The grading system is entirely subjective, of course, but these are the rough guidelines I’m trying to stick to:
- A: A solid, engaging, readable novel with good characters, a good plot, and writing that doesn’t get in the way too much. Something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to recommend to someone. (I’m not expecting any masterpieces here.)
- B: A decent novel which doesn’t feel like a slog to get through, but which has distracting flaws that keep me from wholeheartedly recommending it.
- C: A deeply flawed book that, while it may have had a few good characters or good moments, was still no better than a stereotypical trashy fantasy novel.
- D: A novel where, after I finished it, I found myself wishing I could somehow get back the time I spent reading it.
- F: A novel so bad that it affronts the very concept of literature.
The Bechdel Test is a simple gauge for the degree of gender equality in a story. It’s not a perfect metric — you can tell good stories that fail it and bad stories that pass it — but if a particular author has a tendency to repeatedly fail it, it probably means that they treat the female characters in their stories like living furniture. Fantasy novels from the 1980s and 1990s weren’t exactly a hotbed of representation for anyone who wasn’t a white male, so it seems like a useful metric to collect here.
Keep in mind that I will attempt to avoid spoilers for books that I think have some merit, but I’ll spoil the bad ones without mercy or spoiler warnings. On the remote chance that you actually care, read at your own peril.