Welcome back to Author Fight Club, take two!
This week we’re pleased to welcome two YA fantasy QUEENS. In one corner we have Sarah J. Maas, the author of the Throne of Glass series, the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, and House of Earth and Blood. In the other corner we have Leigh Bardugo, author of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, King of Scars, and Ninth House.
Suzanne Collins may have kickstarted YA dystopia, but Maas and Bardugo were pioneers for YA fantasy and kickass female heroines. I can already tell it’s going to be a close call!
As always, the competition is based on three categories. First, we take a look at Who has more fans anyway? which will reoccur each week as we explore author influence and impact. The remaining categories are mystery categories that will change each week. Today, we’ve got Which character is more likely to scare you shitless? and Whose world makes you hate reality just a little bit more?
We don’t talk about Fight Club, so instead we’re going to write about it! Authors…take your positions. And…fight!
ROUND ONE: WHO HAS MORE FANS ANYWAY?
Since Maas and Bardugo have numerous works (that have only gotten progressively better!) we’re going to take a look at two works from each. We’ll start with Maas.
Throne of Glass, Maas’ debut, has racked up over 500 thousand ratings and 41,466 reviews, with an average rating of 4.21 stars.
Kitten Blue’s 1-star review says, “Are you kidding me? … How do you screw up your story quote so badly after starting from an INCREDIBLE premise involving the most notorious assassin in the land…” Someone’s not happy!
Lyanna’s five-star review says, “People are rating this book low because they don’t ‘like’ Celaena…first of all, if Celaena were a guy, you’d be head-over-heels for her.” Tell ‘em Lyanna!
Now, instead of looking at A Court of Thorns and Roses, we’re going to be looking at the second book in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, simply because this book took the series for a LOOP, and is probably Maas’ most iconic work. That being said, let’s get into it!
The book has nearly 300 thousand ratings, 36,561 reviews, and an overall rating of 4.65. DAMN. Now for the most popular Goodreads reviews:
Andreea Pop’s five-star review says, “Rating: All the stars in the universe…I’m at a lack of words for describing how it truly made me feel–because this book resonates with my soul and my heart and my mind so wonderfully…” I second that.
Emily May’s four-star review says, “Oh damn. That was so unexpectedly good. And to think I almost didn’t take a chance on this after not loving the first book…”
While Throne of Glass, despite its popularity, achieved mixed reviews, A Court of Mist and Fury is one of those books everyone can’t help but admire.
Now we turn it over to Bardugo!
Shadow and Bone totals in with almost 300 thousand ratings, 29,979 reviews, and an average rating of 4.02 stars.
Nataliya’s two-star review says, “The biggest issue with this book is actually NOT the utter fail at correctly incorporating the Russian elements into the story. It’s that I’d never be able to pick this book out of a generic YA book lineup.” As much as I love it…it IS a little generic! (But is it perhaps generic because Shadow and Bone was one of the OG YA fantasies, and thus the start of so many tropes??)
Jesse’s three point five star review says, “I really enjoyed this and I’m definitely going to be continuing on with this trilogy, but I did have a few issues with it. While I was fascinated by the world…I didn’t feel like the world was fleshed out enough.”
Now let’s turn to Six of Crows. The book has 264 thousand ratings, 35,910 reviews, and an average rating of 4.46 stars. What do the most popular reviews say?
Elise’s five-star review says, “Bardugo integrates a creative plot, interesting and morally grey characters, group dynamics and banter, a great writing style, and some really, really, prime romance plots.” On point review.
Angela’s five-star review says, “Side effects of reading Six of Crows are, but not limited to: Shortness of breath. Heart palpitations. Nausea. Weak knees. Dehydration. Dizziness. Headache. Heartache. Constant sweating. High blood-pressure. Congestive heart failure.”
This is a close call! But despite the mixed reviews, Throne of Glass and A Court of Mist and Fury both hold higher ratings and more reviews than Bardugo’s works. ACOMAF’s 4.65 average rating is especially impressive—that’s not easy to achieve!
Sarah J. Maas takes the lead!
END OF ROUND ONE
MAAS = 1
BARDUGO = 0
ROUND TWO: WHICH CHARACTER IS MOST LIKELY TO SCARE YOU SHITLESS?
At first glance, the answer seems obvious: Celaena Sardothien is THE most notorious assassin in the Throne of Glass realm. But then again, have you MET Kaz Brekker?
via the fandamentals
Let’s start with Celaena. After her parents were killed, Celaena was taken in by Arobynn Hamel, the King of the Assassins, and raised to be an assassin in his guild. After a tragic event not to be spoiled, Celaena winds up a prisoner in the Endovier salt mines, until she is rescued by Prince Dorian and asked to participate in a competition to become the next royal assassin.
The reason Dorian seeks her out is because Celaena’s reputation as a ruthless assassin precedes her. And while weapons are almost like a second appendage to her, Celaena also has a much softer side that we see with her interactions with Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia in the first book. What drives her most is the need for vengeance against the king, as well as her sense of right and wrong.
via the grishaverse wiki
By contrast, Kaz Brekker has been hardened by a life of crime. After his brother is cheated out of money and killed by a conman, Kaz is left to fend for himself from a very young age. At the beginning of Six of Crows, he is a notorious criminal mastermind asked to lead a crew into a near impossible heist. While I wouldn’t say Kaz doesn’t have morals, he often toes the line of right and wrong in order to make it in a world that has continually beat him down. Despite his friendships among the crew, Kaz holds people at a distance for fear of getting too close.
Both Celaena and Kaz have tragic beginnings, but I would say Kaz is more morally gray than Celaena and a little more “damaged” than the Throne of Glass assassin. Because of this, Kaz can be unpredictable and dangerous. Readers might know a softer side to Kaz, but, as seen in the last chapters of Crooked Kingdom (No spoilers, but the way he scares Pekk scared shitless says it all, I think), Kaz’s reputation as an oftentimes desperate man strikes fear in the Ketterdam streets.
With that, I think Kaz wins this round for Bardugo!
END OF ROUND TWO
MAAS = 1
BARDUGO = 1
ROUND THREE: WHOSE WORLD MAKES YOU HATE REALITY JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE?
Like any fantasy novel, I think it’s important to look at world building and the magic systems of the books. A large part of fantasy worlds is their ability to take you outside of reality to a place you would kill to be a part of. So for today’s purposes, we’re going to be looking at the worlds of A Court of Thorns and Roses and the Grishaverse.
Let’s start with Maas’ world of (super attractive) fae. As Feyre is sucked into Tamlin’s world early on in the book, readers get to learn about the fae realm at the same time she does. In Prythian, seven courts are ruled by High Lords, divided into the seasonal and solar courts. Throughout the trilogy, readers get to meet the various High Lords and their mates, as well as see the change in landscape and tradition between each court.
via world of sarah j maas
I think everyone who’s read the trilogy has mentally categorized themselves into a court, or longed to befriend the Night Court squad.
The Grishaverse, on the other hand, focuses on the abilities of the Grisha. These include three orders, Corporalki, Etheralki, and Materialiki. In Shadow and Bone, we get to see Alina grow into her abilities as a rare Sun Summoner, contrasted with the Darkling’s Shadow Summoner powers. In Six of Crows and King of Scars, we get to see the way Grisha are being hunted following the war.
Despite the variety of abilities in the Grishaverse, I’m not sure I’d want to be a Grisha fearing for my life in the books. However, I would LOVE to be in one of Maas’ courts (preferably the Night Court).
For that reason, I think A Court of Thorns and Roses is more likely to make you hate reality (mostly by cursing it for not having a Rhysand carbon copy).
END OF ROUND THREE
MAAS = 2
BARDUGO = 1
Both Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo are incredibly talented authors with unforgettable characters, complex fantasy worlds, and words that will suck you deep into the book. Unfortunately, there can only be ONE Author Fight Club champ.
WITH A FINAL PUNCH FROM MAAS, BARDUGO IS DOWN! K.O.
Despite polarly mixed reviews, Sarah J. Maas’ work is more widely read and highly rated. Any YA lover–whether you’ve read ACOTAR or not–is probably familiar with Rhysand’s character, and Maas’ sexy scenes that accompany him. In all of her books, she has managed to create worlds any reader would kill to escape to, making her this week’s Author Fight Club champ.
Thanks for reading, and tune into next week’s Author Fight Club, where we’ll be welcoming Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe into the ring!