Whew! This year had a lot of Valdemar in it. I was a bit more hesitant to say negative things when I started this blog series, and then I became increasingly frustrated with certain things that cropped up in the Valdemar books over and over.
- Telling instead of showing was the huge one. Narrative summary and dull internal monologue comprised most of each book, which seemed like padding at best, and simply bad or cowardly writing at worst. Single brooding characters are much less interesting and do not carry the plot in the way two or more characters discussing and changing due to actions and discussions do.
- Her characters’ voices were all quite similar. There wasn’t much to distinguish one from the other, apart from superficial things. Many plots relied on misunderstandings, which are tedious. I’m looking at you, Arrows books.
- Good and evil are irritatingly simplified.
That being said, these books have strengths. I would recommend them to middle school kids or teenagers, for the most part—sex is glossed over but is treated in a sex-positive way, there are plenty of strong female characters, and I think it’s healthy and cathartic to read about angsty characters when you yourself are angsty, as many teens are. The fantasy elements are often silly, but then that’s part of the charm. Wish fulfillment is necessary in fiction to a certain extent. It gives hope.
As adult books, they fail simply due to their lack of complexity. That being said, adults can and do enjoy YA all the time (I still read Tamora Pierce, I liked Kristin Cashore’s Graceling books, I’m currently reading Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic and am enjoying it immensely so far). If I were in charge of marketing the Valdemar books I would market them as YA. Furthermore many people I know read the Heralds of Valdemar in early high school. This isn’t meant as a slight; I just think they do teenagers good, but a more refined and/or practiced taste will long for something … more. (Though, in my honest opinion, one Tamora Pierce book probably contains more nuance than the whole Valdemar oeuvre.)
A note on the Collegium Chronicles, since you’ll note I didn’t write about them. There’s a reason for that. I could barely read them. There are things I want to like about them… but for the most part they’re fluffy books full of filler and not much else.