July 10, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

Spoilers follow...

This may be written for only a couple of hundred people, but for those of you who hung in there for all 36 days (actually 35, since I posted the final two chapters at the same time), here are some of my thoughts on the book I wrote 15 years ago.

What works? The magic system, without question. In fact, it is unique enough that I am cannibalizing it for my next fantasy series. One is allowed to copy off oneself. The politics, especially in the early chapters. Sor's first marriage - he is allowed to wed his true love, even if the marriage is doomed (and I always appreciated Joi as a character, even if she was underused). Chapter 24 (the double murder). I think it's haunting and brutally shocking. Sor's "final solution" and his confrontation with Wil - that they don't engage in the expected pyrotechnic battle. Some will feel cheated by this, no doubt, but I think it works. And I like the bitterseet nature of the finale - Sor (my favorite character) steeped in melancholy while Wil gets the girl and the happy ending.

What doesn't work? Some of the romantic scenes are too cute. Keeping Sor out of sight for six chapters when I introduce Wil. Some of the dialogue is cheesy. At times, Wil's motivations seem strained. Section 5 (Loss of Focus) is a mess. The idea was to develop a murder mystery within the main story, but, in retrospect, it didn't work. I don't dislike everything that goes on during those six chapters, but the red herrings are annoying.

What changed? There were two significant alterations from how things were initially sketched out. Originally, only Sye was supposed to die at the end of Chapter 24. Joi would regain her health and stand by her man during his investigation into his mother's death. Sor would never have married Lis. Joi would have died after being shot by an arrow during Vas' execution, and this would have triggered Sor's genocidal attack on the nobles. After I decided to kill Joi at the end of Chapter 24 to allow the Sor/Lis marriage and to "spice up" the murder mystery, I had to give Joi's "part" to Gea. At no time, however, did I consider having Joi live to the last page.

Initially, Sor was going to lose his sanity during the last chapter. After his confrontation with Wil, he would have returned to the palace and fallen into a catatonic state. His "half" of Chapter 36 would have represented his deranged point-of-view - an imaginary world he had created living side-by-side with his beloved queen. Ultimately, though, it didn't work. (I actually wrote it this way and was so dissatisfied that I deleted the entire section.) Plus, it compromised a key element of the second book, which I was beginning to plan out as I wrote the concluding chapters of the first one.

If I decided to re-work it? Sections 1 through 4 wouldn't change much, although Joi's role would be expanded. I would have liked her death to have had more impact. I felt it, because I'm the writer, but I'm not sure the readers know her well enough. And Gea would have an expanded role earlier, as Joi's confidant. Section 5 would be changed around significantly. It would be about Sor's investigation into the murder and his recognition of Vas' betrayal, but I wouldn't try to hide the truth from the reader. I would also eliminate Wil's attack at Bur's mansion, because it's extraneous. In fact, I would probably combine Sections 5 and 6 into one, because they're a little long winded.

If you liked Sor, the ending is downbeat, and that's part of why I wrote a sequel. I thought he deserved another look, albeit later in life. Whether or not I post that book will depend on whether I get enough e-mails requesting it. At this point, I don't have a good sense whether there's a desire to see more. So feel free to e-mail me with your opinions - good, bad, or indifferent. A line or two is just as good as several paragraphs. (Thanks to those of you - seven thus far - who have already done so.) And be sure to let me know whether you want to see The Price of Magic in August.