Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Job

So, I haven't posted in awhile for two reasons: one, PAX was last weekend so I was out of town for three days.

Two, I have finally managed to secure a new job after two long years of unemployment.

And technically three, a blizzard smashed New England in the face yesterday. I still haven't completely dug out my porch.

Between these, yeah as you can imagine I've been pretty busy. On top of new full time hours I also have a new 30 mile commute one way, which means I'll be spending up to two hours on the road each day depending on traffic.

Work life balance? I'll get back to you on that.

This week is pretty much hell week for me, I'll be happy just to survive.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trust, or Not Breaking Promises to Your Readers

Firebrand got me thinking about some reading related issues, so this is one of a few posts about that. This won't have any spoilers for Firebrand, but I am going to be talking extensively about problems with Mirror Sight, so be warned.

We writers talk about so many reader-related concepts: suspension of disbelief, spoon-feeding, infodumps, the endless debates on prologues and why readers skip them, etc. One topic I think gets overlooked somewhat is that there exists a certain level of trust between the author and their fans. If you establish a certain core idea in your work, you will be expected to follow through, and not doing so breaks the trust of your readers and results in a lot of disappointed and upset fans.

It's an easy thing to do; writing is one of the few truly isolated arts, and even in the age of social media it's not uncommon for an author to have little or no public presence. If anything, it makes it even more important that this bond of trust be carefully maintained.

And that is why I hated Mirror Sight.

For 4 books Rider Karigan and King Zachary have developed a mutual but unrequited love, a relationship that is tested constantly by their differences in station and duties that often require making hard decisions. Many of those decisions have immediate and lasting impacts on both characters, and often the kingdom itself. But for all of that, neither has ever wavered in their unspoken devotion to each other.

Then Mirror Sight comes along. Here is Karigan, alone in a time that is not her own, in a future where everything they've fought for has failed, and her beloved king is long dead. In the course of her desperate mission to find out what happened and how to prevent it, she comes in contact with Cade Harlowe, a man who dreams of being a Weapon. And Karigan, acting completely out of character, falls in love with him almost immediately.

That right there is how you break a reader's trust. For almost the entirety of the series, Karigan is driven not just by her sworn service to the king, but also by her attraction to and eventual love of him. To have her throw it all away for this random, relatively unremarkable man in the middle of the most dangerous, dire mission yet is a slap in the face. It goes against everything the series has been building up to in the worst possible way.

Don't make promises you aren't prepared to keep. Sometimes that means changing your vision of the story. Whether Britain intended for Karigan and Zachary to be a couple is irrelevant, because they have been in almost every way that counts since First Rider's Call; as readers we're not just following the epic adventure to take down the Second Empire and destroy Mornhaven the Black once and for all. We're invested in seeing how soulmates overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to find the happiness they deserve.

She came so very close to breaking my trust in her as the author of this series; with Firebrand I am willing to forgive. But I will not forget. There will always be that small amount of doubt in the back of my mind going into every new book. Please, for the love of the stories, don't ever threaten your readers like that. It will end poorly for everyone.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Firebrand by Kristen Britain: A (Mostly) Spoiler Free Review

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Note: Minor spoilers/references to Mirror Sight in this review.

Summary: Green Rider Karigan G'ladheon, not yet recovered in heart or mind from her unexpected trip through time, is assigned a new mission. She must seek out the legendary creatures called p'ehdrosian to renew an alliance of old in the face of dire threats from enemies who seek to destroy Sacoridia using dark magic.

Each step on her journey northward grows more perilous as she faces attacks from groundmites, encounters with ghosts, and, ultimately, the threat of the necromancer and leader of Second Empire, Grandmother, as they approach the enemy encampment in the Lone Forest.

Meanwhile, King Zachary of Sacoridia has been kidnapped by an ice elemental who is allied with Second Empire. Can Karigan free her king from captivity with just two allies by her side?

I've been a huge fan of the Green Rider series pretty much from the beginning. I would call it a guilty pleasure if I had any shame when it comes to reading, but I don't. For all the flaws of the books, I love the world, the characters and especially the relationship between the king and his Green Rider.

Like many others, Mirror Sight was a huge disappointment for me, so much so that I also reviewed that book. I felt it was a heavy handed attempt to force Karigan away from the relationship that is ultimately the heart of this series. I've been both excited and anxious about Firebrand; the outcome of this book absolutely determined if I continue reading the series or not.

I am pleased and very relieved to say, you can lay your doubts to rest. It feels like Britain has finally committed to the relationship we've all been wanting from the very first book. Cade's memory is still a massively unwelcome distraction to Karigan through the course of the book, but it seems that being in Zachary's presence in a way neither has been together before has allowed both to confront themselves...and each other. What will happen between them from here, well, that's for the next book to decide. Things are infinitely more complicated these days, but the fire is still there after all these years. The short time they have together is by far the highlight of the book.

As for the story itself, we pick up again with some older plot threads from the Second Empire, now that Karigan is back in Sacoridia proper and dealing with more immediate threats. Many familiar faces are back, and not all of them are welcome. It's a literal trip down memory lane as she once again pushes north, revisiting ghosts of the past on her journey to seek out mythical allies of old. However, the mission is quickly waylaid in the chaos of the Second Empire's latest attacks that leave the kingdom without its king in a critical time, and the desperate race to rescue him.

It's actually a little jarring after the events of Blackveil and Mirror Sight, but the sluggish opening of the book is an unexpected benefit as we get reacquainted with old friends, some of whom haven't played major roles since Blackveil. Of particular interest to series fans, we get a rare extended view from King Zachary himself as he gets a taste of the trials he's unknowingly been sending his favorite Green Rider to face.

Once it gets moving, the action is as swift and chaotic as it's always been in the series, and never without sacrifice. It does feel a little anticlimactic, and certain loose ends are tied up just a little too neatly in the post-climax of the end. However, there is a very real sense of change coming, as Karigan and King Zachary prepare to deal with old threats, new challenges, and their own, ever-conflicted hearts.