Compelling writers take risks. Whether it be with character, plot, point-of-view or style, the writer who risks something grabs a reader’s attention. In Last First Snow, Max Goldstone lowers the stakes to zero. How does he do that? Mainly, by writing a novel that is just backstory for Two Serpents Rise.
Just as some people like the George Lucas movies that must not be named, others will like this book. My question is why write Last First Snow? What does it offer the narratives of the Craft Sequence? Or, are readers not supposed to read the novels in the order in which they’re published? It would definitely benefit the reader to pick up this book first and then read Two Serpents Rise, because we know what happens in the long run. Nothing is at stake for the characters, because we know the outcomes. It makes for a meaningless read.
Yes, there are interesting characters; but have you watched interesting characters convince people to come to a meeting and negotiate a contract? Interesting goes out the door pretty fast. The first third or half of the book is incredibly slow. There are characters from a poor part of the city that don’t want it redeveloped. The King in Red and people with money do want to redevelop it. The reader has nothing invested in these characters and their homes. Hell, how many people really cared about Standing Rock? Protests over contracts regarding how a neighborhood might be redeveloped has to be one of the least exciting plot devices possible. After this halfway mark, I skimmed the rest of the book in thirty minutes.
Pork Belly Grain Bowls
An appeal of the Craft Sequence is the mashup of fantasy with contemporary life. Characters aren’t just eating stew. The are having coffees, tacos, and curries (which to be fair is almost a stew). But, at a certain point one has to question choices. What is the benefit of this mashup? Is there a commentary on contemporary life? Is it just fun and entertaining to see a character eat a banh mi sandwich and perform magic? For me, the novelty of the mashup wore thin, partially because it seems Goldstone is more focuses on the mashup than the elements of fiction. When a story suffers it brings everything down, even the cool world one has built.
If It Weren’t for You Lawyers and that Meddling Skeleton King
Good mysteries have lots of potential suspects. Goldstone tries his hand half-heartedly at creating a mystery or two in the novel. First, there are the mysterious pamphlets, which are quickly discovered, by of course, following the money. Then there is the question of who shot
J.R. Tan Bantac? It doesn’t take a detective or a very astute reader to figure that one out.
Either skip Last First Snow or at the very least, read it before Two Serpents Rise so that it might have some payoff. If I hadn’t wanted to review the novel, I would’ve just stopped reading part way through.