Wench by Maxine Kaplan – A Review

Hello, my dears! I hope you’re doing well. I’m here to talk about a book that came out today – Wench by Maxine Kaplan. Happy book birthday, Wench.

Wench by Maxine Kaplan
  • Publication date: January 19th 2020
  • Publisher: Abrams
  • Genre: Fantasy

A funny, fiercely feminist YA epic fantasy—following the adventures of a tavern wench

 

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I got approved for this one a few months ago and was very excited to pick it up. A funny epic fantasy about a tavern wench that was, I quote, “unapologetically feminist”? Sign me up! What happened, you ask? The blurb lied…

There are many things I didn’t like about Wench. While the blurb promised so much, I didn’t find the book funny, nor particularly feminist. It was a fantasy, sure, but I wouldn’t call it epic… in any meaning of the word.

The biggest issue I had was the world building and magic system – two key elements that really shape any fantasy story. While the author clearly knew what her world was like, she didn’t educate the reader at all. There is no explanation of the world, kingdom name, basic geography, or politics. Things get mentioned every now and then in an offhand way, as if the reader should already know it all. I’m not sure if the author chose this method not to fall into the trap of “telling instead of showing”, but honestly I’d rather be told. I would appreciate a full scope of the world instead of having to guess things and piece them together.

I had the same issue with the magic system. Only the very basic info was given to us – nothing beyond the fact that magic is possible but creates “junkoff”. Can everyone do magic? Is it learned? Are you born with it? What can it actually do? No clue. It’s a fantasy novel – explain the main elements, please.

If those two were done better (I’m not even saying done right), it could’ve been a 3 star. But on top of all of this the cast of characters was just too big and hence they weren’t really developed at all. The relationships felt forced, I kept forgetting who was meant to be who because their personalities bled into one… I have nothing good to say about Tanya, or any other characters whose names I already forgot.

I think the efforts were definitely there, and people who care more about the plot in a vaguely fantastical setting would enjoy it a lot more than me. Ultimately Wench didn’t work for me, sadly, as I looked forward to what seemed like a new and fresh fantasy.

⭐⭐

Can anyone explain star rating is not a thing on the WordPress app while it is in the browser?

Anyway… thank you for reading. Don’t let my bad review stop you from reading the book if it sounds interesting to you.

Talk soon!