Archive for April 1st, 2015

G.W. Dahlquist – The Dark Volume

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

What can I say about a sequel that should not have needed to be written? The Dark Volume (2008) by G.W. Dahlquist picks up the story shortly the great finale of The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters. Although that novel leaves some strands of the plot open it does round off the majority of the plot. I was actually surprised how many of the mysteries were resolved by Dahlquist. As I knew there were two more novels I expected very little to be resolved. So when I was done with that novel I had no immediate desire to continue further as I had plenty to absorb and think about after the first novel. My main question after reading such an astounding and marvellous first novel was if he could pull off something of the same quality in the sequel. With so many characters dead and so few of the conspiracies of the main antagonists intact I was not sure what Dahlquist could pull out of his hat.

As as good reviewer I will immediately give the answer. The loss of antagonists and the unravelling of many of the conspiracies left a rather limited amount of material to work on. The intense density of the first novel was impossible to attain. Instead Dahlquist picks up the few strands that remain and adds in a few new ones to blow life into the plot. He does pull out a few rabbits from his hat. Some are a logical continuation that could be expected while others are rather odd.

Dahlquist uses the same approach as the first novel: long chapters told from the point of view of one of the three main protagonists and each point of view provides the reader with more insight with what has occurred as the storylines evolve partially simultaneously as before. This works well for the first part of the story in which some new mysteries are introduced which immediately throw the reader into an exciting development of events. Unfortunately the events are of a relatively minor importance compared to what the reader has been used to. When the events do become important later on the tension is much lower as the events are farther apart from each other and have less influence.

The plot itself is far less complex and more straightforward as the different storylines quickly converge again. The great trouble I had with the plot that far less is explained. This is in great contrast to what the bookcover claimed that it would include ‘great revelations’. I saw very few revelations and much remained unclear. Of course one can leave it to the reader to guess or to do the puzzle himself but compared to the first novel which had a great number of revelations there is hardly any here. The lack of revelations caused also certain events and developments feel odd and not in place. I missed some kind of explanation for the how and why. The motives of the characters sometimes felt unnatural. All in all I was a bit dissatisfied with the plot. The finale was rather abrupt and not very powerful. It felt rushed and left no time to feel any emotional impact.

Is The Dark Volume then such a poor novel? The problem is that I am comparing it to a predecessor that is of very high quality. The Dark Volume still has the same great atmosphere and engaging prose of the first novel. It is an exciting read that entertains and holds many of the charms of the first novel. It does however lack the substance, complexity and twists I had gotten accustomed to. There are still twists but they are of a lesser nature. The drive to defeat the enemy and the dangers set upon the protagonists are much weaker. This is, as mentioned before, mostly because so much has already been done in the first novel. What remains are the lesser strands that now are getting resolved.

What matters with this sequel is the same thing one sees in many Hollywood movies. Because it is just a great success producers decide to make a sequel because people will try it because they liked the first. I am not saying that this novel was written because of the popularity of the first novel. I mean that because the reader will have enjoyed the first novel so much that he cannot resist reading more although he is pretty certain it won’t be as good as the first. Just because of the familiar setting and characters the reader will still find much joy in the book and that is also the case with me, I have to admit. And to be honest, Dahlquist made sure that this sequel ends in something that is much more of a cliffhanger, leaving certain things too open that it will lure the reader into reading the third book. And in that he found success again, because I could not resist finding out how the story would conclude.