Chronological Order Vs. Publication Order


When I wrote A School for Sorcery, I did not envision it as being part of a series. By the time I finally got an agent for it and got it accepted for publication several years had passed since its completion, and I had worked on other projects, including beginning and then setting aside a novel that didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

In the meantime, A School for Sorcery sold to Tor and did well, and though I felt that the story of its protagonist, Tria, was complete, there were other characters I wanted to do more with. At that time, it also occurred to me that the novel I had never finished could be turned into a prequel for A School for Sorcery, and that the novel I had in mind as a sequel to School could also complete the story in the prequel. So I finished the prequel, which became A Perilous Power, and which takes place around fifty years before A School for Sorcery. framedhcI then wrote When the Beast Ravens to complete the stories of both School and Power. Tor published A Perilous Power a year after School, and the following year published When the Beast Ravens. So the novels were neither written nor published in chronological order. A Perilous Power, Though only two characters in Power reappear in School, the prequel does explain why the school was established and tells the story of Lesley Simonton, the person for whom the school is named. School ends with the closing of one school year and When the Beast Ravens takes place the following school year and follows many of the characters from School. Beast RavensIt also bears a closer relationship to Power than School does. So the order of publication made perfect sense, as A Perilous Power both explained some things that I purposely left unclear in School and also set up some matters that would come to a conclusion in Beast.

But after those novels were completed, I still didn’t want to let two of the characters go, so I wrote a fourth book, titled Bryte’s Ascent. My Tor editor loved it. Unfortunately, the sales of A Perilous Power and of When the Beast Ravens had not met expectations, and Tor did not purchase the manuscript. Of course I was deeply disappointed by that, but I was by that time determined to turn the trilogy of books into a series.

I wrote a fantasy novel that I again did not originally envision as part of a series, but once again the ending of the novel did not complete the story. That novel was Mistress of the Wind, and as I worked on it, I realized that it could be a distant prequel to A School for Sorcery and the other two books. It easily became an Arucadi novel, explaining the source of magic in the land of Arucadi. It takes place at least 50 years prior to A Perilous Power. It called for a sequel, and was followed by Bringers of Magic, a story which takes place shortly after Mistress.   Those books were published by a small press and did reasonably well, but when I wrote a sequel to Bringers, for several reasons I decided to self-publish. The sequel is titled A Mix of Magics. So there were three Arucadi books published after the first three but recounting events that took place long before those three. I have written a book that will follow A Mix of Magics and establish a tenuous connection with A Perilous Power. Titled Deniably Dead, it is finished in first draft but will require considerable work before being ready for publication.

MistressWind-510MagicBringer-510revfront cover final

I had labeled those three books a series called Arucadi: The Beginning and planned to BrytesAscent_finalinclude the fourth book in that series. Then I planned a third set of books to be a series called Travels in Arucadi. Bryte’s Ascent would be the first of those. I am nearly finished a novel that will follow Bryte’s Ascent, titled Mother Lode.

I now have my rights back to the three books published by Tor and the two books published by the small press. I am planning to reissue all the published books and issue the ones I am currently finishing one at a time beginning in January of next year. Now, here’s my quandary: Do I publish them in chronological order or in the order of their original publication?

There are good arguments for both. When I read series books, I like to start with the book that chronologically begins the series. But of course not all series are written in chronological order. Many are not. Some series books can be picked up at any point. In other series the books were and are being published in chronological order and are better read in that order, but the author takes pains to fill in past details for readers who discover and start reading a later volume.

The books of my Arucadi series certainly have not been either written or originally published in chronological order. And as each book comes to a satisfactory conclusion—no cliffhanger endings—they can be read in any order. But would reading them in chronological order give a better experience of the entire world in which they are set and reveal more about the characters’ backgrounds? I believe that would be the case, but on the other hand, certain elements of mystery would be stripped from the later books because reading the earlier books would reveal what otherwise would arouse the reader’s curiosity and create greater intrigue. That would apply especially to two books of the series: A Perilous Power would be better read after A School for Sorcery and before When the Beast Ravens. I suppose I could reissue them in that order, but should I?

That’s a decision I can hold off from making for a while, but it is one I must make eventually. I’d love to hear from readers who have read the books in question, either in publication order or in chronological order, telling me what they would prefer.

And although I am using the original covers to illustrate this blog, the reissued books (including those I self-published) will all have lovely new covers done by an artist whose work I like very much and who works with me closely to assure that the cover art accurately portrays the spirit of the book and fits the time period in which the book takes place, as clothing styles change and technology advances as the series moves forward in time. In a later blog I will reveal the new cover of Mistress of the Wind, which will be the first reissued book.

About E. Rose Sabin

Fantasy and science fiction author.
This entry was posted in Books, fantasy novels, Publication, Series and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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