Saturday, 8 September 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Darker

This review was also originally posted on my Tumblr blog: , and this review in particular was very scathing.  I had tried my best to be fair with Fifty Shades of Grey, but there was no way I could fluff up this book and review it postively.

I don't actually give ratings (I give verdicts), but if I did, I'm sure I would have quoted the Gerbil from Joe Cartoon and said "I give this two thumbs down and a fart."

Maybe the next time I do a review, it'll actually be for a good book ;)

I’ve been writing reviews and articles for EGL Magazine ( You can follow us on Tumblr too!) for some time now, and I don’t think I’ve ever written such a negative review.
I ended the Fifty Shades of Grey review by saying that its sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, had a promising start…and that is true. I also said that I had decided to lower my expectations, that I was just going to enjoy a veg-out book to curl up with, maybe get a little naughty thrill and guilty pleasure out of, without expecting too much of it.
So why, oh why, am I still utterly disappointed with this book? It’s more of a disappointment than its predecessor!
There was so much promise, so much potential! This book picks up literally where the previous left off, in such a way that I was actually slightly annoyed to begin with, as it has carried on with absolutely no time period in between, and the way that the little bitch-fit from the end of the first book is resolved literally later that week made me inwardly groan. It served to make the (admittedly) unexpected actions at the end of the previous book look less pivotal and significant, and had pretty much turned it all into a childish, teenage tantrum. But, we are able to gloss over that, as we have other things being presented to us to make up for that, right?
Oh, these promises are certainly dangled temptingly in our faces; two different coinciding plots involving the potential for some real, compelling conflict begin very quickly; I was genuinely intrigued. One plotline actually was rather tense and almost frightening, and the other seemed more covert, dark, underlining. I was actually expecting the latter to be more serious and dynamic, rising from the shadow of the distraction that was the first plot. I would tell you what I thought was coming, but E L James might want to steal the idea from me (not to mention, it would grossly spoil that for you, and I am trying to avoid that).
And for a good three quarters of the book, I was turning pages eagerly to see how those conflicts and plots would be resolved, how they would culminate in excitement and climatic drama- they certainly had all the foundation for it…but then it all fizzled out with all the pathetic splutter of a crappy wet firework.
When the first conflict was resolved, I still kept going, flipping through pages of repetitive immature arguments, clichés and not-exactly-stunning sex-scenes, eager to see what happened next. Then the second was resolved with little climax and only a small amount of amusement. I had expected something much darker and drawn out, and then it was all over, and we were just left with a bare skeleton of a story, which had basically become a bunch of childish lovers’ tiffs and idiocy.
Ana and Christian seem to be perpetually having the same discussion and getting no further in it. You forget that such a short period of time has truly passed- I’m ready to admit that disagreements in my love life tend to follow certain patterns, but my fiancé and I certainly don’t have the same argument everyday over the period of a week, apparently resolving the issue, and then re-dressing it again the very next morning. This is basically what Ana keeps doing, and while I understand that her position is supposed to somewhat uncertain and overwhelming, she has become an extremely irritating character because of her apparent forgetfulness when regarding conversations with Christian. Some sentences seem to be repeated almost word-for-word, and I’ve lost much of my sympathy and support for this couple.
The dialogue, such a relative strong point in the previous volume, doesn’t seem as witty and real-to-life as before- it is contrived and- here it is again- repetitive! It’s not even a case of it becoming just corny or predictable; Ana no longer seems as clever and sardonic anymore, and has turned into something of a vacuous bimbo, completely not noticing things as blatant as repeated block-capital letters reminding her yet again that she ought to use her Blackberry at work and to not keep using her surveyed work-email (and yes, it was a plot device in the end, but I had no sympathy for her, and was itching to smack her across her stupid face). Also, I am now utterly sick of the saying “Mighty fine” and I might punch someone if I hear it in real life ever again.
And what’s more, the sex did absolutely nothing for me this time around! It involved very little of the kinky BDSM element, and while that wasn’t necessarily a problem, so much had been built around that element that without it, the erotic scenes fell flat. They still could have been steamy, but once again, felt clichéd. The rather tacked-on involvement of a spreader bar was weak and the inclusion of anal sex was distinctly uncomfortable; and once again, Ana has done yet another U-turn She was very uncomfortable with the notion of anal sex to begin with, and then totally goes along with what Christian wants after he rather romantically tells her that he wants “own” every part of her…last time I heard a man say he wanted to “own” an orifice, I don’t believe it was a romantic statement! My personal feelings aside, I really don’t feel that Christian (and in effect, James herself) really tackles the suggestion tactfully or considerately.
And that thing that had been niggling me during the last book, the implication that only fucked-up people could enjoy BDSM or fetish- well James has gone one step further, by actually using the word “depravity” on more than one occasion to describe Christian Grey’s tastes. In fact, the further development of Christian’s back story serves to hammer this flawed notion home, and while I should have been sympathising for him, I was instead feeling insulted at the suggestion that a kinky sex-life must indicate being absolutely messed up. Learning more about Christian’s motivations was quite important, but I couldn’t help but think that he now seemed more akin to a stereotypical serial-killer instead of a tortured soul. He is more detestable than before, despite some serious attempts to show his truly vulnerable side. There was one scene were he really does tug your heartstrings genuinely, but this one tiny spit of gem was far from enough to save the character- and the writing- from my contempt.
I found the last quarter of the book ridiculously hard to read. It dragged, and I was frustrated from disappointment, bad writing and un-engaging plots. One “major” event was so sadly clichéd and predictable that it almost hurt to read it, and it seriously felt like the book totally ran out of steam. Then another event was put in…it really ought to have been hugely emotional and revealing…well it was revealing alright! Everything regarding that little plot “twist” was concluded within a matter of pages and left me yawning. In any other book, it would have served as another sharp exhilarating bend in the roller coaster, but James clearly lacks the skill to lay down a plot well, or use even exciting events to her advantage.
Then suddenly, in what basically felt like the last five minutes (I do know that I only had a sliver pages left to battle through), a whole bunch of things kicked off- two more potential conflicts, both done and dusted with ridiculously quickly, the first feeling absolutely pointless, and the second feeling utterly ill-timed. And then tacked on rather shamelessly at the end was a passage to indicate that an earlier antagonist was not out of the picture. That was predictable also, but the tag-on to the end of an otherwise non-climatic narrative is a shameless hook to keep readers going. James seems to promise action and dynamism in the next volume after utterly failing to deliver them where needed.
I am not looking forward to reading the next book at all, although I am sure I will end up doing so, mainly out of politeness to the kind colleague who has been lending the books to me. However, as it seems I am reviewing these books now, perhaps my reviews can actually save some of you poor souls from this book at least.
My conclusion so far? Fifty Shades of Grey was weak, but enjoyable on some levels. It is a guilty pleasure, and I don’t entirely regret having read it. Fifty Shades Darker on the other hand is seriously the worst book I have read willingly. It starts out so promisingly- if it had fulfilled all those promises, it would have been, like its predecessor, okay! I was actually enjoying the first third or so of the book until I realised that I had built my expectations overwhelmingly high- but hey, can you blame me? I read the likes of Gaiman and Rowling, and other authors who know how to write!
I really shouldn’t be so frustrated over this, but I feel like I defended the first book- it’s not a great book, and for me, the hook (the BDSM) wasn’t shocking and new, but I was able to sit and enjoy the book. I was even very able to see the appeal of it. I was actually looking forward to this book as well, in the same way you might look forward to watching a veg-out movie at the end of a long week. Fifty Shades Darker led me up the garden path with all the build up to something really engaging and then it all fell flat.
I could tell myself that Fifty Shades Freed will be better…unlike the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, there really is a cliff-hanger of sorts, rather than an abrupt end. This really should indicate something worth noting will happen in the next book. But with how truly abysmal E L James’ writing ability is turning out to be, I won’t hold my breath.
Verdict: Better suited for toilet paper.
(Images are not mine, this review only reflects my own opinion, and is written for entertainment)

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