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Sunday, August 21, 2022

A Question of Order

Besides questions about the title, the most common inquiry I get about the new book is this one. Since it’s a sequel, is it absolutely necessary to read the first book, The Curse of Septimus Bridge, first?

Allow me go into analytical-personality mode and say, no, there are no laws on the books or anything else that would prevent you from reading the second book without first having read the first one. It’s not as though you have to swear an affidavit or pass some kind of knowledge test about Septimus in order to be issued a copy of Last of the Tuath Dé. Of course, people aren’t really asking if it’s possible to read one without having read the other. They want to know if it’s a good idea.

At least half the answer to that question depends on you, but I can do my best to fill in the other half, which may help you do your half.

People like me, who have a compulsive element to their personality, prefer to read things in order. If there is a series of books, movies or television episodes, I want to read or view them in the order they were created. Or maybe in whatever order keeps the overarching narrative chronological. Or maybe not. I actually dealt with this conundrum 13 years ago on my movie blog when I pondered the question of whether a new viewer should watch the Star Wars movies beginning with A New Hope or The Phantom Menace. I came down on the side of experiencing the movies in the order they were created and in which the world originally experienced them, as opposed to following the saga chronologically.

So, if you’re that type of person, then the answer is clear. You should read Septimus Bridge first and Tuath Dé second.

But not everyone is that type of person. I’m not even that type of person all the time. Maybe the descriptions of the second book sound more interesting to you, and those of the first one not so much. Maybe you’re just not as interested in reading books that have been around awhile and you like your reading material to be new and fresh.

Still not sure? Here’s what else I can tell you. I wrote Last of the Tuath Dé, as I do all my books, with the intention that it stand on its own and be a complete and satisfying reading experience all by itself. Though many of the characters were introduced in the earlier book and events in that book have a bearing on occurrences in the new book, I did my best to bring new readers up to date without boring established ones. It’s a new story with its own beginning, middle and end. Though there are characters and events referred to—sometimes quite significantly—from the previous volume, that was also sort of true of the first book. People were referred to in that book whom we had not met, and prior events were mentioned that we had not experienced. That’s how I approach my storytelling. The characters are not born full-grown (like Athena emerging from Zeus’s forehead) the minute you start reading about them, and their lives don’t stop when you get to the last page. Yeah, if you read Tuath Dé first, you’ll be playing some catch-up, but there’s always catch-up to play with three-dimensional characters.

I made a deliberate choice not to organize any of my books as part of a series—even though that’s a particularly trendy thing to do these days, particularly when it comes to YA lit. I discussed this topic here in some detail five years ago when I declared that the Dallas Green books—and now, separately, the Septimus/Sapphire/Izanami books—are part of a novel sequence rather than a series. That kind of gives readers permission to read the books in whatever order they want.

So, here’s the bottom line. If it were I, I would read Septimus first, but if for whatever reason, you really want to just read Tuath Dé, I think you’ll be okay.

For what it’s worth, my beta readers didn’t find the question any easier to answer than I have—and for the same reason. It’s hard, if not impossible, to put yourself in the place of someone who hasn’t read something that you’ve read. Even people who had read the first book didn’t necessarily remember all the detail of it anyway.

And here’s something else. A couple of those early readers said they thought that Tuath Dé was a better book than the first one. On the other hand, at least one other preferred the first one. In case we needed reminding, choosing what to read and when—and whether we’re happy with those choices—is very individual and pretty darn subjective.

Of course, my wish is that you will read both books and in fact all my books—in whatever order you prefer—and that you will enjoy them.

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