. NOT.
The characters are duller than a spoon, however, and the plot threads don't make a lot of sense. Things came to a head for me when, out of the blue, two of the main female characters get graphically gang raped by the "game characters" for a good 3 pages. Perhaps the author was trying to show the readers that the "game world" was real and full of danger, but it's done in such a dreadflully hamfisted way that the whole attempt flops. I got the feeling that the author actually enjoys torturing his female characters -- they're treated like passive, enfeebled sexual dolls the entire series. Half the time I wasn't sure if the author was writing about his own fantasies or creating real plot threads. Seems to be a common thread with some of the authors on this list (cough, Piers Anthony, Terry Goodkind, Robert Newcomb).
This is one series that should have stayed in the mind of the author.
I will note there are a number of glowingly positive Amazon reviews about this series -- they come off as suspiciously fake to me in terms of how they are written, the review titles, and the dates the reviews were posted. When the titles of the reviews are (this is really taken from one of the reviews) "This has been a great novel of worth beyond compare" you know there is some shill review chicanery going on. Joe might be helping along the sales somewhat with a few Amazon sockpuppets. Robert Stanek, meet your new friend Joe.
I normally like Steven King -- he's a talented writer and a master of the horror genre. But when he tries his hand at pure fantasy, bad, bad things happen.
The plot is as simple as a rock. Big bad Flagg murders the good King and frames the good guy, Peter. Peter gets thrown in the can for a few years while Flagg manipulates the new king and bad stuff happens in the kingdom. Fast forward a couple of hundred pages and the butler (I kid you not) helps Peter escape. Then Peter and the deceived, yet still good, king Thomas defeat the evil Flagg through the power of friendship and love. Happily ever after.
The story is so ludicriously bad that you'll want to run screaming. There is really nothing more to say about this other than FAIL. King is always rambling on about the old manuscripts he used to write betweeen classes as a part-time English teacher during the dawn of his literary career. This was probably one of those manuscripts that should have stayed in his closet.
Takes the "Overrated Books With Undeserved Hype" and"Terribly Written Books" categories
Hamilton is responsible for a horde of badly written bodice-rippers masquerading as vampire fiction caked on the book shelves like bad varnish.
It’s true that art imitates life, because her books are a sound demonstration of this principle: they are every bit just as evil as the shadowy sex-lovin vampires she habitually writes about, and like those same dark vampires that masquerade around as humans looking for prey, her books lure in the unsuspecting reader, and then deliver a fatal literary bite.
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