Someone I trust recommended I read … I’m not naming it, because I see no point in tarnishing somebody’s work just because it did everything I absolutely hate. Besides, reading it was valuable because I hadn’t recognized that I hated all these things. Without further ado, my list of fantasy story squicks:
- Innocent victim has no personality beyond big-eyed distress.
- Villain has no motivation except the desire to destroy.
- Hero has given up violence, but is able to almost immediately develop a pacifist trick that does the job. Why does the trick work? We’re not told. We wouldn’t understand it anyway, since we know nothing about the villain’s nature or the rules of the world.
- Angsty separation at the end as the big-eyed victim abandons the hero for no reason.
This sort of thing made me squee when I was about thirteen, and used to see it in the ‘by our readers’ section of Harper’s Young People.* Nowadays, it gives me the pip. I ask myself, what did editors, authors, and reviewers see in this bowl of sugar lumps with honey? And why did I read it on a device I don’t want to throw against the wall?
*No, I am not old enough to have had a subscription to Harper’s Young People at thirteen. Only in spirit am I that old. Get off my lawn.