Well, considering I basically did a post last week, just hyping myself up The River of Silver, I think we pretty much knew from the start I was going to enjoy this one.
After my first excursion in Daevabad during The City of Brass, I was pretty much in love, drinking in the richness of the world, the culture of the djinn, and all the strife and conflict roiling from its denizens like smoke from a flaming brazier.
The Kingdom of Copper continued to stoke that flame, expanding the world, adding some new characters, while giving us even more of what we loved in the original, unraveling each mystery only to find that their was so much more to discover.
By the third installment, perhaps some of that heat had faded, as The Empire of Gold seemed to merit only silver in my humble opinion. But nevertheless, I felt it was a wonderful send off for our beloved Nahri, Alizayd (Ali), and the legendary Scourge Darayavahoush (Dara).
Of course, I’m always sad when a series that I’ve enjoyed so much comes to an end, but I was also happy, because I did not have to watch it struggle and (as so many series do) ultimately fail to enchant its readers after overstaying its welcome.
So, even though I was VERY excited to read River of Silver and knew I would enjoy it on some level, whatever it contained, I did experience some trepidation at the thought of returning to Daevabad.
A Quick Aside Which Will be Relevant I Promise . . .
Not to digress too much, but it is perhaps useful to look to the music industry for a useful metaphor to explain how my mind was approaching this new book. Essentially, there are two ways rock bands will release already written material to fans to make a buck (although I’m sure money isn’t the reason they’d give for it).
A live-album, or studio outtakes.
Pretty much without fail, I never enjoy studio outtakes. There is a reason that material didn’t make the original album. It isn’t as good. It may be interesting to historians, or maybe other musicians attempting to learn the craft, but for fans . . . it just seems like 2nd place.
Also pretty much without fail, I generally go crazy over live-albums, often enjoying them more than what plays on the radio. They’re so filled with energy, life, and passion that it’s hard not to be swept along by the music. I think that several things account for this, but I’m pretty certain that the main influence is that by the time a song gets played on the road, the band has played and practiced it so many times, that they’ve trimmed away any excess and come strait to the heart of the songs.
Then they go farther than that, and become bored with that heart, so they begin the creative process anew, pushing that heart to beat faster (or sometimes slower), to try new riffs and ultimately finding their love for music in the process. Sure, live concerts are often sloppy, messy things, sometimes with as many wrong notes as right ones. But it’s the risks they take on stage that make everything so thrilling.
Where it comes back together . . .
Now Chakraborty more or less gives the definition of studio outtakes in her explanation of what these chapters are. She says they’re deleted scenes and fun pieces of story that just didn’t quite fit into the book, or were meant only as an exercise to get in the mind of one character or another (anyone studying the craft of writing will probably find this doubly interesting).
But when she describes why she stitched them together (perhaps reworking or revising some), it feels more like the type experience one feels hearing a live-album. Reading through the chapters, it’s easy to see the where she takes risks, where the chapters don’t quite meet what was published or sometimes exceed the original stories in certain ways. It gives every character more depth even though none felt particularly lacking before. It takes an already rich and memorable epic, and then — to quote Nigel Tugnel (This is Spinal Tap) — turns it to eleven.
But most important of all, you can see where she’s falling in love with stories again . . . And it’s impossible not to be swept away in that river, one that’s named silver, but is clearly gold.