Reading fantasy books involves dedicating a great deal of time, especially when it comes to some of those massive epics. But sometimes, whether it be through tediousness, overused story formula or even just a bad ending, you feel ripped off for your time and money when a book doesn’t live up to its praise or popularity.
This is a warning guide of what books I find are generally over-hyped, and that may not reach the standards you were expecting or live up to or some value of nostalgia from someone else’s promises. Hopefully this will save you a great deal of time by avoiding them. Though this is a subjective list it is still one made of many subjective online opinions. Dominantly, but not only, from the bestfantasybooks.com website.
The first five are a list of reasonably well known titles that people may offer you on a whim after readying them themselves. Accept only with the warning of what you’re getting yourself into. Remember ‘overrated’ doesn’t always mean ‘bad’ and that these books couldn’t be overrated without being highly rated in the first place.
This is considered by some to be Guy Gavriel Kay’s best novel and even Brandon Sanderson had it at the top of his recommended books list, but do not be fooled, it’s pacing is terrible. Don’t get me wrong, the first arc was very good at introducing characters and setting, that’s why it’s only at number 10, but after that the majority of this novel reads like a history book. No surprise that this guy is a writer of historical fantasy, but when the world is made up there is a point in world building where enough is enough.
I was a bit hesitant at first to put this book on this list because of its obscurity but when I read in an author review that he had become the ‘greatest modern fantasy author’ I had to shout out a warning about this book for anyone going through his bibliography. After reading Way of Kings, I consider this to be the weakest link in a rather brilliant author’s career. Maybe it’s because this is the last one the readers generally get to and they know his writing style so well… but this book is just so predictable. We get it, dark ninja heroes and proactive heroines that cause more problems than they solve, aha. Lastly, and call me anti-religious if you must, a Mormon should not be writing even pretend sex scenes.
Just to show I’m not completely biased let me begin by saying that I like this series all up. I mean Elfstones, Voyage, all good… (Ahem, not heritage). But let me also be honest with you, just like Thomas Covenant is Narnia for adults, Shannara is Lord of Rings for kids. It literally abridges the entire LOTR trilogy into one book, which one can either see as impressive… or depressing. So if someone recommends this to you or you want to recommend it to someone else, start off with the second book, it’s much better and works as a standalone no problem. And give the man some credit, without Brooks we would have no post Tolkien fantasy epics.
This book got so hyped up from the TWOT community but when I finally read it I discovered
everything awesome in this book happens in the last 50 pages… of a 1007 page book! Now readers out there can complain about how I missed out on the best parts or Sanderson’s ending or whatever characters do whatever magic. All I know is that I could’ve read ten great books in the time it took me to finish this overrated piece of sh*t.
Now here come the ones that everyone who reads fantasy is going to know.
When creating a top ten overrated list you need to think, ‘what makes a book overrated?’ Well receiving praise and popularity that doesn’t equal to its quality of story or writing. Now hear me out here, Harry Potter is good but do you really think it’s THAT good? Do really think the craze; the films, the games and the merchandise from the books equals up to it’s story? If yes, that’s just nostalgia talking, we all went through it. (This is only slot 6 remember) I can honestly say Harry Potter is the Pokemon of books, Game or cartoon, if you’ve read other series, you know you’ve read better before.
This story became popular before the ‘show, don’t tell’ belief came into general writing practice. There is a lot of ‘telling’ in this book and it is very invasive. The idea of the grand takes away from much that is good in the story, trading the development of its characters for the development of its world and the workings of the magic for fear of what consequences it could bring on. Intentional or not this trade creates a general boredom throughout the novel.
You’ve probably seen the covers to these books all over the shelves at your local bookstore.
Warning: Stray no further.
They read like young adult fanfiction but have swearing and sex to make it seem for adults. It takes both the classic master-apprentice relationship and hero-damsel relationship and makes them so circular that what the characters stand for starts to lose all meaning. The formula in the book is the generic orphan, apprentice, troubled master plot but adds nothing to it other than a magic system that has no boundaries allowing for most eye-rolling dues ex machina resolutions you will ever read. Heed my words, skip these and move onto his Lightbringer saga, you have been warned.
The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind
What can I say about Wizards First Rule? It was okay.
What can I say about the Sword of Truth series? It steadily declines from okay. Why do I say this? Its fan base is immense enough to create a terrible TV show that perpetuates the knowledge of this terrible series until it was finally, thankfully, cancelled. Here’s some food for thought; ‘super wizards’, ‘betty the evil goat who was evil,’ ‘a magical sword that gives no magic to the main character that any sword couldn’t’, ‘morally putting a peaceful town to the slaughter’, ‘punting little girls’ faces’, & lots and lots of sex torture… You get the point. Plus Goodkind is an Ayn Rand follower and you can every easily see her philosophies in these books *shiver*.
I know I’m going to get some slack for this one, which helps to prove my point really. The trilogy has many within its strong nostalgic grips but for those who actually read it, and by ‘it’ I mean the entire trilogy, who remember the tedious wandering and depression of the third book only to lead to one of the most disappointing endings in fantasy, here is my main reason. The main character is an idiot and a whiney b**ch which makes for a bad combination when complaining about the stupid things he does. In third person this wouldn’t be so bad but in first person, it’s all the reader has to go on!
For those of you who read my ‘least favorite things’ post this should not come at a surprise to you. This is a good example of why you shouldn’t publish a Star Wars obsessed teenager’s LOTR fan fiction. (Big breath in) Simply compare the quality of this series with its popularity and it’s not hard to see why this is the most over-rated book.
Don’t say you were expecting Twilight to be #1, we all know paranormal-romance doesn’t count as ‘real fantasy’. As ballsy as this was to send this to a well respected fantasy website it wasn’t nearly as ballsy as the publishers for putting these books on the bookshelves and watching them sell. Hehehe 😄