The other day in class, my fellow students and I got to talking about some of the recent books that we had read, and one of them posed to me the following challenge: “Name a book that completely misses its own point.” I’m sure that many of us could answer this easily, as there are plenty of terrible novels out there, and my only restrictions set by my fellow students for my response was that the book couldn’t be Twilight, Eragon, Fifty Shades of Grey, or City of Bones. In this situation, my answer would be, without a doubt, Prophecy of the Stones.
I doubt many of you have heard of this book, let alone read it, and you should count yourself fortunate if that’s the case. This book is so bad that, despite being less than four hundred pages with large, double-spaced font, Rin and I have been trying to finish it for the past three years. I’d say that the reason it has taken so much time is because we can only laugh at stupid shit for so long before it pisses us off, but in this case the book’s just boring. It is utterly stagnant, and reading it actually feels like drowning.
That’s not to say that this book has no forgivable traits—it has quite a few, I’m surprised to find myself saying. Prophecy of the Stones actually has one of the more interesting premises that I’ve ever come across. The story itself isn’t bad. It’s the execution that ruins it.
It is hard to say what this book is about, if only because it misses its own point so badly. We have four main characters—all female, and I suppose I can count that in the book’s favor, since I could use a few more female protagonists in my life. However, what I find interesting about the story is that three of the girls are not real; they are figments of the fourth girl’s imagination. Joa is a fourteen-year-old girl dying in a hospital. In order to deal with her emotional distress over the situation, she invents a fantasy world in her head. There, her consciousness follows the characters Jade, Amber, and Opal through a magical land that’s being overrun by darkness and evil. In order to combat this darkness—a metaphor for Joa’s illness—the three characters each carry a magical stone, and a prophecy foretells that with these stones, they are the only ones who can save the world.
It’s an amazing idea. With a story like this, once we learn who Joa is and what she’s going through, everything else that’s going on becomes clearer. The magical land and the other girls’ struggles are an allegory for Joa’s own pain, and they each represent Joa’s emotional turmoil. As such, they are rather flat characters, only having one or two token traits, but in this setup, I’d say that’s a good thing. Jade is snide, spoiled, and easily driven to jealousy—Joa’s potentially jealous of the healthy people around her, as she can’t throw an extravagant birthday party or play dress up; she’s dying in a hospital room. Amber is the bright and sunny girl who’s always optimistic—Joa’s trying to retain some semblance of hope in her horrible situation. Then there’s Opal, someone who’s very emotionless and doesn’t care about the horrors going on the world—Joa’s impending doom has made her apathetic to other people’s wants and needs. Even the girls’ names help articulate that they’re not real and only extensions of Joa’s self-consciousness. Her name is Joa, and her characters are Jade, Amber and Opal.
Or rather, that’s what I think the book was meant to be about, or should be about. As I said, the story misses its own point. The biggest problem with the book is Joa. We never actually learn anything about her. We don’t know why she’s dying—as far as I’m concerned, she’s suffering from OAS, Obligatory Angst Syndrome—and it’s hard to relate to her because she doesn’t have a typical response to her impending doom. Someone who is ill will experience a spectrum of negative emotions; they might feel angry or jealous—why is she dying when other people get to live? What did she do to deserve this? Maybe she’ll feel frustrated or betrayed—why haven’t her friends come to visit?
Joa just feels sad. That’s all she feels. Oh, she looks ill and unattractive, so she’s sad. No one has come to visit her, which also makes her sad. No one cares that she’s dying, so she’s even sadder. She wants to live, but that’s a privilege she’s denied, so she cries sadly. Her OAS causes her no end of physical pain, so she’s really sad.
Because we never learn about Joa as a person, the magical land and the other three girls fail to further expand on her character, which is what they’re meant to do. As such, Joa’s passages could be entirely removed from the story, and it would only be an improvement. I actually did rip out all of her chapters because of this. If the author, Flavia Bujor, wanted to write a story about a sick girl in a hospital, that’s fine. But she never marries Joa’s parts to the other chapters, so Joa becomes the book’s worst failing. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, this is simply a story about three girls in a magical land, fighting evil. And their passages are not much to write home about either.
First of all, for a book based entirely on imagination and the ability to be creative, it sorely lacks both imagination and creativity. The magical world is actually called Fairytale, and it is being overrun by bad people called the Armies of Darkness. And here’s another huge issue with the book: the writing sucks. Prophecy of the Stones did well because Flavia Bujor was only fifteen when it was published. It’s also translated from French, so I’ll say that most of the grammatical mistakes are not her fault and that some of the story may have been lost in the translation—but even then, this book is bad. I’m not the biggest fan of Christopher Paolini’s writing style, and he’s still really bad. But at least I can say that Eragon is good considering his age when he wrote it. Prophecy of the Stones reads like a ten year old hastily threw some scenes together and mistakenly thought she had a plot.
Nothing makes sense, and a good portion of the chapters in Fairytale could also be removed with the story having lost very little. There are also numerous contradictions in the narrative as well. Fairytale has a medieval setting, but Jade has a watch. Amber’s a poor peasant girl, yet she knows how to read. At one point, an entire army attacks our three protagonists, and Jade, a fourteen-year-old girl, spontaneously remembers that she took sword-fighting and sorcery lessons. She defeats the entire army, and her prowess never shows up again. Some of these issues wouldn’t bother me, since Fairytale isn’t supposed to be real, and I can give some leeway for it being a dream. But where most bad authors like to tell and show the opposite, Flavia Bujor likes to tell us one thing, and then tell us something else later on, without ever showing anything. Furthermore, Miss Bujor’s attempts at character development and depth are laughably shallow, especially when it comes to the book’s messages—which we’re also told, not shown. These messages, and the book has a few, are also infuriating. For instance, Prophecy of the Stones really doesn’t like rich or powerful people, because they oppress the poor. I’m not sure what this has to do with Joa’s plight—maybe her seemingly nonexistent parents can’t afford her hospital bills—but at the same time, the book is not that fond of poor people either, since it holds onto and enforces an idea that lower income families have no hope. When Amber talks about her socio-economic status, in a conversation detailing one of story’s messages for us, she gives us this:
What kind of future did I have? I didn’t really have one at all. I was about to leave childhood behind and see what lay ahead of me: nothing.—Amber (pg. 169)
As Rin put it:
How positive is this book for girls that aren’t in the upper class? Like, you’re poor! You’re fucked for your entire life! You should just kill yourself!
And yeah, that’s exactly how that entire passage felt. On that message alone, I could never recommend this book to anyone. I don’t think that this is the message that
Miss Bujor intended to send , all things considered, but it is a message she nevertheless included, and her inexperience and age are not an excuse for that. And that’s not the only bad message, either. We also get messages that it’s just as important to be beautiful on the outside as you are on this inside, that mind rape and torture can be justified, and that it’s romantic for a boy you just met to use creepy magic potions on you if you’re in a coma.
Twilight is bursting with positive messages in comparison to Prophecy of the Stones. And also unfortunately, though I know from personal experience that it is possible to enjoy terrible stories while recognizing their faults—I’m a hardcore Inheritance Cycle fan, my college roommates love Twilight, and my coworker adores Fifty Shades of Grey—there is little entertainment value in this book, and you should avoid reading it at all costs.