G.W. Dahlquist – The Chemickal Marriage

The Chemickal Marriage (2012) by G.W. Dahlquist is the second sequel to The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters. I call it such because the trilogy does not have a real name and I don’t want to invent a name of my own, although the Glass Books Trilogy would be fairly appropriate. On the other hand the series is not a trilogy in the traditional sense. With this I mean a trilogy of three connected standalone books that form a kind of unity or one that tells one great story in three parts. Neither applies to this “trilogy”. The first book is not exactly a standalone story as it leaves plenty open ends although the majority of the mysteries are resolved and most of the antagonists seem to be out of the game. One could live with the story ending there. As I mentioned in my review of the second book, The Dark Volume, it could only play out the remaining open strands of the plot and in a way it does do so. In fact the greater story arc could just as well have ended with that novel. Dahlquist chose however to create a more dramatic ending with much of the future unclear. Who did really survive or die? And so one could say that The Chemickal Marriage is a second sequel.

The great problem with The Chemickal Marriage is that although some mysteries remained unclear in The Dark Volume, it did resolve pretty much all the open strands in the greater story arc. The Chemickal Marriage thus creates a new threat as a result of the finale of the second novel. The story could stand almost on its own if the reader would not have needed to know and understand so much of all that happened before. Unfortunately to me it seemed as if Dahlquist tried to revive some of the elements of the first novel including the complex plot. I say unfortunately because the complexity is actually contrived. From early on events, informations and clues are placed deliberately into the hands of the protagonists. At first they seem somewhat strange but oddities are a typical element of the style of the story. It is however clear that they are pieces of a puzzle and it takes to the finale of the story to make them fall into place at the right moment to resolve all that was apparently wrong. It is this that annoyed me to some extent. In the previous novels Dahlquist managed to fit in the bits of information in a natural way so that they came available at the right moments during the development of the story. That is how it should be. I quite dislike a plot that is set up in such a way that everything peculiar that happens is obviously designed to have a purpose towards the conclusion as they fall out of place within the natural flow of the story. Although some characters die during the story others are kept alive for unclear reasons except for the necessity of the plot that needs them later. It is because of this that The Chemickal Marriage’s plot is the weakest of the three.

After this long complaint I have to get back to what is good about The Chemickal Marriage, because there is much to enjoy. Like the previous novels it is a well-crafted steampunk novel set in a supposed alternative England in which things are different while it is unclear how it came to be. We are only given the now and there is barely any background covered throughout the series. The lack of “infodump” can be considered as refreshing as most of the settings can only be derived from the places visited and mentioned. The novels are despite the complex plots very character driven. Dahlquist keeps a powerful focus on his three main protagonists. They are not perfect and they all have their own goals and means to achieve it. Although they supposedly work together this rarely actually happens. Nevertheless they all have a strong heart that connects with the reader.

Dahlquist repeatedly shows his great skils by creating captivating and engaging scenes in which there are no simple choices and all characters involved make good or bad choices intentionally or by chance. The plot of the novel may be rather contrived it does not take away the vivid and powerful moments that give the story color and momentum.

The Chemickal Marriage does bring the series to real final conclusion that will satisfy the reader. As mentioned before it is not really required for me. A story can end well while many things remain unresolved. Like real life nothing really ends. It is not a bad thing to stop after The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters. Doing so while knowing there are two sequels is however a hard effort. I do not regret reading them as I enjoy a good read and despite my complaints they are still above average novels of great quality that provide a different reading experience that is reminiscent of the nineteenth century mystery novels written in a modern way.

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