Make me laugh

I’ve been reading a lackluster book called The Book of Wonders, by Jasmine Richards. And I haven’t been able to figure out what made it lackluster.

I mean, just read the summary:

Sorcerers, Cyclops, Djinnis . . . Magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone who is caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying tyrant who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.

When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must risk everything to rescue her. Along with Rhidan, who is her best friend, and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.

Yeah, man! Arabian Nights and all that! I picked it up at the library because the summary promised adventure and fun.

And … it’s not. I’ve had to force myself to read this thing. Page after page of adventure, but somehow I don’t care. So I’ve begun reading it to educate myself on why I’m not connecting with the characters.

Conflict? Check. Character journey? Check. Magic, monsters and mayhem? Check.

Humor? No.

Bad sentence construction? Yes.

(Some places are so poorly worded, I wonder where in the heck her editor was. Like this gem:

“Out of the gaps that pockmarked the walls of the canyon, a dozen black and gold snakes the length and width of three men lying head to toe slithered into sight.” Um, what?)

But there’s no humor. This is two kids sailing around with Sinbad, for crying out loud! They’re dealing with irreverent djinni! But there’s not a wisecrack or a snarky line to be found. Nothing but Serious Business. The heroes do nothing but angst about their Destiny and the bad things the sultan is doing.

It’s like this author wrote up an outline with all the proper character motivations and things, then dutifully spewed out a book, but her heart wasn’t in it. The plot does everything technically right, but there’s no soul.

I just finished the Magic Thief trilogy, and it was funny. The humor connected me to the characters. So reading this book is like hanging around with a zombie. There’s no life there.

So, a word to the wise–let your characters smart off sometimes! Let them backtalk the bad guys! Let them laugh at their absurd situations! Because Serious Business gets boring fast.

2 thoughts on “Make me laugh

  1. (Copied from DeviantART comment)

    Huh. That’s interesting. It makes me think about my own writing… I know Matt quips occasionally, but not very often, at least in the first book.

    Though in books after that, there’s lots of quipping.

    However, that doesn’t mean this applies to ALL books. “Song Of The Summer King” hardly has ANY humor in it, and it’s a fantastic soulful book. I think it’s more than just humor. It’s letting your characters run free and make their own decisions instead of forcing them to always do what YOU want them to do. Railroading them just makes for, as you put it, “dutiful” but soulless books.


  2. Interesting point! This sounds like a MG book, and I agree, that age group really needs touches of humor here and there. MG books lean more heavily on adventure, and adventure is supposed to be fun!

    BTW–if you want a great MG/YA read with humor all the way through, check out The Kneebone Boy.


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