Like a bower bird to blue milk-bottle tops, put some sparkle on a book cover and you’ll hear me exclaim ‘Ooh, shiny!’ from across the room. Mind you, with the ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ series, ‘Ooh, Garth Nix’ would also have been heard, but the metallic-y covers sealed the deal.
Superior Saturday is the sixth book in the series, which started with Mister Monday and is due to end with the next book after this one, being, obviously, Sunday…. um, something. Lord! Lord Sunday. The books follow Arthur Penhaligon on his quests through a fantastical realm called The House, to reunite ‘the Will’ of its creator-being (known as the Architect), which is a group of enchanted words scattered amongst the Architect’s greedy, selfish, evil heirs – yep, seven of them called Monday, Tuesday etc. Each of these scary buggers also have a key which gives them most of their power. Arthur has been named the rightful true heir and must collect the keys, the Will, try to save his family and friends at home from the dangers befalling the Earth once the two worlds start to mingle and try not be turned into a denizen – a non-human resident of The House world – as he uses more and more of the keys’ powers to get him through. Big call for a young lad, non?
There’s a pretty big ‘to be continued’ at the end of this instalment, so let’s hope the Sunday comes along quickly!
I’m a loyal person but sticking with a series can be hard. It’s so much commitment on a reader’s part, and you never know how reciprocal the relationship is going to be. The author might take a really long time between books; they might not indicate how many books are involved in a series so that you have no end to aim for; the quality might drop as their super idea for the first two books peters out; for god’s sake they might DIE on you before they can tell you what happened to their hero after you last left him hanging from a vine on the edge of the cliff with the cantankerous centipedes of the evil cookie lord squirming below him. Then the publishers get the dead author’s son or ‘long-time collaborator’ to finish the series and you’re stuffed, ain’t ya?
Series have perks as well. You get to revisit with favourite characters, plots can be more twisty and lengthy as they meander through several novels, there’s a lot more room for change and surprise, etc. etc. It’s the waiting that hurts most.
If you’re writing a series and the readers aren’t crying out for the next book, then you’re doing something wrong. And if your readers are crying out for the next instalment then you can’t delay them too long. I’m not sure what a suitable time is… Twelve months would be ideal but as a writer you’d have to be a fair way ahead of the publication schedule to keep up with that. Two years max? Otherwise your readers are going to either lose interest or hunt you down and tie you to your desk until you finish the damn thing, and that just makes things unpleasant for everyone. I’m currently waiting for the third and final book in a series and the author’s blog doesn’t even mention when to expect it… very frustrating! By the time the third ones comes around I will probably have forgotten all the important points – possibly my failing (see a future post for Year of the Flood … I forgot that Oryx from Oryx and Crake existed… well, who Oryx was exactly. I know, slap me.) but I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers in this way.
But I find there is a happy middle ground and that’s the recurring character. You don’t necessarily have had to have read the books in a certain order or have read the other books as the stories tend to stand alone. But if you have read the other books then the reading experience is so much more rewarding as lots of strings from previous books will slink in and make connections, creating depth and colour, as well as an attachment to the world the stories are set in. Crime novels (in all their forms) are full of recurring characters we attach ourselves to. I also remember reading a lot of books as a child/teen that featured the same characters but weren’t necessarily a series. I find with the recurring characters books that I don’t finish them and then think ‘When’s the next one coming?’ like I do with a series. There isn’t a countdown or a hunt to get some small schmackeral of a hint of when the new book will be out. I want to read another one, and I assume there will be another one in a suitable amount of time (whatever we work out that is). And when the next Lincoln Rhyme, Tony Hill, Salvo Montalbano book comes out, I’m delighted and thrilled. Unlike when the next book in a long-awaited series comes out and I’m slightly harried, nervous and bordering on disenchanted.
It’s all about expectations, isn’t it.