Steel Is The Answer for Abercrombie’s Last Shattered Sea Novel.

Joe Abercrombie goes in swords and axes swinging in his third volume of the Shattered Sea series of Young Adult novels. War looms over Father Yarvi, Thorn Bathu, and Gettland through the eyes of three new point-of-view characters for a novel that is closest in tone to The First Law trilogy.  Only detraction is the non-stop action and abrupt ending leaves Half A War with less room for moments of character development but otherwise satisfying conclusion. Read more for spoilers.

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Can A Well-Made Sequel Improve The Original?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how bewildered I was over Joe Abercrombie’s “Half the World” being such an improvement over the first book in the Shattered Sea series, “Half A King”. Now that the third book in the series has been released I decided to reread “Half A King” and see if my opinion has changed.

It has. I don’t have Patrick Rothfuss’s hype for the book clouding my opinion anymore nor does the predictability of the plot bother me because obviously having read it before I already know what happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way anymore because it was overhyped and the plot was predictable. However, there are details that I missed the first time around that made Yarvi’s fate at the end seem less disappointing and more foreshadowed. His meeting with Mother Gundring at the end set up the continuing conflict for the rest of the series and I felt like I completely missed it the first time.

My point is, “Half The World” changed my opinion of “Half A King.” That usually doesn’t happen with sequels from my experience. Sequels tend to be less than or equal to the original. A poor sequel can make an opinion of the first stronger. A poor sequel can run the enjoyment of the first. What if, though, you disliked the original but loved the sequel as the case with myself and the Shattered Sea series.

What if “Prometheus 2” fixes everything about the first one? What if “Alice Through The Looking Glass” takes the taste of disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” out of our mouths? What if another Indiana Jones could make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” worth watching? Most movies don’t get that chance and for good reason. Making a movie requires a lot of money, therefore, to invest it into a sequel to an underperforming movie would be a bad investment. Then again, not all poorly received movies do badly at the box office nor is a poor opinion of anything completely objective.

With video games, it’s more than the story you have to think about. The gameplay can completely change from one game to another. “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of the first “Mass Effect”, but the gameplay so much improved it makes playing the first one difficult to endure. “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” takes place in the same universe and the share the same history but the stories are self-contained and the gameplay is radically different enough they could have no connection whatsoever. “Borderlands 2” takes the concept of the first and blows it up twice as large to great success.

Back to books, should the first book of a series be judged on its own or as part of the whole? Yes and no. For me at least it’s a case by case basis. The disappointing epilogue of “Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows” doesn’t change my enjoyment of the rest of the books in the series but “The Well of Ascension”, the second book in the “Mistborn” series managed to ruin the first book and the third for me. Though I still enjoy it, “A Feast for Crows” is slow compared to three previous books in “A Song of Ice and Fire” but it doesn’t take anything away from them. “The Lord of the Rings” completely changes the importance of BIlbo’s journey in “The Hobbit”, but it doesn’t suddenly become any less a children’s novel.  Before it was revealed that Go Set A Watchman was revealed to be a first draft never supposed to be published I had decided to never read it knowing it would ruin Atticus Finch for me based on the news that he was now an elderly racist. Don’t even get me started how “The Silmarillion” both changes and doesn’t change “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the same time.

So a sequel can change the perception of the original. It can improve it and worsen it. The question comes down to like it did with “Half the World”, whether you should give the sequel to an original you were not fond of a chance? Books, movies, video games, television shows can all cost money to consume one way or another. You may not have the money or you may have too busy a life to risk the chance. Keep in mind though what you may be missing out on. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth risking your time and money.

 

Questions Remaining About Harry Potter Pre-Nineteen Years Later.

On September 1st, 2017, Harry Potter will send his second son Albus Severus Potter to his first year at Hogwarts as detailed in the epilogue of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling. In Summer of 2015 I finished my second read through of all seven books.  Unlike some of my friends who are two to three years younger than me, I was just a little too old to be sucked into the Harry Potter craze. I saw “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” in theaters plus the following two movies, but they had no lasting impact.

It wasn’t until a box set of all the hardcover editions was rereleased in 2007-2008 that I decided to read them. Simply put, for someone who often reads fantasy the Harry Potter series is a palette cleanser, a refresher, or a desert to the often bleakness of most fantasy. They’re children’s novels though the latter three could likely  be now labelled Young Adult, that you can read in one sitting and generally leave feeling happy and positive about the world.

That epilogue though that jumps nineteen years later leaves a lot of questions. Not about their kids, which is the essential problem with it, because I didn’t read about their kids for seven books, therefore I have no real interest in them going to Hogwarts. This should have been a second epilogue after one I’m proposing now that answers some if not all of these questions that Rowling has not answered post-series.

  1. What happened immediatly after Voldemort’s death?
    • What did they do with Voldemort’s body?
    • When did students return to school to finish that year at Hogwarts after the battle?
    • How did they deal with the remaining Death Eaters?
    • How soon did the news get out of Voldemort’s defeat?
    • After Kingsley Shacklebot was named Minister for Magic, what were the imediate changes to ministry?
    • How did Andromeda Tonks react to the news her own sister had killed the parents of her grandson? or that Molly Weasley killed her sister?
    • Did Neville Longbottom get the praise he deserved for killing Nagini and retrieving the Sword of Godric Gryffindor?
  2. What happened shortly after Voldemort’s defeat?
    • How did Molly Weasley react to Harry and Ron’s news that they would not be returning to Hogwarts?
    • Did Harry tell anyone else what he discovered about Snape and when?
    • When did Harry and Ginny official begin their relationship again?
    • Knowing the Malfoys were acquitted after Voldemort’s fall due to switching sides at the end what was the details of their trial?
      • Did Harry speak on their behalf?
    • Where did Harry end up living after the Second Wizard War? Grimmauld Place? The Burrow? Godric’s Hollow?
    • Unlike Harry and Ron, Hermine returns to Hogwarts for her seventh year. What was that like?
    • Did Ginny become Quidditch captain for Gryffindor after Harry and Ron were gone?
    • Who became the first Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in the first year after Voldemort’s jinx on the job has been lifted?
    • What was Molly and Arthur Weasley’s reactions to Hermione and Ron’s relationship?
    • What role did Harry play in Teddy Lupin’s life as a baby?
    • When did Professor McGonagall officially became Headmistress of Hogwarts?
    • How did Hogwarts change post Battle of Hogwarts?
  3. What happened in those nineteen years? (1998-2017)
    1. What was Auror training like for Harry and Ron?
    2. What were Harry and Ron’s first assignment as Aurors?
    3. What made Ron quit being an Auror to manage the joke shop with his brother?
      • Was it because he never wanted to be an Auror but was following his best friend?
      • If they became Aurors shortly after the final book, then Ron would still be very young. Did he realize being an Auror wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life?
      • Did he feel obligated to help his brother?
      • Was the joke shop failing without Fred?
      • Who were Harry’s co-workers in the Auror department besides Neville Longbottom and Ron Weasley who both left the department?
        • Any characters we know?  I bet Rowling has a whole new cast of characters in her head.
      • When did Arthur Weasley retire?
      • After years of the Weasleys taking him in and giving him Christmas gifts what wonderful gifts did Harry give them the first time he was earning money of his own as an Auror?
      • What rights did Hermione earn for elves, goblins, and other magical creatures?
      • How did Minister Shacklebot, Hermione, Ron, and Harry revolutionize the Ministry for Magic?
      • If Harry didn’t end up living there, what happened to Grimmauld Place?
      • Did Harry ever actually go into his parent’s former home in Godric’s Hollow?
      • When did Luna begin doubting the beliefs of her father?
        • Speaking of Luna, besides marrying Rolf Scamander what kind of career did Luna have?
      • Who got married first, Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione?
      • Did Harry see Teddy Lupin off in his first year of Hogwarts?
      • Were these times completly without any dark wizards?
        • Or dark arts practicers that aurors like Harry and Ron had to track down or duel?
          • Is that possibly why Ron quit being an Auror?
      • What happened to Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas?

The audiobook versions done by Stephen Fry are floating around on my desktop, so I’m sure when I give those a listen I’ll have more questions. Right now, I’m left wondering what having this many questions left over means. Does this mean the ending is unsatisfying or is Rowling’s world fleshed out so well it leaves you wanting more? Will these question ever be answered, and do they need to be?

 

Changing the Dark Tower V: The Final Book and Modred: All Hype, No Substance.

When those doors open to the Dark Tower at the end of Stephen King’s final volume the journey for Roland and his Ka-Tet will come to an end. The journey, however, is not without its hiccups and so here are some suggested changes for the “The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.”

My posts on “The Wolves of the Calla” and “The Song of Susannah” focused more on criticism rather than changing those volumes. Most of the changes of “The Wolves of the Calla” are the result of changes in earlier novels, like introducing Father Don Callahan in an earlier book. With “The Song of Susannah” the changes suggested were cutting and pasting bits from “Wolves of the Calla” for the beginning, and the beginning of this final novel for the end. This would give the sixth book a more coherent story from beginning to end. Now let’s talk about the beginning of this novel. Obviously, there will be spoilers.

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