Some readers will push through any book they start no matter how they feel about it, whether it’s because they’re hoping the book will redeem itself in the end or they’re just too stubborn to stop, but I am not one of those readers. I’ll push through books that aren’t going to be a 4 or 5 but aren’t horrible, but I do give myself permission to stop and put a book down if there’s no way I’m going to be able to rate it well. I’ve always got something else I could be reading instead, so why waste my time like that?
I do leave DNF reviews if I got far enough in to have constructive things to say, but I will always open by being honest that it is an DNF review. I’m also not opposed to coming back and trying a book again in the future. Sometimes I DNF because I know this isn’t the time to read it and I may have a better experience with it in the future.
Let’s look at some of the books I’ve DNFd and why, and I’d love to hear about your DNFs (or if you don’t DNF, why not?) in the comments down below!
Disclaimer: If you enjoyed any of these books, that’s perfectly fine! We just have differing opinions on these books. I’m not saying don’t buy these books in general (though I may give specific comments on specific books for clear reasons) and I am not here to attack authors or publicists. These are the books I, one individual, didn’t care to finish reading and why. Due to the nature of this post, I will not be including purchase links because I don’t want to appear to be trying to monetize things I didn’t like with affiliate links, but that is not a statement that you shouldn’t check these out if they’re interesting to you.
Disclaimer the Second: This will be going in reverse order from most recently read back to older reads based on the read dates I reported on Goodreads. That’s it. The order does not imply anything more about my like or dislike of these books. These are also only the books I have DNFd since I started reviewing everything I read in May 2020.
The Stolen Series Book One
by Marlena Frank
My DNF Review:
DNF at 30%
I was granted complimentary access to the audiobook of Stolen in conjunction with a blog tour, but as my review is not positive enough for promotional purposes I was asked to hold off with any review until after the tour ended, and I am happy to do so.
Stolen is framed as a radically re-imagined retelling of Alice in Wonderland and it had so much potential. I was very invested in the broken father-daughter relationship presented at the beginning and I very much wanted to explore that more. The story that was being set up was unfortunately just so much more interesting than the story we got once our MC was “stolen” and taken to another world. If I were reading this for pleasure rather than listening for a tour I might have just made it one of the books I return to here and there until it’s finished, and if I can find a print or ebook copy I may eventually do that, but since I wasn’t interested in the story I was particularly bothered by the odd way the narrator pronounced things. Everything came to a holt rather than a halt (a phrase that was used too often,) people had “ben” through stuff, and I’m not sure if the flora of this world was being described as “pillow forms” or if “pellowfors” is a type of tree or bush.
This has not scared me off from this author or anything like that and as mentioned, I would be interested in acquiring a print/ebook copy to meander my way through between other reads to see if it gets better.
Elantris Book One
by Brandon Sanderson
My DNF Review:
DNF at 26%
I joined a club reading through Sanderson works one book a month starting January 2021, and waited most of the month for my audiobook library loan to come in. The first quarter of this book was very heavy with worldbuilding that wasn’t extremely well integrated with story, characters I wasn’t attatched to, and just plain far too much everything. It’s very clear that this was his first published book and he hadn’t perfected the craft yet. I truly wasn’t interested in the characters, it felt like a slog to get through, and I was too late to enjoy reading this WITH my club group, so I gave up and released my libby hold. Some day when I’ve worked through the rest of Sanderson I’ll come back to this one and give it a second chance.
I feel like this one will be a shocker for my audience who knows I love fantasy. I’m genuinely loving the Mistborn books and I do want to return to this one later on after I’ve read more Sanderson and I’m not crunching to get a lot of stuff read by certain deadlines.
The Hazel Wood
The Hazel Wood Book One
by Melissa Albert
My DNF Review:
I couldn’t bring myself to finish this one. I’ve got a ton of other audiobooks I could listen to just waiting for me to accept them on Libby, and I’m losing patience with this POV character, so I’m returning it early at only 10% finished and may return in the future. I realize I haven’t given it a chance to “get interesting” at just 10% but so far this is a whole lot of telling rather than showing as a teenage girl complains about everything and calls her mother by her first name. I’d also like to point out that the audiobook narrator says “Alice” like “Ellis” which is far too close to the mother “Ella.”
2 stars, don’t have the time to be patient with this whiny brat protagonist. May return and re-assess.
Once again, one I wouldn’t be opposed to grabbing as a physical/eBook copy and meandering through it between other reads, but the narration was absolutely part of my decision to DNF and I’m not at all interested in giving that format another chance.
Rise of Knight and Sword
One Sword Saga
by Miriam Wade
My DNF Review:
I was granted complimentary access to an eARC of Ride of Knight and Sword by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I was so excited to be approved for this book because it sounded so promising. A librarian in Camelot who answers the call to adventure? Sign me up! Alas, I’ve been trying to finish this book for over a month, and I’ve decided to throw in the towel. The opening chapter is painfully slow as Guinevere goes about her morning routine in far too detailed mundanity. Then we get past that and start to see the world we’re in. Camelot has been made into a modern world full of technology and real-world 21st-century luxuries and worries but we’re going to go on a King Arthur rehash adventure and there just so happens to be inconsequential dinosaurs wandering around? Arthurian legend usually has dragons, I’ll give you that, but dinosaurs with no purpose? They just exist in this modern fantasy world and nobody cares? Make Arthurian dragons based in prehistoric life, sure. Tell me a story about what Camelot has become in the many centuries since Arthur, sure. Rehash King Arthur but in modern times with modern tech, sure. All of the above at once? There’s too much going on and we’ve somehow focused on the more boring details of it all.
I try to include positives in my reviews even with I chose not to finish, or slogged through but didn’t like what I read, but I’m struggling with this one. I see from the current Goodreads average of 2.16 stars after 33 reviews that I’m not alone in this. I will say the cover design is spectacular and the reason I looked at this listing in the first place. I do think some of the concepts in this book are strong, and with a serious tear-down by a developmental editor, it could become something great. This author has good ideas but needs someone in the pre-publication process (the earlier the better) to be brutally honest about what isn’t working.
This book has a Good Reads average of 2.3 from 43 ratings, 42 of which are reviews. It bombed on its NetGalley rounds. Since so many other people agree with me that this book isn’t it, including those who got all the way through, I’m not going back and trying again. Life’s too short to give a “hopeless” book a second chance. That said, if this sounds like your kind of book and the things that bothered me don’t bother you, a few people did give is 4 stars and ended up loving it.
The Chronicles of Stratus Book One
by Mark de Jager
My DNF Review:
Thank you to Mark de Jager and publisher Rebellion for granting me eARC access to Infernal in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.
Although I chose not to finish reading Infernal, I do feel that I’ve read enough to be able to offer a fair review. Please note that this is a DNF review, and I would call it a 1.5 if I could award half stars.
Infernal is the story of Stratus, a demonic being with amnesia who escapes his paladin captors and proceeds to murder and eat his way through the world around him in search of answers regarding who he is, how he came to be here, and what his purpose is. The book is written in the first person (passive continuous tense) from Stratus’ point of view and takes time to describe Stratus’ every move. While this is certainly well written and I was not bored by it, I wouldn’t call the pacing of this book fast in any way. In order to enjoy this book, you must be the sort of reader who likes spending a lot of time with the characters even in the absence of fast-moving plot events. This is not my reason for discontinuing the book, I usually am that sort of reader, and the author’s writing style is compelling.
I have two main reasons for putting this book down. The first reason is a matter of taste and expectation. The synopsis given for this book was short and given that the genre was listed simply as “Sci-Fi & Fantasy,” what to expect wasn’t clear. Featured early reviews included that make claims such as “If Jack Reacher came to Westeros” had me hoping for a story that breaks out of the gate at full gallop, makes me care for the characters, and then breaks my heart. What I got was a slow start that didn’t inspire any empathy at all, and none of the deaths meant anything. If I’m going to read a first-person account of a demon with amnesia murdering and eating his way through town I want it written by a Terry Pratchett contemporary. I want it laced with humour and absurdism. If I’m reading a cold murderer acting on demonic animal instincts, I either want a second POV I do care about early on, or I want insight into what this character has forgotten so I can have at least a hope of caring about this unempathetic killer. Perhaps the story begins at the wrong point. I think de Jager has done an excellent job of writing a demon, but it has taught me that I’m not interested in a demon’s perspective.
The second reason I chose not to finish is a concern that there may be racist elements to this book. Stratus wakes up, examines his body, and knows immediately that his skin is darker than it used to be. Others who come across him compare him to a group of people who live farther south who are known to be that dark. A boy asks if he’s a demon because of his complexion. These god-fearing and pure characters (paladins), though not presented as heroes of the story or anything so grand, are understood to be much paler. As Stratus moves through the land taking and killing as he pleases it becomes clear that he is very much a demon, something evil and dark, and that this is indeed not his original body. Whatever made him what he is now also put him in this dark-skinned body. Dark skin is being equated with the embodiment of evil. This is coming from a white author, and it’s not a good look.
For those who aren’t bothered by my second point and who enjoy slow-building, character-driven epic fantasy, this could very well be your next favourite read. I did see promising writing and prose skills in this book from a author who knows how to give just enough detail without losing sight of what’s important in any given scene. I’m still open to reading other works by this author.
I stand by what I said and I do not endorse this book at all. This is the exception to the disclaimer at the top of this post. Don’t support this one.
Race To The Finish Line
by Aisha Yusuf
My DNF Review:
I received a complimentary eARC of Race to the Finish Line from author Aisha Yusuf through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Aisha Yusuf for the opportunity! This has not swayed my opinion.
I was so excited to read this book. That cover with a muslin girl squared up against a KKK clansman overlaid on newsprint is powerful, and the pun in the title certainly caught my eye as well. It’s 2020, and race issues are front and centre. We’ve seen so many very important books about race and racism come out, and I was hoping this would be one of them.
The premise is there! I had such high hopes for this black muslin girl and her journey navigating her senior year of high school in a town that doesn’t want to give her a chance. I wanted to go on this journey with Aaleyah and fight with her. I wanted to see and hear and feel this experience with her. Unfortunately, this book is completely tell rather than show, and Aaleyah feels like a very flat character. My level of investment in this story came purely from my expectations for it and most definitely waned as I attempted to read it. I DNFd at about 50%.
I think Aisha Yusuf shows promise as an author and I would absolutely love to see what comes next. Not every debut novel is gold, so I won’t hold this against her at all. I’m sure the next one will be better, and I think Aisha has a lot of important things to say, so I hope she’ll continue to tell us.
I felt really bad about DNFing this one in paritcular because this self-published author paid the publisher fee to be on NetGalley by herself. There was no publisher or publicist company listed on this book, it was just the author. I respect that, for sure!
The Game of VORs
by Andrew Orange
My DNF Review:
I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review through Voracious Readers, and unfortunately, I’m going to report that for now I will not be finishing this book. For reference, my Kobo app says I read 20% of the book.
This is a dystopian YA/NA science fiction set in the future, in a world where humanity has fallen into a two-tiered class system: the Vors (politicians and aristocrats) and the Simples (everybody else.) Kier is the youngest son of a Vor, and as such should lead a charmed and easy life, but he’s been living with his bodyguard (possibly his late mother’s lover) and his bodyguard’s daughter. He’s 18 and just finishing up the world’s equivalent of high school as the novel begins. The great adventure that drives the plot is spurred by the fact that he fails his exams, and (despite his privileged title) doesn’t have the money to buy better results.
The reason I am DNFing this book is because it took so long to get to the point (exam results are at 13% read through, even though we open with him taking an exam), because the narrative voice and how this character thinks are inconsistent with his age, and because this novel is the oddest mix of world builder’s disease and the exact opposite.
Sometimes Kier is thinking about his world’s history, or his current life situation, and this is used as the exposition vehicle for the reader to explain the setting. During these internal monologues, Kier “speaks” like a seasoned man well beyond school age. When he’s thinking about school in general, about exams and his teachers, or about his peers, he sounds like a pre-teen. I was shocked when his age was revealed as 18. On top of this, the narrative voice constantly refers to him as a child or “the youth,” and the latter is over used in some passages.
When Kier isn’t monologuing exposition at us, we get zero explanation about everything else in this world. There’s a lot of jargon from this world setting that we’re just supposed to accept at figure out. There’s also a lot of flowery filler writing.
I don’t know if the ebook file I received is the publish ePub file anyone buying an ePub copy would receive or not, but the file itself has errors. There are distracting editing errors that should have been caught, and something about this file isn’t allowing me to make annotations if the linked chapter header is on screen. An example of the editing errors come from the first page of chapter two: “When he had fell fallen asleep”
Rape and general poor treatment of females, particularly female Simples, is normalized in this narrative and comes up a lot.
Other reviewers have called this book out for being blatant plagarism of The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I intend to read one of these days to confirm. Based on the strong evidence already presented that it is a copied work and the rape issue I brought up in the review, I also absolutely do not endorse this book.