$Disclaimer$ – The following is not neccessarily my opinion but a collection of thoughts taken from reviews posted openly online.
I posted earlier today a review of ‘The Name of the Wind’, the debut novel by Patrick Rothfuss. Although I enjoyed it, there are, as with most books, some who disagree. The most striking comment I found whilst trawling through the online reviews is a recommendation for ‘A Game of Thrones’ by G.R.R. Martin, spawning what I’d like to call ‘the GoT vs. NoW debate’.*
*GoT=Game of Thrones, NoW=The Name of the Wind – see bottom of this post for a summary of ratings on Amazon and Goodreads as of today.
See the genre map above? It tells you the basic aspects of NoW, but the discussion from numerous reviews on this book highlight other factors that influence a persons choice or preference, such as:
1) Pace – Does it invove a lot of action, or a slow winding walk through the story?
2) Length – Is it long, short, a standalone, or a series?
3) Narrative – Which point of view is used? 1st, 2nd, 3rd? Does it change throughout the book?
4) Depth – Is it a detailed description of a new world (think Tolkien) or does it concentrate more of the exploits of a group of characters (think C.S. Lewis).
5) Writing style – Is it descriptive, does it use a unique prose?
Continuing with NoW as an example, what were the main points that led to a negative review? Some complained that it was overlong (typical problem of any fantasy book); compelling but with too little action or plotline; generic (I’d disagree but that’s not the main point here); they didn’t relate with the main character; there was too much emphasis on magic; or they didn’t like shifting between 1st and 3rd person PoV.
The result was for some readers to recommend GoT, but a search of the negative reviews on this series brings up a similar list of grumbles. Some complained that GoT has too much emphasis on political intrigue (and goes off on a tangent quite often); that it was overly long; there were too many plotlines; or that they didn’t like the shifting 1st person PoV.
Sound similar? 😉 With any good book people seem to expect more and will pan it online if it doesn’t fit their model of what they want out of it. Just check the ratings summary below for GoT and NoW. The general consensus is that they’re both good books (85%+ gave 4-5 stars) but inevitably no book will appeal to everyone, and you know what? That’s ok. If we extended the ratings to people who didn’t enjoy fantasy at all then it’s obvious we’d see more negative reviews.
So, would it give too much away to somehow describe the narrative style and structure of the book, or would you be happier with the simple genre tag of ‘fantasy’ for two completely different novels?