Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On spinoffs, prequels, and a series that really deserved better

I could start with a backhand compliment now, saying that Fever Crumb is a prequel series that defies expectation, but that would be a lie. See, I was never really against prequel series or spinoffs, despite my rather powerful dislike of some examples of this genre. Plenty of times, I've read a book and go "Wow, this character is awesome, I wonder what happened/ will happen to them," or "How exactly did society get to a point where harvesting unwanted children's body parts has come to be an acceptable practice?" A prequel or spinoff is, in these cases, a perfect opportunity to explore this new venue without leaving a series entirely. (Separation anxiety, I know how it feels!)

And hey, isn't it true that art is just one huge variation on a theme? Much of the beauty of reading, and reading extensively, is picking up common themes, motives, and references that authors pepper throughout their books, the tributes and commentaries they deliver on each other's and their own texts, and the way everything is connected to the world we live in. (Yes, I liked Cloud Atlas, the novel, why do you ask?)

Really, the prequels and spinoffs (and even parodies) which I remember disliking most strongly are the ones who don't separate themselves enough from the original series. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" was, to me, like a copy-paste job gone terribly wrong. (Forget the complete misinterpretation of the original, even in its weird universe, the story didn't make sense, and then it tries to make up for it with tons of unnecessary tragedy and bad puns. Just... ugh. That book was one giant facepalm.)

Fever Crumb, though, is one of those prequel series that just... works. For one thing, it's separate from the original Mortal Instruments trilogy by about several centuries, so much so it's a world of its own. Beyond just being awesome for newcomers to the series (I actually picked this up before the Mortal Engines,) a prequel series set so far back in the past means that older fans can approach it without getting hung up on exposition they've already heard once. 

At the same time, the series is not so separate from the Mortal Engines. Rather than a prequel to the story, Fever Crumb is a prequel to the whole world. We get to see how humanity came to the idea of moving cities, how the original anti-traction movement began, how quickly an idealistic dream got corrupted. The series builds on itself, creating layers and intricacies that invite you to read it over and over and over again, which is amazing for existing and new fans alike.

And then there's the protagonist.

This is only something you notice after you've read the whole series, but... Fever Crumb, the protagonist, is a member of the Guild of Engineers, and is a capable engineer herself... while in the original series, the Engineers are the bad guys. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how amazing that is? Not only is Fever Crumb a prequel, it's a villain origins story! 

(And no, I will not apologize for all those exclamation marks. They are so worth it.)

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

So, strong story, excellent worldbuilding, AWESOME heroine (Fever is not the kind of person that easily grows on you, but she is nonetheless amazing in her own way,) and a truly skin-crawlingly disgusting villain who will give you rage attacks well after finishing the final book. What's not to love about this series?

No, seriously, what's not to love?

Because, unlike the Mortal Engines, this series won't get rounded off with a fourth book, and personally, I am crushed.

Make no mistake, "Scrivener's Moon" doesn't end on some super-cruel cliffhanger that will leave you wailing and gnashing your teeth (unless you're as prone to melodramatics as I am.)  It's self-contained, and the ending does leave a note of hope, even though it wasn't as fantastic as when I thought a CERTAIN character had finally bit the dust. (Fair warning: this book gives you massive feels. Massive. Stress balls and tissues advised.) 

But... it just makes me frustrated, as a fan, but also as a book blogger, when you see the stuff that's made with heart and talent progressively lose standing and get replaced with... well, something that just doesn't have the same oomph factor. Of course, there's also the authors to consider - if you're out of stories to tell in this world, it's probably for the best if you don't force yourself. But... can't we appreciate what there is already more? Please?

Note: Images via Booklikes. 

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