Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Richelle Mead - Thorn Queen (Book Review)

"THORN QUEEN" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 480/384 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books / Zebra Books (August 2009)
About a year ago, I read and reviewed the first book of Dark Swan series, Storm Born, which came as a pleasant surprise. Naturally, I was excited to hear that the sequel was coming out this year and when I got the book, I started reading it as soon as I could find some time. Sadly, I have to say that it wasn't worth it.

The beginning once again introduces us to Eugenie's everyday (which I found pretty nice since I'd forgotten most of what has happened in the first book). This time around, Eugenie spends most of her days in Otherworld, since she is now the Thorn Queen there. Her country, being magical, has changed to suit her, but the inhabitants of Thorn Land have some hard time adapting to the climate changes. Eugenie is distraught and wants to help them, but by doing so, she has to put her talents to use, learn some more magic and decide on where her loyalties lie.

The plot is promising and pretty well-written, even if it seems that we've heard it all before. It's too bad that Mead doesn't leave it at that, but instead proceeds to throw in the element of paranormal romance – quite a lot of it. It seemed as if every chapter ended with a long scene of Eugenie and Kiyo having wild, rough sex. These love scenes are not even good, and after reading two or three of them, I simply started skipping them, because they were all the same. It was pretty annoying, not to mention being a really obvious filler for when Mead got out of ideas or simply wanted to prolong the book (without the sex scenes, it would've been shorter for at least a half) – I can't even say that she wanted to spice things up a bit, because it was all so utterly boring.

The humour, which I enjoyed quite a lot in the first book, has now faltered as well; in Thorn Queen, dialogues seem watered down and uninteresting. I admit I was under a lot of stress at the time of reading this book, so that might have influenced my views a bit, but I still think the fault lies mostly in Mead's writing. There was some lack of research on her part that did nothing to improve things – I could hardly laugh at Ladyxmara72 (a girl who met Eugenie in person and insisted on being addressed with her World of Warcraft character name), when I find it almost common knowledge that WoW characters can't have numbers in their names. It's a very silly, not to say sloppy mistake, but it destroyed that character for me, rendering her completely unconvincing. You can't submerge yourself into plot that way, not when such mistakes make you aware that the characters are just a product of an author that did not do her research well enough and don't, by any chance, resemble real people. And I always thought geeks were the easiest characters to write, because there are so many stereotypes about them that are actually true in plenty of cases. Meh.

Thorn Queen is a huge step backwards from what we've seen in Storm Born. The plot is all but put on the sidetrack and the whole book mostly revolves about Eugenie's sexual life, when it should be the other way around. Thus, Thorn Queen firmly sets itself into the sub-genre of paranormal romance, and will probably appeal to fans of Twilight and the like. Too bad, really – the plot had much potential, but has become more of an excuse for sex scenes.


bloggeratf said...

Ouch, that was a rough review.

Any chance you can recommend a vampire book that doesn't involve romance of one kind or another? I have been looking for something mature in the genre but have yet to find something suitable.

Trin said...

A vampire book without romance? The only one I can think of atm is I Am Legend, but the vampires in there act more like zombies, so ... :/ There's also Hellsing, but it's manga, not a novel. I'm not really a fan of vampire books :)

D Swizzle said...

Really? Because I just read it and I didn't think it was too terrible...not great, but not *horrible*. Hm...interesting...

Thea said...

Hey, you're back!!!! :) Good to see ya, Trin!

I haven't read this book yet (in fact, I haven't read the first book in this series yet either, though I have read and loved Richelle Mead's other series')...but I think I might just stay away now. I read the latest SUCCUBUS book of hers, and it also felt like a big step backwards. Sigh.

And as for vampire books without romance, I can think of a few:

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
They Thirst by Robert McCammon
Nekroscope (series) by Brian Lumey

All are of the horror persuasion and are pretty damn good (although I'll admit I was disappointed/had mixed feelings towards THE STRAIN).

ThRiNiDiR said...

How about Bram Stoker's Dracula?

Can't forget about that one can we? :)

Madwang said...

I'm almost certain you weren't in a proper reviewing mood/mode, Trin. The WoW reference was a bit sloppy but I wouldn't go as far as saying it was poor research. She heard about WoW and about some other virtual space/s, where you can use those kinds of names then put 2 and 2 together. Who could've though she'd get 5.. :D
On the other hand I can certainly catch a glimps of what might've bothered you.. A character who wants to be called Ladyxmara72? ...

Marc said...

Welcome back, Trin and Thrin, as to a "gritty" vampire book that isn't aimed at young women, try Vampires, by John Steakley (author of the sci-fi classic Armor).

Trin said...

Ok, we're all just horrible for forgetting to mention Martin's Fevre Dream. I mean ... x)

And, Mad, I can lend you the book if you want. You'll see for yourself. The poor research did not really bother me that much, but there were just too many sex scenes. The story just got lost somewhere in between, and it bothered me that much that even when (in the second part of the book) the story prevailed, I couldn't help but think about how much better (and shorter) the book would be if 3/4 of the aforementioned love scenes were cut out and Mead would just concentrate on the plot.

ThRiNiDiR said...

Yeah, Madwang is just DYING to read Thorn Queen, I can even picture him quivering with anticipation... *shudders*

Emperor said...

I love this post. I remember, in my Quest, working on my newest Project (::CHEESY PLUG ALERT:: Sedallia: Land of Sails; Check My Site) I visited several websites detailing writer tricks.

I can remember reading one Author who, when she needed, say 80,000 words instead of 40,000, would specfically add in two sex scenes somewhere in the midst of the book. Your review made me laugh, as that is exactly what happened.

Luckily being an independent author and self-published, Im only constricted by what I think is appropriate. I do check my word count every so often, but its just out of curiosity. If it takes 10,000 words or 100,000 words to tell a story, it makes no difference to me, I just price it appropriately. And often, for those smaller books, I offer them for free as advertising.

As far as paranormal romance goes...I still need to read Kushiel's Saga...or whatever its called. I jus cant bring myself to interest. Though Ive been told by some of my writing partners that I can write one heck of a love scene, they quickly become boring for me.

Maybe its the visual aspect of male pique interest...

Anyhow, good review. Good for a chuckle, and I will be staying away from this title.

Lunco said...

After a while I started skipping the Kiyo sex scenes too but enjoyed the stuff with Doran immensely :P

Emperor said...

Have you done a review of the Kushiel Series? Something I read reminded me of this reviw, so I came back to ask.

Cari said...

From how you reviewed Thorn Queen, I think you might really like "Servant of dark God" by John Brown. It's the first in a trilogy (books 2 and 3 coming out in 2010 and 2011). It's very well written and Brown takes a fresh approach to SF/F books. I highly recommend it. For more information, look at John Brown's blog


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