I recently found two books in the library that I've been wanting to read for quite a while, both continuations in massive fantasy series.
Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is #11 of the Wheel of Time series. The series started off extremely well; sure, a few annoying quirks now and then, but very exciting. It started to go downhill a bit later - 7, 8 & 9 were merely okay. Book 10 was truly awful; virtually nothing happened for (approximately) 121,789,324,723,984 pages.
KoD is a decided improvement over that. The plot starts moving again, things happen to characters. In some ways a fun read. But I just can't get back into the series.
The annoying gender division stuff is just too, well, annoying. Men and women are NOT alien species.
I don't buy the motivations anymore. For Mat in particular - he's falling for someone who's much worse than a mere slaver. I'm not a fan of prophecy, but in fantasy prophecy is supposed to put characters in hopeless situations... not authors who have no idea how to write what they already said would happen. Oh, and I never bought Rand/Aviendha. And if I were him I'd probably dump Elayne, too. Min is nice, despite her curse (seeing bits of the future).
I'm fed up with Rand screwing over the Asha'man. He cleansed Saidin! Men who can channel could be his most loyal (and by far most useful) followers. Instead he leaves them to a probable (even by what he knows) traitor. And he gives them away as Warders to the Red Ajah to "balance" for the Aes Sedai taken prisoner attacking the Black Tower? Forcing them to become soldiers for another organization is close to slavery; it's immoral as well as stupid.
I don't buy the victories. They're too easy. Perrin worked for his, but Elayne? The end of that plotline (as far as KoD went with it) just didn't add up for me.
I'm fed up with the author's fetish for corporal punishment. I'm fed up with the use of various forms of mind-control - compulsion (including that used in Warder bonding, those Seanchan thingies, Oath Rods). I'm fed up with the domination games - can two characters ever just interact as equals? Say, best friends? Husband and wife? No? Just checking.
I'm fed up with the Aes Sedai being degraded. They were one of the great things about the early books. Now they're running around being bullied by Aiel Stupid Ones and Seafolk, throwing up or fainting at the slightest shock... gah!
And oh yeah, the
Okay, I feel better. Onto the other book.
George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows, the 4th volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, is by far the superior of the two volumes.
I'm going to say a lot less about this one, to avoid spoilers (things actually happen worth avoiding spoilers about!). Besides, it's less fun to praise a book than to rant about one.
Things happen, for reasons that make sense. Characters do things, for reasons that make sense. Characters develop. Some are redeemed, others damned. (And some try for redemption who can never, in my opinion, achieve it, but the journey can still be interesting.)
The series can be pretty grim and dark at times - too much so for my taste, really. But it's always an exciting read, and so far no quirks remotely as annoying as Jordan's sniffing or hair-tugging or a dozen other repeated motifs.
The disappointment in AFFC is that some characters are left out, but the next volume will focus on them. And they are left out because so much happens involving the others!