I was super excited to get an email from Netgalley a couple days ago with an invitation to read a five-chapter excerpt of SJM’s new series. I’ve been a fan of SJM since she was posting the first draft of the Throne of Glass series on Fictionpress circa 2004ish, so of course I was interested in this new series.
The first chapter was rough for me, I’ll admit. While I was reading, I was having visions of writing some clickbaitey title for this post: I read an excerpt of SJM’s new series and it was… okay… Here’s the thing: Maas tends to write in a very samey way. A lot of readers won’t notice it, but she loves characters that “swagger” or “stalk” into a room, and she loves discussing the sharp “tang” of blood. (I could give lots more examples, but these three are the ones that really spring to mind, and all of these pop up in the excerpt.) I think that tendency in her writing isn’t so apparent in SJM’s earlier books, perhaps because she had more time to write them, but I suspect that the book-a-year trend, combined with the long length of her books, makes it so that her most recent books blur together for me prose- and tone-wise.
But I also don’t think this is just a SJM thing, but a me thing. As a writer myself, I’ve been actively developing and honing my craft for the past five years, and my tastes have changed. I’m not huge on pages of snarky dialogue anymore, which SJM tends to sprinkle liberally throughout her books. I also have pretty strong opinions on adjective, adverb, and dialogue tag use, opinions that I do now find at odds with SJM’s writing–but just because another author writes differently than I do, it doesn’t mean their work sucks. So I think part of what had me raising my eyebrows while reading the first chapter of House of Earth and Blood was due to me being a different reader than I used to be.
I liked the later chapters, though. I do anticipate I’ll pick up this book and finish it, though perhaps I’ll wait until I’ve finished up the Throne of Glass series. (I still have the last one to get through.) The book has some really interesting worldbuilding: a modern, urban fantasy-like feel set in another universe with angels, fae, witches, and everything in between. It’s three stars for me at the outset, and I’m curious to see how the rest of the book turns out.
I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on whether you like your favorite authors’ books to feel “samey.” Do you mind if an author’s books all feel very similar to each other? Do you notice when an author uses the same words and phrases frequently throughout their work, and does that bother you? Let me know what you think!