Friday, August 16, 2013

When a Series Doesn't End

I finished reading Demonstorm a couple of days ago and it made me think reader expectations and the ending of a series. 

As I understand it, James Barclay intended for Demonstorm to be the conclusion to his Legends of the Raven trilogy.  It ended the story of The Raven, a mercenary band that saved the world on multiple occasions. There an epilogue which set the tone for the future and it was one where not only wasn’t The Raven needed, but it was one where they didn’t really exist anymore.  Which will make sense if you’ve read the books and be fairly non-spoilery if you haven’t. Demonstorm was an ending and a concrete ending at that. 

Of course, what I had known all along is that there was still one more book which was set ten or so years later: Ravensoul.  I knew that long before I read Dawnthief, but by the time I finished what now feels like the “series proper”, I wasn’t sure why or how there could be another book.  As Barclay writes on his website,
A quick scan down these bibliography entries will lead you to Demonstorm and my assertion that it was to be the last Raven novel and that there were no plans for more. Luckily, I also mentioned the immortal words ‘never say never’. Because, four years later, along came Ravensoul.

The fact is that something began nagging at me almost from the moment Demonstorm was done and dusted. That although I had written “The End” for the last time in Raven history, it just wasn’t the end. For a while I didn’t know why, but a bit like Vault of Deeds, the idea wouldn’t go away and slowly, it took proper shape. In the days when writing The Ascendants was particularily hard, I gave it considered thought too.

I wanted The Raven to have one last ride…
 Barclay then goes on to give a little bit more detail about the ending of Demonstorm then I want to go into here, but what I want to express is that I feel very mixed regarding how I feel about this as a reader.  I have very much enjoyed Barclay’s work with the Raven novels (see here for my thoughts on the first three books), and though I have seen a brief synopsis / cover copy on Ravensoul and know approximately how the story is continuing, Barclay finished the series.  He finished the story. 

Obviously, James Barclay disagrees with me since he wrote another novel set ten years after and who am I to say that the author is wrong for having more stories he wants to tell?

It’s not even that I don’t want to read more Raven stories.  It’s just that he wrote a book that had such an ending, to the point that the idea there is more feels something of a let down or a refusal to let go.  Part of this has to do with a specific story point that because it occurs so late in the series, but is absolutely key as to why having a sequel comes across as somewhat offputting to the reader, or, at least to this one.

Of course, if Ravensoul is up to the level of quality the first six books hit most of this is moot and I’ll accept it.  But there is that niggling part of the reader brain that thinks that no matter how good Ravensoul is, things should have ended where they were originally intended to. 

We’ll see. 

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