All right – just a short note before we start. I did finish both books that I checked out from the library on Wednesday. I enjoyed Twilight’s Dawn very much. Two of the short stories felt a little rushed to me, but overall, I am quite satisfied. Firebird, I didn’t enjoy quite as much as I had hoped, but I’m still happy with it. No Baba Yaga, but we did get a Katschei (or Koschei) for the villain, so that was pretty cool.

This kinda leads me into the actual topic of today’s post – which of these elements is more important – beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Personally, as much as I value language and its usage, I usually value a book with a gripping plot more than a book whose only strength is gorgeous prose.

I’ll use Patricia McKillip’s book Winter Rose as my example here. The book is wonderfully written. McKillip has a great talent for writing in a lyrical, poetic style. Her words are very precise and the way she constructs her sentences fits the hazy half-world of faeries and dreams that she creates. As an English Major, I lapped it up – after all, I love reading a writer who so obviously loves language and how words sound together.

I thought this book had great promise, in fact, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I found myself skimming at several points because the plot was not holding my interest. In the end, I actually had a really hard time following what was going on during the climax and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the ending – I’m still not really sure what happened there. So, in that regard, despite the beauty of her words, McKillip lost me as a reader. Because I struggled to understand what was happening, I’ve been wary of picking up another one of her books, just because I’m not the type of reader who enjoys ambiguous endings.

On the other hand, despite losing interest in a few parts now and again, Lord of the Rings remains a favorite of mine, mainly because of the wonderful writing. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have a gripping plot (it does in many places), but there are a few slow parts where it is saved by the language. Blasphemy, I know, to criticize Tolkien, but even I have to admit that the story drags in just a couple of places.

Anyways, with few (but notable) exceptions, I’ll take a gripping plot with choppy writing over a beautifully written story with a vapid plot any day. I think that’s why I enjoyed Twilight’s Dawn more than Firebird. Firebird’s plot didn’t suck me in as much, despite Mercedes Lackey’s crisp style and excellent prose, whereas Twilight’s Dawn grabbed me right away – so much so that if there were any bits of rough writing, I didn’t notice.