April 19, 2013

Companion Novellas: The Prince and Free Four {mini reviews}

There are few (non-life threatening) miseries greater than waiting for the release of sequels in a series you love. I'm anxious for Kiera Cass' second installment of her Selection series, The Elite due out next Tuesday and Veronica Roth's third novel in the Divergent series (due out 10/22/13). But fortunately for readers, these authors have given us some small treasures to appease us while we wait: short companion stories/novellas that add a new dimension to each respective series by revealing the experience of another important character.

In Kiera Cass' companion Novella to The Selection titled "The Prince," readers experience the earliest stages of the Selection process as told by Prince Maxon, the bachelor prince who must publicly choose a wife. This story is marketed as a story about the girl in Maxon's life before the Selection, but frankly I feel that is false advertising as said girl takes up little of this overall story. Fortunately for readers this is not a disappointment; instead of reading about Maxon's past, I was much happier reading his side of the Selection experience. What readers will be really excited about is Maxon's perspective of his first conversations with protagonist, America Singer, verbatim from her experience as illustrated in the novel The Selection. Gaining this insight into Maxon's feelings about her add a new dynamic to the series overall.

Similarly, Veronica Roth's short story, "Free Four" retells a scene verbatim from Divergent, only this time from the perspective of Dauntless trainer, Four. This companion story, much shorter than "The Prince," is succinct and powerful at expressing Four's feelings and motivations in the knife throwing scene where he cuts protagonist, Beatrice "Tris" Prior's ear. Roth really brings life into these characters with their powerful contrast of perspectives and I enjoyed re-reading the scene from Tris' perspective in Divergent upon finishing "Free Four". Knowing Four's impression of Tris and his motivations for missing and slicing her ear give him added depth as a character and gives their love story more dimension.

While I found both stories to be fulfilling and enjoyed the added perspective to each respective overall story, I think you need to be a real fan of these series to appreciate their companions. I am especially drawn to how authors create human emotions and experiences with their characters, so such varied perspectives that alter the emotional climate of a story are especially enjoyable to me as a reader. I think it would be much too monotonous to read an entire novel in a different perspective, but these authors give just enough to add multiple dimensions to already vibrant worlds they respectively have both created.

Kiera Cass and Veronica Roth are not the first and only to write companion stories to accompany their novels; more popularly Stephenie Meyers penned the novella, "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" as a companion to her Twilight Saga. Similarly, J.K. Rowling wrote multiple companions to the Harry Potter series, most notably The Tale of Beedle the Bard. As an avid reader, I hope to find more companions in the future to shed new light on  a story and to make the wait for the next installment in a series less excruciating.

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