Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sequels Are Hard, I Guess


A lot of times when I'm reading a book with likable characters, I want the story to keep going. And a lot of times an author will oblige me (and other readers) with a sequel. That's the case with Sally Gardner's pair of books The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade. Recently I finished reading The Silver Blade, and unfortunately, I didn't like it as well as I liked The Red Necklace.

The Silver Blade picks up when the Revolution in France has lost its idealism and gone full into the Terror. Yann is using his powers to help people escape death at the guillotine; Sido is living in London with her aunt, who is none too happy about the love letters Yann and Sido are sending to each other across the English Channel. Because Yann is a Gypsy, Sido's aunt believes he would not make a suitable husband for the young heiress. So far, so good.


But then Gardner treks away from historical fiction into the deeply paranormal, by bringing back Count Kalliovski, the villain of the first book who blackmailed Sido's presumed father into signing an agreement that will give Sido - and her considerable inheritance - to Kalliovski. In The Silver Blade, Kalliovski has been rescued from death by the devil and now lives a cursed half-life in a catacomb under the city, able to come above ground only at night. He is determined to obtain Yann's powers for his own, to make himself ultimately powerful. To do that, he has to find and lure Yann to the catacombs where he can kill him and take his powers. Sido now has a new attraction for Kalliovski; she's going to be the bait to get Yann to the catacombs.

I said before, I'm not a huge fan of paranormal stories. However, I can enjoy it at times. But this was not one of those times. Kalliovski's quest for the threads of light seemed awfully familiar, as in Star Wars familiar. The whole "I am your father" bit seemed kind of overdone to me, especially Yann's reaction and the moment that brought him back from his despairing journey. Yann's mother (a ghost) also plays a big role in saving Sido.

Another thing I didn't especially care for was the introduction of a whole slew of new characters. Honestly, it was a little hard to keep up with them all. And I didn't find any of the characters who were introduced to be that compelling. I really didn't like the character of Anselm. I know I wasn't supposed to like him. But I didn't even like him as a villain. I thought he was just tiresome.

I didn't even get much of a thrill out of the romance between Yann and Sido. It had some of the problems I felt afflicted the whole book - a cliche' approach that could have been improved with a bit of revision and re-writing. In some ways, I felt the sequel was rushed to publication before it was really ready.

Different people have different tastes, I know. It's quite likely that someone who's more of a fan of paranormal stories will like Gardner's story. It's just a little let-down to me that the follow-up to a book I really enjoyed turned out to be something I really didn't enjoy that much.

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