I just finished reading Elizabeth Knox‘s Dreamhunter (the English edition is called The Rainbow Opera) and I absolutely loved it. Couldn’t put it down. Fabulous worldbuilding, gripping plot, gorgeously realised characters, and, bloody hell, but Knox can write. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, or last year, or pretty much any year.
Yes, I have a but. And it’s a but I suspected I was always going to have about this book, because the lovely Lili Wilkinson of the Centre for Youth Literature who sent me the book from Australia (it’s not available in the US yet) warned me that is has a cliffhanger ending and the sequel isn’t out yet.
No big deal, I thought. But now I’ve read that cliffhanger ending, and now I’m sitting here with no second Dreamhunter book to read and it’s driving me completely insane and filling me with rage at the publishing industry that would do such a horrible thing to me, an innocent reader! I mean not only am I in the midst of the worst narrativus interruptus of all time, but I don’t even know exactly when the sequel is going to come out. Only that it’s called Dreamquake and will be out next year. When exactly? Which bit of next year? The January bit or, shudder, the December bit?
And Dreamhunter is not a whole finished book. It’s cruel to launch it on an unsuspecting public in this form. Nothing on the cover, spine, or back indicates that it’s the first half of a duology. There’s no hint in the cover copy. Nothing in any of the front matter, not even in the back matter. Why?!
Well, okay, I’m being disingenuous. I know why. Because many publishing houses believe that the punters won’t buy book one of a series unless it’s by a known-quantity. Say J. K. Rowling, or Robin Hobb, or George R. R. Martin. While Elizabeth Knox is huge in New Zealand and her adult books have been (justly) acclaimed (go read Vintner’s Luck), Dreamhunter is being marketed as young adult, and in that area she is an unknown. Safest bet, think the publishing people who make these decisions, is to not let on too strongly that it’s just part one, otherwise the punters mightn’t shell out the money for it.
That’s kind of what happened with my book, Magic or Madness. Though the front flap copy does mention that it’s the first book of a trilogy, it’s not mentioned anywhere else. A fair few people have missed it, and been cranky that the book ends without wrapping up all loose ends. Not my fault, if it were down to me it would’ve had a great big 1 on the spine and mention of it’s triloginess on the back cover, but it wasn’t down to me, and thankfully, say the Penguin people, because they reckon that would have really hurt the sales. (And in my defense: there are lots of ways in which Magic or Madness stands alone. Dreamhunter just stops in the middle of the story, nothing resolved at all.)
So, shockingly sometimes the interests of the people reading a book and those of the people who produced the book don’t coincide. This leaves me, the reader, waiting ludicrously long amounts of time for the sequel to books that I foolishly read before their sequels are published. What to do in the meantime? Reread Dreamhunter many, many times. And pray that Knox doesn’t pull a Pullman on me with the sequel.