24 December 2012

Three Thieves and the Danger of Trilogic Assumptions

This weekend I read The Captive Prince, volume 3 of Scott Chantler’s Three Thieves series.

Back when I was enjoying the first volume, Tower of Treasure, I got the impression that this was a trilogy. And I wasn’t alone. At YA Books Central, editor Francesca Amendolia called that book “The first of a trilogy.” Stephen at Page 45 guessed the same. Robot 6 referred to the “Tower of Treasure trilogy” earlier this year (mixing up the series and volume titles).

Maybe the “Three” in the series title spilled over into our expectations for three volumes. Maybe the first volume announced a couple of titles ahead. Maybe a trilogy is a default setting for multi-volume fantasies. I note that even Chris Schweizer, who as creator of the Crogan Adventures series is certainly not wedded to three volumes, assumed back in 2009 that Chantler’s upcoming project would be “an adventure trilogy.”

That wouldn’t matter except for the expectations that assumption set up as I read The Captive Prince. The overarching plot of the series involves teen-aged acrobat Dessa’s search for her brother, kidnapped years before. In or just before the last volume, we can assume, she’ll discover her brother’s fate; odds are 99-1 that she’ll rescue him in some way.

This volume showed Dessa meeting a slightly smaller boy—the captive prince, oddly named Paladin. Naturally I expected that he’d turn out to be Dessa’s brother, adopted by childless royals. Or perhaps Dessa and her brother were royal all along. We’ve all seen that happen, right?

But instead The Captive Prince kept setting up Dessa and Paladin as a young romantic couple. And as the story moved closer and closer to the volume’s final pages, I started feeling like Han Solo in this viral video.

But it turned out that this wasn’t the series’s last volume. As Chantler assured me on Twitter, and as he assured Schweizer years back, he planned Three Thieves to fill seven volumes. So Dessa has plenty of time to find her brother and return to this prince. But first I need to reread The Captive Prince with an open mind. It’ll be much less creepy that way.

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