I have to admit, when I was starting off with this whole reviewing/writing gig, I probably found less importance in world building. Now after reading and reading and reading, I realize just how important it is to a story, and how lack of it can really kill one.
Case in point. Article 5. I was shocked by how little world building there was in this book. We have some vague references to a War (yes, if you make a common word a proper noun, apparently this makes it Important), which we never get details about, and the fact that suddenly everyone, including the government, thinks that the way to solve all of their problems is to make up a bunch of Articles that basically banish people to the age of the Puritans. Don't ask me why putting every woman in jail who has ever had a baby out of wedlock is going to suddenly solve the world's problems.
Another recent example is The Bridge by Jane Higgins. The world building is pretty scant in this book as well, although there is a nice little map at the beginning that apparently is supposed to tell us what the world is. All I know is that there is A BRIDGE, and for some reason these people are at war with each other on either side of it although it becomes really clear very fast that no one can tell anyone else apart so apparently people can just stroll over THE BRIDGE willy nilly and easily infiltrate enemy territory. But I guess this is one of the parts of the book's blaring commentary on how we are all alike no matter which side we're on. That doesn't excuse lack of world building-- it just makes the human race seem completely stupid. Which may be true, but we don't necessarily want to read about it.
Then there are the books that totally succeed. Take the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. I'm a newbie at this one, and just finished the spectacular second book in the series, Frostbite. We get introduced to a world of Moroi, Dhampir, and Strigoi. And all of them are very clearly delineated-- I never wonder who is who or how they are related. Furthermore, I never wonder which characters are which species either. The world building is very rich, and I'm not surprised that Mead was able to get several novels out of this world.
The other book that I was floored by was Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I was sucked into this odd world of Karou's, but everything fit and made sense. It was fantastical world, but I loved each little description, especially of her "family" of demons, and the descriptions of her hunting for teeth for an unknown purpose. The characters were terrific, and all the details flowed together seamlessly. If you haven't read this book yet, run out and get it now.
What do you think of world building? Do you care about it? Which books succeed and which fail?
1. International Giveaway of signed copy of If I Lie by Corrine Jackson OR Three swag packs!
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