Don’t Let the Hype Get to You

I’ve been meaning to review Winter and Six of Crows, and then I watched the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, and I noticed I had a theme with all three of these stories: hype.

Let me go ahead and clarify: I ENJOYED ALL THREE OF THESE THINGS. This will not be about big disappointments. But there were some minor problems I had with all three.

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First, Winter. Though there was a lot of hype surrounding this one, it was just from everyone who loves The Lunar Chronicles, which includes myself, so a lot of the hype I had put on myself. Cress was hands-down, my favorite read last year. Every page was just like YES, this book is PERFECT. So I thought with 800+ page Winter, it could only get BETTER, right?! OK, maybe not.

Again, I REALLY liked this book. I gave it 4.5 stars and put it in my top 10 faves of the year. But I can’t lie, that book dragged for me a bit. I think Meyer could have cut at least 100 pages, possibly more. Before Winter, I thought I could have read a 400-book all about the Lunar Chronicles gang playing Scrabble and been thoroughly entertained, but maybe I was wrong. When the characters were just waiting for things to happen, I got restless. I wanted things to move forward, not stand still. And in case you think I’m ALL about the action, that’s not true either. I actually got confused quite a few times during the action sequences. Though I will admit, that’s the case with almost every action sequence in almost every book. And while everyone went through something in this book before they could get to their happy ending, I just didn’t feel quite as much emotional resonance as I wanted. Maybe that was my own fault. Brittany talked about how she possibly created distance between herself and this finale, and I think I might have done that too.

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Then Six of Crows. Again, there was hype, but a lot of it self-made because I LOVED the Grisha trilogy and I love Leigh Bardugo. I figured that Six of Crows had to be even better than the previous books, because that’s how it works, right? Writers only get better? I enjoyed the book. I gave it 4 stars. But it did not feel tight to me. Like Winter (though shorter), I felt there were pacing issues. I didn’t feel it was a very good set-up for the actual “heist,” and then the whole “heist” (honestly, it doesn’t feel like a real heist) itself felt kind of weak to me. Not gonna lie. This didn’t feel anything like Ocean’s Eleven to me. I mean, I have no problem with things not going perfectly, but everything felt way more half-hazard than I think it was supposed to.

And then there were 6 main characters, and I actually liked about 3 of them. The other 3 were fine, but I could have lived without them. Really, the book could have been all about Inej and Kaz and that would have been good for me. They were the only ship that even made sense to me. And speaking of things not making sense, I could not keep any of the nationalities or any other cultural details straight, which seemed strange since I have read the other books and I don’t recall being confused with them.

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And lastly, Star Wars. Most of the movie was pretty solid. I loved how it felt like the original series, except updated, and it was going really well. I liked the characters, the pacing was good, etc. Then at some point kind of close to the end, it’s like… I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint the moment it stopped working for me. But by the end of the movie, I realize that I had a pretty good time but nothing impacted me the way I thought it should have. I’ll talk spoilers in white in the next couple paragraphs; highlight to see…

One thing that took me out of the movie relatively early on was when Han & Leia’s kid who’s the bad guy (I honestly don’t remember his name) took off his mask the first time. I was immediately like you are not their kid, I don’t believe it. He just didn’t look like their kid to me or feel like him to me. And he seemed to behave completely differently without his mask. The character in general felt a little inconsistent. And we never really get to know him, so when we get to that moment between him and Han, I don’t care if he wants to go home with Han and be redeemed (of course, it was pretty obvious to me that he didn’t). I don’t feel betrayed when he kills his dad. It just doesn’t click for me.

And then the “climax” happened, and I put it in quotes because it wasn’t all that exciting. Han and Chewie getting on the Millennium Falcon? That was exciting! Blowing up this massively destructive weapon planet? Eh, who cares? I mean, you know the good guys are going to win and they didn’t even bother to make you feel tense about it ever at any point. I guess Han’s death was supposed to make things feel hopeless but it didn’t. And after the “climax,” Rey goes off to find Luke (no explanation why it’s her), and they just stand there and stare at each other as she holds out his lightsaber and… the end. That’s the end of the freaking movie. I was waiting for the big reveal that Rey is Luke’s daughter (she has to be, right? Is anyone with me on this?) or at least something and I mean, Luke doesn’t utter one single syllable in this movie. It just ends, period. (Actually, if this was going to be the way it ended, it didn’t cut soon enough. My husband and I had the conversation that it would have been better if we see Luke, and then cut, as opposed to the ten seconds of him and Rey staring at each other that we get.)

Look, I know no story can actually be perfect. But I also look for emotional resonance, for great character growth, and I look at story pacing. All three of these stories are part of larger stories that I adore, and when I don’t get all three of those things lined up the way I expect them to, I can’t help but be a little disappointed.

Moral of the story? Have lower expectations, I guess. Though I think that’s nearly impossible when you’re dealing with franchises you already love. But it’s not always going to bigger and better the next time. Professional storytellers are not flawless storytellers, and I know this. At the end of Winter, the characters were where I wanted them to be. At the end of Six of Crows, I can tell that Kaz’s upcoming arc is one I’m going to want to stay tuned for. At the end of Episode VI, I saw my old “friends” and am hopeful of what is to come with the new ones. I may want a little more, but what I got was still good.

How do you deal with hype? Were you mildly (or maybe even majorly) disappointed in anything you were highly anticipated lately?

Character Study: Kaz from Six of Crows

When I read reviews of Six of Crows before reading the book for myself, I saw mention of how the characters aren’t really the nicest people around. Because of this, I was a little wary of being able to connect with any of the characters, which is what ultimately connects me with the story at large. Thankfully, I found myself liking two of the six main characters a good bit: Inej, and surprisingly, Kaz.

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Source

I won’t spoil any details, but what I will say is that Kaz is probably the least nice, least good person out of the crew of six. And yet, I really liked reading about his character. And I wondered why this was.

There is a Writing Excuses podcast episode I listened to a while ago about how to make characters likable, and they talked about “sliding scales.” There are a few different scales you can play with, so while your character might not be  the nicest person, sliding that scale low, you crank up the competence scale. This example definitely applies to Kaz. He seems cold-hearted, and for the most part he is, but he is very competent at what he does.

But he does also care for someone, not just Inej, but also his brother, and we see both of these relationships are very crucial parts of him as a character, in how he behaves and the choices he makes. Because of these relationships, combined with his intelligence and competence, combined with physical and mental weakness, he feels like a very fleshed out character. And he doesn’t feel like an antagonist or a villain because he has just enough relatability to make you root for him, even when you know you probably shouldn’t.

Who is a character you like from a book even though you feel you shouldn’t? Who was your favorite character in Six of Crows, and why?