Well, I didn't. And while I might not recommend entering Patrice Sarath's Gordath-verse from the start of the third book, I am here to report that you most definitely can:-)
People don't always come into episodic fiction at the beginning of the series. The later book may be loaned or gifted; you may see it on a New Books! shelf where the earlier one(s) can't be found. Orrrrrr.... you might serendipitously run into a new author through a mutual fear of a childhood shoe commercial and then screw up, not see the two earlier Kindles, and just dive into the third not knowing it's the third. Don't you hate when that happens?
I suppose I should start with the shoes.
One fine morning, at the beginning of this month, my dreams were invaded by an old nemesis. A haunting, hulking man going click, click, click in an alleyway, with a foreboding film noir style narrator intoning:
No matter where you go in Adler's shoes, you are not alone. OLDDD MANNN ADLER stands behind every pair of Adler's Shoes.
Now THIS was scary old-timey radio, which I'm a bit too young to remember, but which I do remember being homaged in pieces like Bill Cosby's "Chicken Heart" routine. If I'd known that bit when I first heard those Adler's commercials in the 70s, I probably WOULD have set the sofa on fire to keep him from getting me. They ran on the news radio stations in New York City that my father had on in the mornings when I was getting ready to go out to deliver papers- the perfect time, the crack of dawn, for me to worry about some crazy old man in elevator shoes chasing me down. In time, I lost my fear, but to this day, if I hear anything resembling that click-click-click, the Old Man comes back and I remember.
I Googled "old man Adler" in search of a sound clip, and instead found an author- who found another historical link to the series of ads and remembered the ookies from it the same way I did:
I’m not the only one still haunted by Adler Shoes. The article says the later ads — the one I heard — were dull. No way. Nothing that puts that kind of shiver up your spine is dull. I also don’t remember the jingle. There was no jingle. There was only fear.
I had a fellow traveler here, along the road of weird. And the subheader of the blog from which it came said "writing lessons and the writing life." Must be an author, huh. We exchanged some quick comments and I resolved to read more. The site spoke mainly of two works- a Pride and Prejudice continuation of sorts (maybe not the best choice right now, in case Old Man Adler went over to the zombies and I'd be sucked into fighting him with the Bennets;), and something called
Spake one review:
"Patrice Sarath’s new book follows a young 21st-century heroine as she navigates the perils of an alternate world, a feudal society that’s home to the man she loves. But political treachery and personal betrayal force her to fight for a new life, forge surprising alliances, and redefine her very concept of home. Fast-paced, full of unexpected plot twists, and rich with detail, The Crow God’s Girl is an exciting and absorbing read.”
Good enough for me. Nothing in there about "third in a series," and there it was atop Patrice's Amazon page, along with the Bellicose Miss B, so I bought my quickie $4.00 Kindle version and set off to be enchanted.
Instead, I was a little confused, and a lot intrigued.
Crow God's Girl definitely starts in the middle of things. It's made plain that Kate Our Heroine is from our time and universe and yet unexpectedly placed, with little knowledge and less control, into a much different one. Her love interest is clearly of that world, but just as clearly has spent time in this one. The two helixes of the plot are- what happens Over There?, and will Kate, alone or with Boy, ever make it Back Here? Sarath dances, and dodges, before finally deciding on that last one, and the result was perfectly satisfactory for me....
even though I did eventually find out, duh, that there are two prior works in the very real series of "The Books of the Gordath." You'd think I'd know that, seeing how every Kindl-y page was labeled as this being one of said "Books of the Gordath." And yet I feel I was part of a research project to test how people react to sequels of books they've never read. If this third book was part of such a test, I wholeheartedly report that it passed.
Not all serial works do. I've torn my hair out after getting halves and thirds of ways through further-on stories where the author practically demands that you put down the damn book and buy the previous edition(s) in order to have ANY idea what's going on. On the other hand, I've edited the first two of three installments of a friend's speculative fiction series about Extrahumans, and I made it a mid-level priority to ensure that Book The Second was readable entirely independent of Book the First. (The Third, which I only participated in as a reader, continued that lineage and was as good a standalone as its predecessor.) That's not to say you delete the prior details as you read the later ones if you HAVE read the earlier one(s), but those details should be icing on the cakey pages, extra benefits to the readers who have stuck all the way through with the series.
Patrice weaves a complex and unique 'verse in at least the third of these books, but it's wonderful how well that weave holds up all by itself without needing the background of the prior two setups for a reader to "get it." Sure, at times it goes slowly; it takes time to draw the mental map of the various Houses, and chart the assorted gods and how they affect things Over There. But I did it. And I'd encourage you to do so, too- whether starting where I did, or at the actual beginning
...which, I expect, is a very good place to start- despite it costing a whole eight bucks for the Kindle rather than four:)
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