Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The E-novella post; all the reviews and a debate about if they're worth your effort.

Oh marketing machine! How I love to hate you!
Or my Ode to the E-novella

Listen, I will freely admit that despite my age, and despite my education in English lit, I can be a total fangirl about certain characters and certain book franchises. Harry Potter (obviously), Twilight (though admittedly not without reservation and I am too bored to re-read the actual climaxes of the books, I just like the cheese-ball factor), Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, Cassandra Clare- all of it (though I could've used less Clary/Jace angst as the series moved past the third book), Shadow and Bone (Darkling foreva!), Tamora Pierce (do I even need to specify everything? But especially Alanna), and everything Laini Taylor (up to, and including her blog posts about her daughter Clementine), to name a few. In all fangirl moments I can devour anything and everything I can get my hands on either from the author or about that book or series. Deleted scenes, teasers, re-writes from an alternate POV, e-novellas, you name it, I will suck the Internet dry of it all. However, because I am either contrary by nature or because  I am most excellent at playing devils advocate, I am one of the first to roll my eyes at this whole marketing craze for the e-novella.

Once upon a time, extras were posted on an authors site as just that, fun extras. After finishing the book or series you could spend, sometimes, hours on an authors site perusing all the goodies that were there for the devoted.  But as YA has exploded into a frenzy of fan crazed series and beloved author superstars, the publishing world has realized there is money to be made and publicity to be eked out from these extras. And the E-novella was born.

Now a days it has become almost common place to have a e-novella crop up between each part in a series as a way to keep buzz up in between release dates. Goodreads (the easiest way to find out about all the various e-novellas in any given franchise) is full to bursting with 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 etc., and it's no longer a craze limited to YA or the "big" money grossing series'. I'm not sure if this proliferation of e-novella's itself, or the questionable quality and/or relevance of them that's given me so much "extras" fatigue, but either way they are more likely to cause a groan from me nowadays, then a squee of delight.

However! I am a stickler for reading a complete series, which means at some point I have to give in and read all the e-novellas, just so I can feel like I have the full scope of things. Therefore, here are few of the ones I've read in the past six months and my two cents on if I feel like they're worth your effort.

Glitter and Doom
Masque of the Red Death, 1.5
Bethany Griffin
Buy the Kindle copy on Amazon

From Goodreads:
April, niece to the dying city's cruel dictator, is Araby Worth's glittery and frivolous best friend. But she's more than she appears. And when she disappeared in Masque of the Red Death, where did she go? This short novella answers that question, taking us deep underneath the crumbling city, where April crosses paths with Kent, the serious young inventor who is key to rebellion. 

The ending of Masque of the Red Death really threw me. I had been loving the book until the very end, when Griffin sort of threw all you thought you knew about these characters, into the wind. I was somewhat torn on if I would put the time into reading the rest of this series, which I mistakenly thought was a trilogy. But the library had an e-copy of this novella and I thought, why not?

Glitter and Doom was an excellent example of how these e-novellas can be cleverly used to tighten a plot. Set in the POV of April, Araby's ballsy friend who entangles her in a world of trouble, Griffin uses this story to shed some light on a character it would otherwise be hard to like. At the same time she fills in necessary details to the plot to clarify the end of book 1 and lead the reader neatly into book 2. Glitter and Doom saved this series for me, leading me to buy Dance of the Red Death and leaving me happily satisfied by it all at the end.  My only complaint? Glitter and Doom is too necessary to the plot of this series for it not to be included in print editions as well as online. I wish they'd included it as bonus material in Dance of the Red Death.

The Prince
The Selection, 0.5
Kiera Cass
Buy the Kindle copy on Amazon

From Goodreads:
Before thirty-five girls were chosen to compete in the Selection...

Before Aspen broke America's heart...

There was another girl in Prince Maxon's life...

Although I should reserve judgment on this particular e-novella until the final part of The Selection, The One, comes out this spring, I will go out on a limb and say this particular e-novella is unnecessary to the series.

Likely a fan favourite to any Maxon shippers, with a nice tie in to the Selection right at the tail end, to me, The Prince was gratuitous. It was fine, but nothing I would get particularly excited about, and in fact, something I was annoyed to have paid 2.99$ for instead of getting from the library. 

The Guard
The Selection, 2.5
Kiera Cass
From Goodreads:
Before America Singer met Prince Maxon . . .
Before she entered the Selection . . .
She was in love with a boy named Aspen Leger.

Worse then even The Prince (which at least had some point to it), The Guard was a waste of reading time. Falsely advertised to make it sound like a POV of Aspen pre-selection, it is in fact just Aspen's POV during a small part towards the end of The Elite. Granted, I don't like Aspen, however I was sure Cass was going to use this e-novella to flesh him out and create a more layered character then the selfish prick he is in the first two books.  That she doesn't make use of this opportunity is possibly a sign of what kind of series this is, fluffy.

I like the Selection, it's not high caliber by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought it was fun. Sadly Cass does not appear to be growing her writing by delving more deeply into her characters, making The Guard a waste of my reading time. There is nothing new to say in the Guard, and I disliked Aspen as much as I had going in, so really, what's the point?

The Assassin's Blade 
A collection of Throne of Glass E-novellas 0.1,0.2,0.3,0.4, and 0.5

From Goodreads:
Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free?

I was really thrilled when they collected these e-novellas this year. For starters, it was really daunting, after finishing Throne of Glass, to have 5 healthy sized e-novella prequels sitting in the wings waiting to be read. I didn't love Throne of Glass, and committing to all these 2/3$ books was obnoxious and a big undertaking. I didn't have an e-reader at the time, so it also meant reading them on my laptop which is tedious at best. 

Enter the library. One of the first books I got on the waiting list for when I started my mat leave, was Crown of Midnight. I wasn't going to spend any of my now limited book money on a sequel to something I didn't love, but I wanted to keep giving this series a chance because there was promise in where part one was going. The wait list was a million years long, and to tide me over I decided to re-read book one and then give all the e-novella's a read.  The library had them all for download, and I'd just gotten my lovely new Kobo and was eager to give it a go. Imagine my delight when I realized I enjoyed the enovellas way more than Throne of Glass! This was more of what I'd been expecting with the hype leading up to book the firsts publication.

Not only are these 5 novellas important to the greater story arc, they are fun, and well used by Maas to expand upon Sardothien's mysterious past, and reveal more of her character. After reading them I was irked that they weren't in print, they were way to big a part of the series not to be. The Assassin's Blade will definitely be joining my library when I purchase my copy of Crown of Midnight, and I would be remiss if I didn't give a nice slow clap to Bloomsbury for using enovellas very effectively in this series.

The Witch's Betrayal
The Assassin's Curse, 0.5
Cassandra Rose Clarke
From Goodreads:
You’ve read The Assassin’s Curse. You’ve met Naji. Now go back in time and see Naji in his earlier years, as he seeks a target and ends up clashing with Leila, the river witch.

This is a perfect example of something that used to be an author website extra. The Witch's Betrayal really doesn't illuminate much about either The Assassin's Curse plot, or Naji's character, it's just a fun pop into Naji's POV, by telling the story of how he got his scar.

Now Clarke could have used it to be a really revealing look into his character, at which point it really would have warranted as a must read to this series. Instead it was really just a marketing scheme to keep people interested and talking about the books while publishing. Does that make this story redundant now that the series is fully published? As a sale, kind of. I got my copy from the library, so it didn't really matter to me one way or the other, but if I'd paid for it I think I would have been disappointed.

The Automaton's Treasure
The Assassin's Curse, 0.6
Cassandra Rose Clarke
Buy the Kindle copy on Amazon

From Goodreads:
A tale exploring Marjani's first steps beyond Qilar, when she is dismissed from her home for scandalous behaviour.

Marjani's ship is stolen by pirates and, in order to save her own life, she pretends to know the location of great treasure.

Of the two novellas in this series, this one is the least interesting. It has zero bearing on the actual print series, doesn't dig into Marjani character at all, and worse then either of these two things, misses an awesome opportunity to tell Marjani's story. 

Since Marjani and her scandalous relationship are a big part of the final book, The Pirate's Wish, it seems obvious to me that Clarke should have used Marjani's background to better avail for this short story. I would have loved to have had more layers added to her character and for her past to be illuminated more, and sadly I think it would have made me care more about her and her lover who become major figures int the final part.

In the end it seems like it's half a dozen of one, and six of the other, when it comes to e-novellas. My suggestion? Borrow them first. Seriously, save your loonies to put towards the 20-23$ hardcovers of the actual story, and if you love the enovellas then hold out for the compiled print copy. God knows the publishing industry needs your money (not mine, they have way too much of mine already). But you know, be true to your fangirl/fanboy ways, and suck the Internet dry of all your beloved characters and stories, if you need to.
I won't judge, I promise.


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