Posted by: Phil Anderson | January 27, 2014

Unfinished Business

I got an e-mail from the library reminding me that the book I checked out is due in three days. The problem is, I haven’t finished reading it yet. Four weeks seems like plenty of time for me to read a book written for teenagers, so why am I not done?

Iron Ring

The book in question is The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander. It’s a fantasy based on myths and legends from the Indian subcontinent. Alexander is the author of one of my favorite fantasy series, The Chronicles of Prydain, which is similarly inspired by Welsh myth. I also enjoyed The Arkadians, which was influenced by Greek literature. When I saw this on the library shelf and read the description, I didn’t hesitate about borrowing it. But after reading several chapters, I’m just “not into it.” So what’s different about this book? Why does it not hold my attention?

It’s not a bad book. The writing is good; Alexander has a way with words. His descriptions are evocative, and his characters are colorful and quirky enough to be interesting. The story as summarized inside the cover made me curious enough to check it out. Everything seems to indicate another great mythic adventure.

Here’s my summary so far: Tamar is the young ruler of the small kingdom of Sundari. A visiting king  arrives in the middle of the night. Tamar’s tutor convinces him that he must get out of bed and royally welcome this visitor so as not to shame their humble kingdom. The visitor, King Jaya, manipulates Tamar into a wager with rapidly escalating stakes, and the young king is unable to withdraw without dishonoring himself and his people. He loses his freedom, and sets out the next morning on a quest to regain it.

I believe I lack interest because I’m not connecting with or relating to the main character. I don’t sympathize or empathize with his plight. To me, pride and honor are not worth risking life, freedom, or the welfare of a kingdom. Tamar also seems weak, allowing those around him to dictate his actions based on their definition of duty and honor. It may be that during the course of the book Tamar learns the true meaning of honor and stands up for what he believes, but I may never know.

As a writer, the fact that I’m not enjoying this book could be more informative than if I were adding it to my list of favorites. I’ve thought about what makes a book successful and what keeps a reader’s interest. Hopefully it will help improve my own stories.

What about you? What books have you been unable to finish and why? What makes you lose interest? Please leave comments below.

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Responses

  1. Usually, it’s bad writing that causes me to put a book aside. One example: ‘The Shack.’ The writing was terrible and I just couldn’t get past that (though I know several people who felt its message was life changing).


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