5 Beloved Fantasy Books That I Never Liked

When I talk about blasphemies on this blog, I’m generally talking about movies, but I certainly have my fair share of book blasphemies too. In particular, there are a decent number of beloved classic fantasy novels or series of novels that I either actively dislike or just never connected to, which might not mean much if I primarily wrote romantic westerns in the vein of Joan Wilder, but considering I’m a speculative writer who heavily favors fantasy . .  . you know, it seems like a bigger sin.

But sins are best when shared, right? So, I present to you a list.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis

lionwitchwardrobe

Part of the problem here might have been age. Most people presumably read The Chronicles of Narnia when they’re still in their single digits; I received it as sweet sixteen present and muddled through two books before quickly giving up in the beginning of Prince Caspian.

I actually didn’t mind The Magician’s Nephew too much. You’d think at sixteen I’d have been old enough to grasp the whole Christian allegory thing, but to be perfectly honest, I never did — for someone who grew up in a town where the church to bookstore ratio is something like seven to nothing, I really had a very tenuous grasp on Christian mythology and was pretty unfamiliar with either of the Creation myths. So I thought that watching the whole formation of a world was actually pretty interesting. I was less impressed with the Jesus Allegory Lion.

I didn’t hate The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I sure was bored by it. I didn’t really care about any of the kids, and I seem to remember thinking Edmund’s betrayal came off as contrived and annoying. When I finished the book, I couldn’t understand why everybody loved it so much, and I only gave Prince Caspian a half-hearted effort before giving up on the whole thing altogether.

The Dragonriders of Pern – Anne McCaffrey

pern

(Yes, I know these are SF stories, but I’m also counting them as fantasy because, you know. Dragons.)

People who are gasping in horror now — I’m sorry, I don’t have much justification to offer you here. I actually did try out the Pern books at the appropriate age, but I’m afraid that the reasons for my dislike are long since lost to me over the past twenty years. I know that, as an author, Anne McCaffrey didn’t seem to do much for me as a kid — I distinctly remember not being a big fan of Acorna, either. (Although I feel like I might’ve even liked that better than The Dragonriders of Pern series, which must have totally horrified me, as I was never particularly partial to unicorns and very much considered them to be things that Other Girls Liked. {Also in this list: dolphins, beads, stationary.})

I remember wanting to like this series — when your last name is St. George, you do tend to gravitate towards dragon fiction — but I just didn’t for some reason. (As a side note, it’s kind of unacceptable that I haven’t read Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, right? Maybe I’ll get on that later this year.)

The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan

wheel

When I was about 13, my friend Brook and I exchanged our favorite fantasy series. Neither of us were much impressed with the other’s choice. (My series, if you’re interested, was The Belgariad. I read it when I was eleven, and it was a Big Deal to me. If you read it when you’re older . . . or if you’re a more sophisticated reader, as Brook certainly was . . . the writing does often leave a little to be desired in certain places. I will always love it, though. Silk still remains one of my favorite characters of all time.)

Brook liked The Wheel of Time, though, and I suffered through, I think, five books of that before I gave up. I remember very little about the universe now — like, I couldn’t give you even a basic plot description of the first novel — but I do know what I hated about it: the characters. I disliked everyone in these books. I especially disliked Rand, the main protagonist. For years, anytime I came across a character who I found insufferably whiny, I called him Rand. My actual favorite character was Mat, and even Mat was a total asshole — I suspect I just picked the snarkiest guy in the book so I would have someone to root for. Eventually, that wasn’t enough, and I gave up on the series entirely.

The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

mists of avalon

It’s hard to talk about this book right now, considering all the controversy surrounding it and its author. In a way, I’m grateful that I didn’t love this one like I was supposed to, because I’m not faced with the same moral quandary: can you still love a story that means so much to you if the author who wrote it did some truly unspeakable things?

I never actually finished reading The Mists of Avalon. I started it twice in middle school and gave up on it, presumably distracted by other, shinier books, but in high school, I was determined to make it through. And I was doing it, too; I got halfway through that fucker before I just. Couldn’t. Do it anymore.

Because . . . Gwenhwyfar.

I cannot properly express to you how much I hated reading Gwenhwyfar’s POV. I despised her. I loathed everything about her. If she had spontaneously caught fire in the middle of the book for no apparent reason, I would not have cared how much that would’ve changed the story; I would simply have laughed. Gwenhwyfar was such an unlikable character that I abandoned a book that I’d already read at least 400 pages of, and generally, if I’m over a 100 pages into anything, I’m going to finish that story. Like, I can’t actually think of another exception to that rule EXCEPT The Mists of Avalon.

Fucking Gwenhwyfar, man.

The Hobbit

hobbit

Like The Chronicles of Narnia, I suspect I didn’t read The Hobbit until too late because I didn’t finish this book until I was eighteen. And like Narnia, I couldn’t understand why people loved it so much. That a bazillion people DO love it is certainly undeniable, and I’d never try to make them feel like shit for loving it just because I couldn’t see the appeal, but . . . I still really don’t see the appeal. (And the movies aren’t helping me out any. Stupid movies.)

Overall, I found The Hobbit pretty dull. I didn’t care much about the dwarves. I know I actively disliked Bilbo, and the only character I did find even a little interesting was Gandalf — which was basically my impression when I skimmed through the LOTR books, too. (I didn’t add the trilogy to this list because I never gave it a very serious chance. I just flipped through the books after seeing the Peter Jackson movies, all the while thinking to myself, How can I like everyone in the films and be so freaking ANNOYED with everyone in the novels?)

What about you guys? Do unlikable characters consistently get you down, too? What are novels that you never particularly liked — and no need to stick to just fantasy. I’m interested in book blasphemies in every genre.

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9 Responses to 5 Beloved Fantasy Books That I Never Liked

  1. Teacups says:

    I was really annoyed with Good Wives, the sequel to Little Women, mostly because they took awesome tomboy Jo, who wasn’t interested in boys and wanted to go off and have adventures and be a writer, and had her marry some creepily parental guy after all her artistic dreams failed in the most moralistic way possible, and play Mother to a bunch of kids at an orphanage/school. The orphanage/school was really noble and all, and I usually wouldn’t have cared if she’d gotten married, but everything she became seemed like a total betrayal of who she was in the first book. She was easily my favourite character and the one I could most relate to – I didn’t care about Meg or Amy much, and Beth was adorable but didn’t get much in the way of story – so this really drove me nuts.

    I never liked Where The Wild Things Are. *ducks* I didn’t dislike it, but I never understood what all the fuss was about, and as a kid the drawings never really appealed to me. I just adore the film adaptation though.

    To continue with children’s books, I remember once when I was a wee prep, which is like our equivalent to kindergarten, we were having an easy day and the whole grade gathered in a classroom to listen to one of the teachers read Farmer Duck. The rest of the kids were sitting there enthralled, and I was sitting there all grumpy, thinking something along the lines of “This is stupid. We’re just meant to be into this because an animal is doing human things. Who cares if the duck can farm?”

    • I haven’t read Good Wives (or Little Women, for that matter), but that sounds pretty awful. That annoys me, and I’ve only seen the Winona Ryder movie.

      I actually don’t really remember Where The Wild Things Are. I’m pretty sure I read it and liked it at the time, but it’s not one that stuck with me for whatever reason. I haven’t seen the movie, either, although it does seem to be a somewhat divisive film. I know people who love it, and I know people who HATE it, but I haven’t heard very many, “Yeah, it was okay,” reactions.

      I do not believe we read Farmer Duck in class, or else it went the way of Where The Wild Things Are in terms of completely dropping out of my memory. I am entirely enchanted with the idea of Tiny Teacups, though, sitting in her classroom and scornfully dismissing the entertainment value of anthropomorphized birds. I do remember my fourth grade teacher reading us a book that I found immensely boring, and I think it might’ve had something to do with bears, but I can’t recall the specifics anymore. I fell asleep in class listening to it, I was so bored. And also, it turned out I had pneumonia, so. There was that.

  2. Brandon says:

    “The Hobbit” was read to me by my father when I was 9 years old. One chapter per night. And I have to say that that is the absolute ideal way to read The Hobbit. Done that way, it’s simply magical. The Hobbit is really a series of adventures that just happens to be wrapped around one big one. Reading straight through doesn’t work for it.

    • I like that idea. I had considered, if I do have kids someday, trying to revisit the novel with them, reading it St. George Jr.’s (I assume I’ll have more than one) and maybe being able to experience it through their eyes. I’ll keep the chapter a night in mind. 🙂

  3. Cory says:

    I read the Narnia books when i was 7 and the LoTR + Hobbit when i was 8, because they were not-quite-age-appropriate birthday gifts from a friend of the family. (Fortunately, they were exactly what i enjoyed reading at the time.) They were some of the first fantasy that i read, so i think they made a home in my heart that way.

    The other books you listed i can 100% agree are shit. Seriously. I figure it must be the same way: if it’s the first fantasy you read, you have a soft spot for it, even if it’s got crap in it like Tom Bombadil. 😉

    • Probably. The Belgariad was my second fantasy series. The Prydain Chronicles was the first, and while it didn’t quite light my brain on fire like the former, I do still have a soft spot for the books, specifically the first few. I liked Eiolonwy. I would totally name a cat Eiolonwy.

      Ugh. Fucking Tom Bombadil. 🙂

  4. Cory says:

    Oh, and my blasphemies: just about every “classic” book i’ve read. Apparently, novels written before about 1970 didn’t do anything for me. Especially–and i cannot stress this enough–especially Charles Fucking Dickens.

    • LOL. I’ve only read A Tale of Two Cities, and I don’t think I cared much one way or the other. (SPOILERS for anyone who cares about 19th century literature.) I only liked one character, and he died at the end. And I knew how it was going to happen, too, although I can’t remember if I figured that out from the first chapter or from watching the first ten minutes of a film adaptation in class. But once I knew these two guys looked alike, I was like, yup, the scoundrel’s going to sacrifice himself for the good guy. Godamnit.

      I’m trying to think of my least favorite classic. I generally liked Steinbeck well enough, but The Grapes of Wrath was fairly trying. Oh, and it’s not really a classic, having been written in the 1980’s, but I had to read The Mosquito Coast in high school and pretty seriously considered setting it on fire.

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