First Books

Having spent most of yesterday’s post complaining about the shortcomings of rookie authors, I decided to reread a different author’s first book.  This is Into the Dark Lands by Michelle Sagara West, book one of The Sundered.  And yes, there are some choices in here that were mentioned yesterday, but not nearly as many, and mostly just switching viewpoints briefly.

Well, you might complain about the lack of description as well.  After all, Into the Dark Lands is just over three hundred pages, whereas most of West’s current work is in the 400-600 range.  Still, what helps the book hold up, enough to see it republished in 2005, a good 14 years after its original release, is sheer raw power.  Every time I’ve read it, I might think of it being mediocre or acceptable as I’m going through.  But every time I finish it, I have to take a step back and breathe.

It’s a simple enough story, in a fairly typical fantasy setting where Light and Dark have warred for the world’s entire existence and beyond.  The premise can be summed up as such: what would you sacrifice for the ultimate victory of light over darkness?  This is the choice that comes to each and every character, though they may not recognize it for what it is.

There’s an introduction before the story, in which Michelle West addresses her readers.  She discusses how she had considered fixing up the book for the new edition, but chose not to after seeing how another author was condemned for that same decision.  Yes, she might be able to write a far better novel today.  But Into the Dark Lands was the best book she could have written at the time, and changing it might rob it of its power.  Considering my reaction to this book, I’m glad she chose to leave it alone, but I can understand why an author might want to rewrite their work when the opportunity presents itself.

A friend of mine will have that chance soon, if she hasn’t already started.  And, to be honest, I do want to see the new version of her first book.  From everything she’s said, she was under some rather toxic influences while working on it, and that’s reflected in her writing.  Plus, the jump in quality from book one to book two is somewhat startling.  There’s enough in the first book to grab a reader’s interest and encourage them to pick up the second, but I don’t know how many others are like me, willing to grasp at the elements which could have been magnificent and ended up mediocre, or worse.  I fully support my friend’s revisions because I want to see her first book becoming more than what it’s been.

In the meantime, I’ll be continuing with the Sundered books.  I may be slower than usual given my rather full weekend coming up.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love reading, but I also enjoy playing board games with my friends.


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