Saturday, April 17, 2010
All the Windwracked Stars: A year later, a prequel, some thoughts & questions
This was my first read by Elizabeth Bear and a fantasy book and I remember loving it for a lot of reasons. I didn't want the book to end. It's post apocalyptic/apocalyptic fantasy and it has mythology as a base, two devices I really enjoy in a book. Bear also throws the reader right into her world from the beginning, and that's something I appreciate when reading fantasy. The rest you can read on my review. However, the way she used mythology concerned me at the time and that was reflected in my final grade.
However, you'll be surprised to hear that I was disappointed with By The Mountain Bound, even though I initially thought it was would be helpful for those readers who needed a deeper understanding of the mythology used in this series. The book itself is well written and the story is good on its own, heavy on the mythology. My concern is in how By the Mountain Bound effects All the Windwracked Stars as a prequel.
All the Windwracked Stars has a mysterious atmosphere, full of sensuality and sexual tension between the female and two males, and a subtle homoerotic connection between the males, plus a darkness to the book that keeps the reader turning the pages and guessing what's coming next. By going back in time and writing a prequel, Bear not only gives her readers a deeper understanding of the mythology, but she explores the backstory of the three central characters from All the Windwracked Stars. By telling their backstory, part of that mystery is voided and the sexual tension is released because the reader now knows the dynamics that drive the relationships between the central characters.
When I began reading this series, my hope was that the characters, their story and world would be developed and explored in subsequent installments. I wondered how Bear would reveal the characters' pasts as she moved forward with their future. I hoped that the confusing parts of the first book would be addressed in the second installment. After reading the prequel, where she went back instead of forward with the story, I now wonder how it would feel to read this series in a different order -- By the Mountain Bound first and All the Windwracked Stars second. I'm sure it would be a totally different experience. I would certainly view the characters in a totally different light.
What do you think? How do you feel about prequels? Do you enjoy getting the backstory on already established characters in prequels? Or, do you feel authors often use prequels as an easy way to further develop their characters or world? Do you read prequels first when you begin reading an already established series? In this case, which book would you read first?