When I write my reviews I split them into parts, focusing on the different aspects that make up the story; the plot, the characters, and for sci-fi and fantasy books the setting. It’s not something I look for in contemporary books, but seeing as I mainly pick up fantasy releases the setting is really important to me.
If I go back to why I read in the first place one of the reasons is to escape, and I can’t do that if I’m constantly being dragged out of the story because the world building is too flat. For me, for a book to get more than a three stars rating, it needs to have an incredibly developed world, one that I can fall into, lose myself in.
Why World Building is So Important to me in the Books I Read.
When it comes to the world building my favourite books are by authors like Laini Taylor. Her debut book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, created such an amazing picture of Prague in my mind, one that was breathtaking, beautiful, and bursting with magic. The way she wrote the city, hiding the incredible amongst the winding streets, made me want to visit Prague myself just to experience it all first hand.
It was the same with her latest release, Strange the Dreamer. It took me a while to fully lose myself in the story because the writing was heavy, but the world building was so wonderfully written that even when the plot was slow the setting kept me as hooked as much as the well developed characters did.
Every author has their own way of developing the worlds they create, and what works for one may not work for another. Last year I took part in NaNoWriMo and started working on my WIP, and as much as I love her books I could never develop my world like Laini Taylor develops hers.
Still it’s the detailed worlds, the intricate ones, that stick in my mind. V.E. Schwab created incredible worlds in both her Shades of Magic and her Monsters of Verity series’, and although both ended leaving me with more questions than answers I never once felt that the worlds in her books were shoddily developed. The questions I had left just begged for a sequel book/series.
Pierce Brown created a whole universe; his Red Rising series contains history, politics, and mythology, and we travel all over the galaxy with Darrow, from Mars, to Lune, to the moons orbiting Saturn and Venus. There’s so much crammed into his books but it never took away from the plot or the fast-paced action, it just added to the story and it’s part of why the Red Rising Saga is one of my all-time favourite series now.
There have been plenty of books I’ve picked up where the world building has been lacking, and I’ve never been able to rate these books too highly because even if they had a great story and amazingly developed characters the world building is just as important.
Magonia sounded like an incredible book, but when I read it I thought the world building really flat. The author barely scrapped the surface of this world in the clouds with pirate ships and people who struggled to breathe the air on Earth. I was left with more questions than answers but unlike V.E. Schwab’s books Magonia didn’t feel properly developed, and the questions I had felt like they should have been answered in the story.
My need for well developed worlds is one reason I’m surprised that I love the magical realism genre as much as I do. All the books I’ve picked up that fit within that genre have all been incredible, and most are favourite reads of mine, but there is very little in the way of world building. They have incredible settings don’t get me wrong, but the only development we get beyond that is that it’s ‘magic’. For some reason through, for me, it works.
Like I said earlier part of the reason I read is to escape. I want to forget about my life and my problems for a few hours and fall into a world where magic is real and I get to experience dangerous adventures alongside my favourite characters. When it comes to the fantasy genre the world building is just as important as the plot and the characters, but it seems that if anything is left behind, more often than not, it’s the world building.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:
How important is world building to you?
Do you mainly read fantasy, where the world building needs to be well developed for you to lose yourself in the story, or another genre like contemporary where the setting doesn’t have as big a focus in the story?
What books have you read where the world building has been really well developed and written?
What books have you read where the world building hasn’t been well done? Did it effect your enjoyment of the other aspects of the story?
Let me know in the comments below.