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5th May
2011
written by Steph

We all know that I am a Jasper Fforde ffan girl, so I’ll never really have anything bad to say about any of his books. That said, I think it is fair to say that book five in his Thursday Next series, First Among Sequels, was perhaps not my favorite of the batch thus far. And that is, of course, putting it mildly. Of course, a weak Thursday Next book is still better than 95% of most books out there (and funnier to boot), so I don’t want to get all “damning with faint praise”… but really this book was quite a let down for me. I read it nearly two months ago (*gulp*… I am REALLY behind on my book reviews…), and to be honest, I don’t really remember much about it anymore. I know that it involves the fictional version of Thursday going rogue, and her son Friday having a debacle with the pesky ChronoGuard, but that’s about all I’ve got. So the specifics are vague, but I do remember how I felt while I read, and largely I felt confused, and also a little frustrated. I fully admit that with Jasper Fforde’s nimble wit and large narrative leaps, one has to be prepped to do some mental gymnastics when dealing with his novels. I felt prepared to deal with one of his novels, and yet it took me kind of a while to figure out what the heck was going on in terms of the dynamics of the universe (I still do not entirely understand how the ChronoGuard works, five books in), but also trying to determine just what exactly the main story was going to be. There just seemed to be so much rehashing and explaining of how the BookWorld works, which would be useful if only this stuff hadn’t been covered in previous novels like The Well of Lost Plots. I found myself impatient for Fforde to tell me something I didn’t already know, and ultimately I wondered why the fifth book in a series felt like it was gunning for newbies to the series. It would kind of be akin to JK Rowling explaining to you what a Muggle was five books in, or the things you can find in Diagon Alley. It just really felt to me like the pacing and balance of this novel was entirely off, and while I fully admit that I was probably reading this during my “angry reader” phase, I expect a Thursday Next adventure to entertain and amuse, not annoy. I will say that the book does pick up and improve in the final third, and it really does have a solid ending that not only made me chuckle but which I also found very clever and made for good lead-up for book number six. The ending allowed me to heave a great sigh and think, “Finally! The Jasper Fforde novel I’ve been waiting for this whole time!” It always seems like such backhanded compliment to say the best part of a book was its end, but that’s really how I felt this time round. Given how prolific Fforde has been and how many different writing projects he’s juggled over the years, I suppose it’s only fair that he has an off book every now and then, and in the end I cherish my good moments with this book more than I resent the lackluster bits. It almost goes without saying that book five in a series is strictly for people who have already enjoyed the previous books, but I’d almost say that content-wise, practically anyone could pick it up. But it’s a bit of a Ffordian ffumble, so I’d hate for someone to start here, since in many senses I feel like it’s a book that’s just a bit of a stop-gap. I’ve heard great things about book number six, One of our Thursdays in Missing, (which, of course, I already own), and I do fully intend to continue on with Thursday’s next adventure. For the first weak link in a series to show up after five books is not a terrible ratio, I’d wager, so my faith in Fforde, while momentarily rattled, was never really on the line. Rating: 2.5 out of 5

12 Comments

  1. JoV
    05/05/2011

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t like it. Sometimes it’s healthy and good balance to write a negative review once in awhile. I haven’t write any for a long time. Do you think that’s a good thing or bad thing?

  2. 05/05/2011

    I am still trying to get to the Missing Thursday book!!! so this one will have to wait. Thanks for the honest review.

  3. 05/05/2011

    I tried Eyre Affair, but it was years ago, and I cannot remember much of it. Since you speak so highly of it, I need to delve back in.

  4. I suppose they can’t all be winners! I’ve read a bit of Frorde but haven’t gotten this far. It almost makes me happy when an author has one mediocre book because it makes me appreciate the rest of the collection. Still, hope you have better luck, next time.

  5. 05/06/2011

    I also liked this book a little bit less than all the others because it felt like there were so many things being juggled at one time, and things were a bit overwhelming. I have been really excited about the next installment though, because like you said, even a bad Thursday Next book is better than most other book out there. I don’t own it yet, but soon it will be mine!

  6. 05/08/2011

    So disappointing when a go-to author does not deliver in the way we hoped. Have not read this one for some of the reasons you mention here that I had read elsewhere too. Had been meaning to continue reading through his work but perhaps I could skip this one?

  7. 05/09/2011

    @ JoV: I don’t have any issues with writing negative reviews, thought it always makes me sad since I want to love every book I read! I think the best case scenario is if you’ve only got books you love to talk about, but I suppose that’s unrealistic!
     
    @ Mystica: Well, the Missing Thursday book doesn’t come until after this one so you could certainly read this one while you wait for that book to appear!
     
    @ jenn: Not everyone loves The Eyre Affair like I did (you can read the comments on my last Jasper Fforde Thursday book review to see the truth in that!), but I did admittedly enjoy it a lot. That said, I do think the later books (save this one) are even better than that, so I always say that even if you don’t love TEA, it’s worth trying the next book to see if that’s a better fit.
     
    @ Pam: You’re right, that not every book will be a success, especially in a series. I guess I was just especially surprised because Fforde is so prolific and yet I’ve only disliked two of his book (and I think he’s published 10+ books at this point).
     
    @ zibilee: Did you review this one on your blog? I feel like I didn’t hear very much about it, which is weird, because there do seem to be many of us Fforde fans out there!
     
    @ Frances: It is especially disappointing when an author who seems like the complete shoe-in winds up letting us down. More so than when a new author lets us down, I think. I think there is stuff at the end of this novel that definitely makes reading it worthwhile and might make the next book a bit confusing without having read it, but I definitely feel like maybe one could skim/speed read the first 2/3 or so…
     
    @ Sheila: It is a really wonderful cover, and I love how punny Fforde’s titles can be. I highly recommend trying him out!

  8. I have never read this author. Too bad this one wasnt the most enjoyable… it looks good and I love the title and cover.

  9. taryn
    05/15/2011

    I believe that is your “ffaith in Fforde”, no?

    Also, please now hurry up and read the 6th book so that we can discuss!

  10. taryn
    05/15/2011

    … and just for kicks: “I’ve always wanted to take Hamlet out into the real world and do things to him.” 🙂

  11. 05/16/2011

    @ taryn: Also: “Be to not, or be to?”
    And I have to pace my Fforde books so that I’m never in a position where I don’t have one to read… So I need to wait until he releases another book before I can read Thursday6! You and Tony both can commiserate about my odd hoarding tendencies…

  12. I read One of Our Thursdays is Missing a few months ago (apparently I don’t write book reviews anymore! I’m months and months and months behind) and it was a return to fform. I think Fforde realised he had to change it up a bit and OooTiM is almost a departure from the series and even a stand-alone as it’s from the PoV of the written Thursday Next. I think perhaps the Thursday Next series dipped and tired a little in comparison to the new and full of potential Shades of Grey series.

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