Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Beating Sequel-itis…DEVASTATOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE

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How many times, as a reader, have you come across sequels that are better, deeper, and richer than the original novels?

You probably can count them on one hand, can’t you?

In fact, there’s a term for the second book in a series that’s rather derogatory, and much worse than what I called “sequel-itis” in my title above. (No, I’m not going to name it. This is a family blog, after all.) And there’s a reason for that. Most books in this position are halfway between the old story and whatever the culminating story is going to be in the next book.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve read two books, DEVASTATOR by Jason Cordova, and BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire by Kayelle Allen, that beat this problem. Both take their original characters (Tori and Pietas, respectively) and give them new and more difficult problems to solve that follow from the previous novel, but could possibly be read alone and still be understood. (You’d want to go back and read Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origins of Pietas anyway, though. They’re extremely good.)

It’s hard to come up with new and more challenging things for characters when they’ve been put through the wringer in the first book of a series. Tori, for example, was brutally raped while trapped in a virtual reality simulation of her favorite video game, and had to fight her own way out to survive, finding a truly good person to care for in young Dylan despite it all. (Is there more to that, plot-wise? Yes. But that’s all I’m giving you.) And Pietas literally was killed day after day after day before being marooned on a distant planet — being a genetically engineered immortal, he could not permanently die. And had to accept help from the most unlikely source imaginable, a human being marooned along with him called Six. And Six is so worried about what Pietas can still do, Six refuses to let Pietas know what Six’s real name actually is…but becomes friends with him anyway.

boc2-200

Both, in short, are bildungsromans. (Can you put an -s on the end of bildungroman? Well, I just did.) And both show characters in flux, searching for meaning even though their lives have come to crashing ruins around them. Jason tells his story one way; Kayelle tells it hers. But they both have a lot of good points that show how strong people can be when the chips are down, and how being reduced to your bare-bones essence and being forced to be vulnerable can be an asset as well as a festering liability.

And as good as Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s first book about Pietas were, their respective sequels are even better. Tori’s story gets twisted in new ways, as she’s forced to confront a brand-new evil that’s found a way to infest its tendrils into her favorite game despite the safeguards and upgrades put into place due to the last mess she was in. And while her boyfriend is still there to support her and remains a very good guy, he may not be able to help much as she does her best to defuse this evil and win through to another day. (In this case, I can’t give you much more than that, as Jason threw in a major plot-twist I didn’t see coming.) And Pietas is reunited with some of his old friends — and enemies — finding out that he and Six were not marooned alone. Having to deal with his father and mother, not to mention his obnoxious (slightly) younger sister, is not easy. But being reunited with his old lover, Joss, while forcing the other immortals to show Six courtesy (as they’re all into blaming the humans for their species being exiled and marooned), is incredibly tough. Pietas must build a new society out of basically nothing but his will and his wits, and he needs Six, Joss, and his sister’s help, while he needs his parents to stay out of the way. (There is another big issue for Pietas, but again, I don’t want to spoil it. So I’ll stop there.)

These stories both touched me in different ways. Mind, both main characters are survivors, and I admire that. Tori is a lot easier to relate to, being a teenager and a kind-hearted soul, than Pietas, an immortal whose word was once law (and will be again, knowing him, just you wait), but both are at heart strong, yet flawed characters who are dealing with coming-of-age issues and moral ambiguities that defy description sometimes, yet remain very real nonetheless.

Of the two stories, Jason’s has more foreshadowing, while Kayelle’s has more romance. Both have good dollops of science (different types, but still, science), great characterization, fine scene setting, interesting plots, and are stories you will not forget once you’ve read them.

Jason’s DEVASTATOR won’t be out until next week, but I urge you to get it as soon as it’s out. Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire is out now and is just $2.99 as an e-book, and again, I urge you to get it right now. (And yes, do read the previous books, CORRUPTOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas, too. You’ll enjoy them. And they’re all available on Kindle Unlimited, so what do you have to lose?)

Edited to add: Yes, I was Kayelle’s editor, and am happy she trusts me with her work. I’ve also been Jason’s friend for many years — not even sure how many at this point — and proofread CORRUPTOR back in its first iteration. I’m happy to stand behind what I’ve said, as these are wonderful books and I want you to read ’em — if you like SF&F, you owe it to yourselves to give these books a try. (Like, now.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

6 Responses

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  1. What an honor to be mentioned here, especially with the esteemed Jason Cordova. How interesting that the male writer’s main character is a woman, while the female writer’s is a man. You didn’t say it, Barb, so I will, but as the editor of the Bringer of Chaos books 1 and 2, you have a different insight into these characters. You’ve had an impact on their development. When I write, I hear your advice. It’s made me a better and more prolific writer. I’ve learned to trust my voice and let you show me if there are technical issues. That’s freeing for an author. Thank you for sharing the immortal king with your readers.

    Kayelle Allen

    January 5, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    • You’re welcome, Kayelle. I was glad to do it.

      And yes, I did notice the irony in that — you write Pietas, a really bad-ass (but vulnerable and lovable in a weird way) guy, while Jason writes Tori, a young bad-ass (but vulnerable and lovable in a weird way) lady.

      The world is an interesting place, sometimes!

      Barb Caffrey

      January 5, 2018 at 6:29 pm

  2. Thank you for informative and entertaining reviews

    Woebegone but Hopeful

    January 7, 2018 at 10:47 am

  3. […] I discussed DEVASTATOR, along with Kayelle Allen’s Bringer of Chaos series, last week here at …. So if you haven’t read that post yet, it might be nice to start […]


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