May 9th, 2013

Me 2012

Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis

Back in March, IIRC, Barnes and Noble had a dispute with Simon & Schuster that resulted in B&N punishing Tor by cutting way back on their orders of Tor books. Bestsellers still got ordered, but midlist authors were chopped. One of my Twitter friends linked me to a post by Burgis, wherein she spoke of the release of her newest book, the third in a trilogy, in hardcover. B&N ordered no copies. For the entire chain.

This is sort of devastating for anyone in traditional publishing, because B&N accounts for a sizable fraction of brick-and-mortar sales. If you are an author with a traditional publisher, "getting books placed on shelves B&N" is about half of what they can do for you that you cannot feasibly do for yourself/hire someone to do. Furthermore, traditional publishers tend to base their decision on whether or not to buy your next book on how well your last book did. My impression is that factors like 'It didn't sell because the publisher's biggest partner was having a wholly unrelated spat and didn't pick it up' will generally be disregarded. I could be wrong! But that seems to be the gist of it: it doesn't matter if it didn't sell because it was bad or because the publisher dropped the ball, the author is still out of a career.

Anyway, I had not read any of Burgis's work, but she writes middle-grade Regency England fantasy, which is the sort of thing I often like, so I checked the first book of her trilogy out of the library.

The climax was my favorite part of the story, being quite well-done -- a splendid example where the characters appear to be trapped in a hopeless situation, much of it their own fault, but where the resolution is both clever and consistent with the narrative and available information. I approve! Points for overall plot arc. Also some interesting character development near the end.

The cast is large and a weak point, unfortunately: many of even the important characters are dominated by a single character trait. This would bother me less if they were likable traits, but often they just annoy me, much like they annoy the narrator/protagonist. The main character is more rounded and entertaining, although at time I found her plucky snarkiness to be grating. I did like the way she tends to think her way out of her problems -- the author grants the protagonist some useful powers, but the protagonist has to figure out how to implement them to help herself, and they're not always the solution.

Also, this is a middle-grade novel so I am not exactly the target market, which explains the one-note characters to a degree.

I'd rate it as a 6 or 7 for overall enjoyment, with enough upswing at the end that I will probably give the sequel a try at some point. I will note that the conclusion is quite satisfying and the book stands alone well, so the sequel is by no means required.

Edit: The publisher involved here is Simon & Schuster, not Tor -- edited to correct.