Why we DNFed and DFed these books:


Shadow and Bone 
Shadow and Bone, now a highly popular NETFLIX tv-show, was tough to read. The setting of the first book of this series has a very dark and “shadowy” theme, but it was challenging to follow. Almost right off the bat, we witness Alina being abducted and continue with this anonymous and confusing plot as we don’t know any more than she does about what is going on. Leigh Bardugo, the author of Shadow and Bone, wanted me to feel and understand the same things Alina was feeling at the kick-off of the novel, but instead, the first-person writing just made it very confusing. I had no clue what was going on. Honestly, if I hadn’t watched the tv-show years later, I would have forever thought this book was about some scary evil guy capturing a girl, and then she finds out she has magical powers and kills him—the end.

NETFLIX’s Shadow and Bone

Honestly, Shadow and Bone isn’t my favorite book either (Six of Crows, however, is perfection). Still, I enjoyed the trilogy. Yes, the first-person point of view is annoying, especially with Alina’s cluelessness, but that’s the point. The story is supposed to seem disjointed because of the manipulation Alina’s facing in her new environment. That aside, the books do get better, and it’s all thanks to one thing: the side characters. Alina may not catch your interest, but her dynamic friends will. Genya, Zoya, and Nikolai have three of the best character arcs I’ve read in YA, and the villain is addictively insane–it’s so rare to see a YA author call out the dark, handsome, immortal love interest trope, but Leigh Bardugo exposed the trend for all of its inherent creepiness.


Throne of Glass Book 3 – Heir of Fire
Sarah J. Mass is widely considered one of the best YA fantasy authors, so when I picked up Throne of Glass, I fully expected to love it. However, the book quickly fell flat. The plot was enjoyable enough; our assassin protagonist was interesting and the competitions were fun to follow. But it just felt lacking. And the series only got worse as it continued–characters that seemed okay became unbearably boring, the limited diversity kept the world feeling flat, and the writing style was generally not my type of story. Everyone told me that the plot picks up in Heir of Fire, but I must not have gotten far enough, because the book was pushed aside very quickly.

I read my first Sarah J. Maas book in 5th grade, and I’ve loved her writing since. I fully believe that the Throne of Glass series is one of the main reasons I seek to pursue a career in writing and why I have this everlasting love for reading. The book is written from a 3rd person point of view, but not one that leaves nothing to mystery and doesn’t make us feel connected to the characters. The plotline of Throne of Glass is one of the most unique stories I have ever read, a plus being that there are very few loopholes in the storyline. I agree that there is a sudden change in certain characters as we go from the first book to the third, one that seems to dull some personalities, but if you continue reading, they change so much for the better as you get to book four and beyond. Committing to this series is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and it does feel like home for me.


A Court of Thorns and Roses, often abbreviated as ACOTAR, is another Sarah J. Mass staple. I wanted to give her another try, but this one felt like even more of a disappointment than Throne of Glass. The plot was alright–I love fairytale retellings–but felt slow in pacing and there were points where I had no idea why I was still bothering to read. The main character was generic and lacked personality, the original love interest was forgettable, and the setting lacked anything to differentiate it from the generic fairyland trend in fantasy. While I’d feel bad about giving up, I’ve also been told the series gets much more explicit further on. I don’t enjoy those types of novels, so I think it’s better to accept that Sarah J. Mass’s writing is not for me.

ACOTAR covers

A Court of Thorns and Roses is frequently described as the bore of the ACOTAR trilogy, and it is said that once you get to the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, it picks up. If you aren’t a huge Sarah J. Maas fan, I can easily see how one would not finish this book. I found it extremely slow, and I constantly questioned why I was making myself read this book. A Court of Mist and Fury does indeed meet up to its reputation as the complete opposite of its predecessor; however, it’s not exactly jaw-dropping. The romance plot is decent, but when you can see it coming from a mile away, it’s not exactly exciting when something finally happens. Sarah J. Maas’s world-building is beautifully done through this trilogy, but there are many plot holes, and it does not live up to her Throne of Glass series.

I will never understand why this book was published, and I full-heartedly believe that Mass only did this because of the die-hard ACOTAR fans crying that the trilogy was over. I adored the trilogy, but it makes you feel like a glass half full at the end as the closure doesn’t feel like closure. Had this book been an actual novel, perhaps I would have been able to read it. Instead, it was a highly dull book I’d refer to as a short story if it’s worthy of that title. A trilogy suddenly produced another book shortly after its completion, and it honestly depleted the value of its predecessors. While trying to read this clump of chapters, I constantly tried to convince myself that someone took over for Sarah, and she wouldn’t have written something so disappointing, but I’ll have to admit it was one of the most significant letdowns ever. Still, I bought the books after this one, as her trilogy suddenly became many novels in which she is changing points of view and giving her characters much more depth. I have no doubt someday I’ll pick these up and find them enjoyable, but that day is further into the future.

Red Queen
While I’d love to give a thorough analysis of the Red Queen series and why I didn’t enjoy it, I honestly can’t. That’s how forgettable these books were. All I can say is that it was extremely disappointing. The plot sounded fresh and unique, but it didn’t hold my attention. The pacing was weird, the characters were boring, and I ended up with no real connection to any aspect of the story. I don’t even remember which book I dropped–I think I just gave up, lost interest, and moved on.

The author of Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard, is why I read this book in 2021. She’s joined BookTok and grown extremely popular, as she talks about everything she possibly can to help people and share her own opinions on topics. One of my comments on her TikTok blew up with tons of likes because she replied to it in appreciation. Had she not caught my attention on the app, I probably would have waited years to read her book, as it didn’t necessarily stand out to me. With Red Queen, my opinion is that it doesn’t live up to its popularity, but it does have some fantastic plot twists. Victoria Aveyard admitted herself during the launch of her new book in 2021, Realm Breaker that she didn’t have enough experience with character portrayal and development. I completely agree with this as her main character, Mare, doesn’t have any outstanding qualities. The definite worst aspect of the Red Queen is the romance. Her plot twist towards the end of the book had me in shock, no doubt one of the only things I will ever remember about it, but had the romance buildup made more sense and been more eventful; the entire story would have been so much better. All I have to say about this book is that it’s not bad, but it’s also not exceptional, and the only memorable part is her plot twist conclusion to the novel.

Furyborn is classified as an immediate success, somehow managing to hit the bestseller list after its release quickly. How? I have no idea. I loved the plot idea of having two female leaders throughout a novel, but I cannot even ponder how this book would have reached any popularity. I originally heard of this book through BookTok, and honestly picked it up because it had a pretty cover. Even reviewing this book, I don’t remember much, and I started it literally on Sunday (2/6). The start of the book is great and meant to be climactic, but I feel that when comparing it to other books I’ve read, it just didn’t stand out.

Don’t bother with Furyborn. It is the perfect example of why you should never judge a book by its cover.

City of Ashes

The Shadowhunters series is a staple of the fantasy-dystopia-type genre that was so popular a few years back. But really, I don’t know how these books managed to gain popularity to match The Hunger Games and The Mazerunner. The concept is interesting enough, and the writing was decent too. The issue comes as a big reveal at the end of City of Bones: our main character, Clary, and her love interest, Jace, are siblings. Yeah. Immediate no from me. But yes, I know they weren’t related, so I tried to continue the book series again. But not only are they under the belief that they’re siblings, but they’re also still acting like a couple anyways. There’s a lot of weird stuff in fantasy, but I have to draw the line at incest. Even if things worked out in the end, that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

I didn’t come remotely close to saying I read City of Ashes, although I was successful in reading its prior novel, City of Bones. My main issue is quite similar to Daneen’s – incest plot. Fans of The Mortal Instruments (TMI) books and Cassandra Clare (the author) herself are massive defendants of this plot as they say the main characters eventually find out they aren’t siblings. Still, I don’t understand why they would continue on their path as love interests while they fully believe they are siblings. I guess I shouldn’t judge too harshly as a Game of Thrones fan, and it’s widely known that two of the main characters are lovers as well as siblings, but I’m a softie for them in comparison to Clary and Jace from TMI. I honestly did love the idea behind The Mortal Instruments books, and I adored the movie based on the first book, but the mass of novels that went into the story didn’t have enough spark for me to push through and read them all. It just wasn’t for me; however, I do highly recommend it to newer YA fantasy readers or anyone that seeks out something unique they can’t find in oh-so-many books.

Shatter Me
I have promised to try rereading this book, as the series is top-rated on BookTok and throughout the YA community. I love the idea of having a main character who has a “touch of death” where she can make contact with anyone because they’ll die. After all, the author portrayed her perfectly and included a great romance plot. I genuinely believe that if I manage to push myself to read past the beginning, I’ll enjoy this series, but the kick-off is quite confusing, and it reminds me of Shadow and Bone in the way that I can’t picture anything going on. I try to imagine it as Juliette being in a sort of insane asylum, but nothing helps me fall into the book as I do with other literary pieces. Someday, I’ll pick it up again, and I’m sure I’ll love it. In the meantime, I recommend that anyone searching for a decent romance read to try it in my stead.

Disliking Circe may be the most controversial take on this list. Madeline Miller is a fantastic author–her poetic, descriptive prose is one of my favorite writing styles. I picked up this book right after finishing The Song of Achilles, expecting it to blow me away because of its popularity. As someone who had an intense mythology phase, I was excited to hear some of Circe’s best-known myths retold. Instead, I gave up with only a few chapters left. I only had one issue with this novel: pacing. I felt like I spent 90% of the book waiting for the action and 10% watching the action progress. Yes, Circe takes a more biographical approach rather than a narrative plot style, but the story still felt too slow and too fast in all the wrong places.

D. Khan –

C. Andrews –