This is a counterpoint to my "recommended reading" lists and I may add to it as time goes by. E.g. I'm about to press "publish" and I recall LE Modesitt being pretty bad....
The Low-Hanging FruitEragon
It's like a fanfic written by a 14 year old. Wait a minute - that's exactly what it is! Probably OK if you are also 14. Otherwise, avoid. It amazes me how this made it onto shelves. It's like his parents were publishers or something..... But it got a movie?
Anything by Terry Goodkind
Not only it is terribly written, but it is inexplicably popular. Probably by the same people who think Fifty Shades of Grey is fine literature. It is drivel. Amateurish drivel. Popularity is not writing skill and Mr Goodkind, frankly, has none of the latter. Well he is the master of "tell, don't show." The main character is a super warrior who is also a super wizard who is super intelligent and loves to get up on a soapbox. I'm not a women's libber by any stretch, but even I found the sex scenes awkward.
Anything by Terry Brooks
If it wasn't for Terry Pratchett balancing things out, I'd think there was something in the name. He isn't awful like Goodkind, simply commercially successful and utterly devoid of imagination and any original ideas. It's like watching a rerun of a rerun. Please, stop churning Shanarra books out. It's like a series of unoriginal RPG supplements that never ends.
The Desert Spear (Peter Brett)
I thought the series started promisingly, but by the second book, my goodness the characters became annoying. Also, I find it ridiculous how random villagers suddenly turn into amazing demon-slaying heroes. I also dislike authors who write with an accent, y'all.
Alvin Maker (Orson Scott Card)
This is some sort of Mormon fantasy. Since I'm not a Mormon nor intend to read their literature, this misses the mark for me. Preachy and dull. A slur on the writer who did Ender's Game. (although some of the Ender sequels did hint to the depths to which Mr Card could sink.)
Anything by David Eddings
A McDonalds-style writer like Mr Brooks who churns books out by the score - only the MacDonalds nutirition information label is less cliche and more interesting. I guess they aren't truly awful, (maybe OK for kids? I didn't mind them as a teen) it just offends me that such a poor writer should achieve such a level of success. I fear for humanity.
Anything by Piers Anthony
A panties-obsessed old pervert. The panties of young, pubescent girls at that. I wouldn't be surprised to discover he writes erotic fanfiction about kids TV programs or something equally disturbing. On the upside, at least he is honest about being in it for the money.
Anything by Raymond Feist besides Magician
The first book was quite good. The rest could simply be churned out by any ghostwriter. He evidently sold out to The Man rather early on. I think most of the plots were copy+paste jobs.
Night Angel series
Cliches wrapped in cliches. Orphan apprentices to master assassin, yadda yadda. Orphan gets super ninja magic powers. I'd recommend it for teens but it's got swear words and sex and stuff to make it look like it was a gritty book meant for adults.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things - by Patrick Rothfuss
I've skewered this before, but it bears repeating. This is not a book, but a plotless, pointless vanity project that should (as per his original intention) never have been published. Yes, the cover warned me I might not like it. (What writer does that?! - next time, Pat, listen to your inner voice) But I still feel robbed. I still expected a book.
A bit more contentious
The Black Company by Glenn Cook
It was one of the first gritty realistic "military" fantasies. It's original, yes. It's just not very good, and compares poorly to almost every successor/imitator. I've read more coherent SMS messages.
The Wheel of Time
It started really well - I enjoyed the first 4-5 books. Then I realised the series wasn't going anywhere. The later books were filler. Huge books of filler, at that. New characters and plotlines were introduced and the story went nowhere. A never-ending cash cow that was to be milked. Apparently the series ended well (only after Robert Jordan died) but I'm too numbed to go back. A good editor willing to cut through the crap would have helped.
A Wizard from Earthsea
Quite boring to be honest. A lot of exposition as I recall. World building was OK. Rather dated.
Malazan Book(s) of the Fallen
Boring. He doesn't "baby his readers" but that's just an excuse for poor orientation. It's like a homebrew wargames rules set. It makes sense in the author's head but the coherency does not always make its way onto the page. I wasn't shocked to find that it is simply the author writing about a D&D roleplaying world he invented because that is exactly how it reads. I'd excuse all this if it was actually interesting but it isn't. Or if it he had amazing skills with prose (which he doesn't). I'm amazed this series stretched for 10+ books. Probably because he conned his readers into thinking they were special snowflakes who "got" his deep and meaningful style.
I sometimes secretly read my wife's Dresden Files collection (which seemed to improve as they went along), but surely Jim Butcher is not that awful a writer. Because Codex Alera is really awful. I've tried to read it twice but given up and thrown the book into the corner of the room each time. Perhaps one more try, and thence into the bin. I recall a story that says Jim Butcher wrote it on a bet that you couldn't write a good story combining the Lost Legion and Pokemon. Well Jim, you lost the bet, but props for trying - you're a cool guy.
I think it was about internal struggles and symbolism. I merely found it dull and depressing. Antiheroes are fine, but his was unlikeable and whiny/dull. It was probably hot stuff back in the 70s but unlike crime fiction and perhaps sci fi), fantasy has actually progressed. Take off the nostalgia goggles. Also, I was convinced he used obscure words just to pad the novel without knowing what they meant (my teenage recollections - I may be wrong). Also, too much rape.
Step away from that sacred cow, and put down that cattle prod!
Lord of the Rings
Put down the pitchforks and torches, folks. Remember, I said overrated, not bad. Tolkien is a terrific world builder and his world of Middle Earth inspired a genre. But his plotting and characterisation are pretty nonexistent. Lots of landscape descriptions, lots of walking. Heck, even the trees walked. I'm going to commit heresy and suggest his work could do with a good edit. As an influential feat of worldbuilding, sure? As a novel? Meh.
(Actually I was just imagining a world without Tolkien. It might have made fantasy more interesting, actually)
Again, I said overrated. It's quite OK, but not that good. Basically an Enid Blyton book but with a magical boarding school. It's simply not good enough for the hype/craze/waiting-in-line-overnight-to-purchase-a-book/movies etc etc. Not even remotely. It's decent. But not the second coming. It's not even the best fantasy book of its generation. I felt the series started well, but I think the editors were kinda sitting back by the end as the Potter cult gained momentum. JK Rowling's publicist isn't overrated though.
Anything by Brandon Sanderson that isn't The Way of Kings
Until the The Way of Kings I had dismissed Brandon Sanderson as another wannabe churned out of the "author factory" (based in Arizona/Utah or somewhere in the American Midwest) where famous authors sponsor their proteges. Everything else Brandon has done (mind, I haven't read his ending to the Wheel of Time) has been classed as "great, imaginative worldbuilding, very 'meh' writing skills."
Imaginative? Yes. Overrated? Absolutely.
A Game of Thrones
Perhaps this is because of all the hype from the TV shows? Nah. I was already getting tired of his tendency to wander off into irrelevant detail and longwindedness before the shows. People always see this on my bookshelf and ask "should I read this?" and I answer "no, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, watch the show instead then read the book if you're dedicated." I was a GRR Martin fan when he released his first ASoIaF books, but the shine has well and truly worn off. I honestly think he is now "milking" it like Wheel of Time as book 4 and 5 kinda went nowhere.... is there even an overarching plot at all?
How dare you! You, sir, clearly do not have the comprehension nor literacy skills to grasp a masterwork of literature!
Actually, I always wonder what qualifies a book critic. If a critic, by definition, is "...a legless man who teaches running...." then I am as qualified as any! As usual, feel free to agree/disagree, and add your 10c below.