Ever since I started consuming every crumb of writerly advice I could find, criticizing fiction became harder for me. Books I previously thought were horribly written, suddenly made more sense and I had a lot more respect for authors. Somewhere along the way, I subconsciously developed a new standard for evaluating fiction, and it wasn't based on snobbery or quality. Being a literary snob was never a good fit for me anyway, I'm not a word geek and don't get any sort of thrill in my soul when I see a well written piece of prose. I've always been a communicator though, and if you can communicate clearly and effectively than I really don't give a care if you have too many adverbs, or creative dialogue tags. But even I...a book slut, has a limit somewhere.
Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce didn't impress me.
Don't get me wrong, I couldn't write a book this good. She has a handle on craft, voice...her world-building in particular is strong and believable, but her main character is obnoxious and unreliable. Which leads me to my rant...
The feminist in me starts to fume and boil over books like this. This book is touted to have a strong female character. Agents and editors are big into "strong female characters" these days and so am I. But it seems that I have missed the memo on what exactly that means, since all the strong females I've read lately are really just bitchy.
In Trickster's Choice, Aly (the protagonist) manipulates everybody, doesn't care two cents for anyone, and although we're led to believe she loves both her father and mother... she doesn't feel guilty at all for putting them through hell. We're not even talking the slightest empathy here for anyone. She's cold-hearted, calculating and thinks she's better than everyone else. If this were a male protagonist, there would be cries of outrage and nobody would buy the book, and yet I think the author's point was Aly was just as good as any guy. I cringe because since when do women have to measure their worth against men? Being a man is not the gold-standard by which I care to base my value on.
What's even more embarrassing is not only did the author fall prey to that demeaning mindset, but she also had to fill the book with men who are absolute twits in order to make her strong females look strong enough. Ouch. It sends the message teenage girls loud and clear that women can only be better than men if the men in question have an IQ lower than 90. I blush. Seriously, we as women are better than this. We don't have to stoop to taking cheap shots in order to be equal.
Trickster's choice is the story of a rich, spoiled girl named Aly who is bored at home, so when she gets kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery, she strikes a deal with a god. (the kidnapping and slave thing isn't really a big deal to her...she could escape any time she wanted to, because she has magical powers). This god she meets up with, dangles power and ambition in front of her in exchange for her services. She still can't be bothered...even gods bore her, but she accepts since she doesn't have anything better to do that summer.
I guess the reader is supposed to care more about all this stuff than Aly is?
I'm being mean, I really shouldn't fault the author's talent or writing ability too much, and my complaints are chiefly subjective opinions, but I won't be picking up the rest of the series.
For me not to care what happens is unheard of, but how can I care if none of the characters themselves care?