Jhereg by Steven Brust is an excellent fantasy novel that combines witchcraft, assassination, sorcery, fantastical creatures, crime, wit, and honor. More on this book later.
A question was asked of me recently: “How do you decide how many stars you how a book on GoodReads/Amazon/Netgalley?” It is a great question without an easy answer for me. Take Jhereg for instance: this book is amazing. I remember reading it years and years ago and being captivated by the author’s style and the story he created. I recalled it being a very quick read as it is part of a series that consists of short books with fast paced intrigue and action. I could have given it a five star review for the memory, or a three star review as I wished it to be longer, or a four star review as I thought it was exceptional at the time, but how to fairly judge and review a book that you read years before these review sites were available? This can be perplexing for me.
I ended up giving Jhereg four stars although I sometimes feel I should bump it up to five but while I truly enjoy this story I love so many others more and love some other books by the same author more. That reasoning (combined with a few other thoughts) led me to mark this as four stars. When I reread the book last year I felt that was a fair assessment, and I mainly try to be fair.
That said there are a few three and four star books I have given five stars to purely because of the emotional response I’ve had to the book. Or due to the fact that I’ve interacted with the author and want to give them a higher review as I admire what they’ve done and want to spread the word. To the author the difference between five star and for star reviews can mean even more than it does to the reviewers. This is another factor that can weigh on my mind as I try to give a fair review.
This has also kept me from leaving one or two star reviews sometimes even when I felt the works deserved it. Sometimes you can judge a work unfairly just because you didn’t connect in the way you wanted to, so I try to consider that when I dislike a story.
All this to say I don’t have a set in stone method of rating books other than I try to be fair and positive. I think I do reasonably well there. My primary goal in giving a review is not to give stars; it is to relay how a book made me feel, what I connected with, how the story became internalized. I try to personalize the reading experience and share that. Sometimes I might give a book an extra star or two but if I do then it is because something within that book connected with me and I was able to see what the author was attempting to accomplish. Or it’s been 20 years since I read the book and I’m trying my best to recollect it!
In closing: Reviews matter a lot to most authors. Please write reviews. Please spread the word about books you love. Please be nice. And please tell me how you work your star system!
I realised a while ago that no matter how much I value style and literary excellence, my star ratings are massively reflective of how much I enjoyed the book. I’m good with that. It means a lot of Literary Books That Are Good For Me Apparently get 3 stars (which is absolutely fine, plenty to enjoy here) and a really good genre romp can get 5 stars for being my new favourite thing ever. While I do give a little bump for authors I love and want to boost, this isn’t a huge feature of my rating (it just helps if I can’t quite decide between say 3 and 4 stars).
I’ve always been stingy with 5 star ratings though. Still, I give out waaaaay more of these than I’ve ever dished out a 1 star (2. Ever) and even 2 stars are pretty rare for me. Picky about what I read in the first place 🙂