Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two Authors - Similar Ground

I haven't ever done this before, this isn't precisely a review, but more of a comparison between two authors who have some things in common in terms of what they tackle and how they go about it.

I'll cover Marissa Meyer first. Marissa Meyer published her debut novel; Cinder, in 2012. Cinder was the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It was an anime inspired reimagining of the Cinderella legend. It was followed by Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White). The Lunar Chronicles were popular enough to spawn a prequel (Fairest) and a book of short stories (Stars Above). Given the popularity of the romance infused, anime inspired fairytales, the characters and the world that Meyer created, moving away from it was a fairly brave move for an author to make.

I felt Marissa Meyer took other risks with Heartless. It also involved a much loved fairytale (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), it was however set largely in a world that was very similar to Lewis Carroll's original, as opposed to the Lunar Chronicles world which was a futuristic Earth and vastly different from those of the stories that inspired it. It was also a prequel, whereas the Lunar Chronicles were a retelling of the originals. Audiences love series today, and by it's very nature Heartless is a standalone book. The author also chose to focus on a fairly unpopular character from the original; Heartless is the story of the Red Queen and how she got to be the character audiences encountered in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Now onto Danielle Paige. Danielle Paige released Dorothy Must Die in 2014, she had already had a a prequel novella (No Place Like Oz) set in the world and using some of the characters published electronically by Harper Collins, before the novel was published (it and two other related novellas were later published as paper books). Paige's series dealt with the world of Oz. It differed from what Meyer had done, in that she told reimaging's and the Dorothy Must Die books were sequels of a kind to Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. She did also use characters and settings from some of the other Oz books. Like the Lunar Chronicles (I suspect the two series share an audience, aside from myself, I'm not their target audience at all), they were popular enough to have related books of short work released, and there's actually a 4th novel in the original series scheduled for release later this year.

After having success with her first series, Paige also took a chance by moving away from it. Stealing Snow is a take on Hans Christian Anderson's classic The Snow Queen. Anything related to that story due to Disney's Frozen is almost guaranteed to be successful, this is despite the fact that about the only thing Frozen and The Snow Queen have in common is a character who can control ice and snow. Stealing Snow ultimately takes less risks than Heartless. It's a reimagining of a popular story, currently riding a wave of success that the public can't seem to get enough of, it's also the first of a series (it does standalone, but has sequels planned) and it features a fairly likeable protagonist.

I felt of the two Heartless was the better book. Possibly because I'm more familiar with it's source material than I am with that of Stealing Snow. I also think it was better written and the author stretched herself more. The romance angle aside, Heartless is an ambitious undertaking, it's vastly different to what Marissa Meyer did with the Lunar Chronicles in style and setting. Even the characters are very different. She uses multiple types of story, there are elements of an Austenish comedy of manners, a Regency Romance, the sort of surreal children's story that Carroll originally wrote and a whodunnit. At times I wasn't sure I was reading the same person that wrote the Lunar Chronicles.

Stealing Snow doesn't stretch Paige's talents anywhere near as much. Snow isn't a long way removed from the protagonist of the Dorothy Must Die books; Amy Gumm. She has that same snark and tough girl exterior. It uses one of the same story devices. In Dorothy Must Die, Amy is whisked from Kansas to Oz when a tornado snatches up her mother's mobile home and in Stealing Snow, Snow enters Algid by means of a magical mirror. In both series the protagonist enters the other world to put everything right. Stealing Snow starts with Snow in a psychiatric hospital called Whittakers and housed with other patients who have delusions. The way Snow talks about them is rather like introducing a super hero team and their powers. I was kind of hoping that they'd appear in Algid with their powers real like Snow's were (maybe they will in future books), but once she got to Algid it followed a far more predictable path. The start had me thinking that the author was going to do something like Normal Again, but it was not to be.

Both are good books that will catch and hold a reader's attention, and will no doubt retain the author's existing fans and garner new ones, it's just that on my reading Heartless took me in more than Stealing Snow did.

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