Reading Novellas

discussion

Hi there! How are you? I’m trying not to make any typos today because I’m switching between my Mac and my desktop computer and they have different keyboards, which is driving me nuts –  like I keep trying to reach for the trackpad when I’m on my desktop and trying to use ctrl as a command key on the Mac. Also, the apostrophe, y/z, and a whole bunch of other keys are in different positions. *sigh*

So bear with me. This discussion is my attempt to participate in the Discussion Challenge, where lots of great people talk about great bookish stuff. Go check it out.

srcek

Today, I want to talk about reading novellas. Do you read novellas? By this, I mean the companion stories to novels and/or series, not just separate, standalone short stories. I like short stories though I don’t nearly read enough of them. But I haven’t quite made up my mind about companion novellas.

slow-regard-of-silent-things-rothfussThis post is the result of the… disappointment? surprise? uncertainty? I felt about The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. I won’t be reviewing the novella itself here but I reviewed the first part of this series, The Name of the Wind, on my blog a while ago – and it remains one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read (which is saying something). I’m currently working my way through a re-read of The Wise Man’s Fear and I decided to read this novella because my husband got a copy and it was short and I needed something new.

And I have to say that I didn’t enjoy it all that much. I expected more of Rothfuss’s witty, gorgeous writing, more of his amazing storytelling – and I got a contemplative piece with no clear plot, little character development (this confused the hell out of me because it’s a book that focuses very strongly on a single character), and little to no addition to the main plot of the series. I like Auri as a character, she’s very interesting and, I think, much more important that anyone gives her credit for. I’m just not sure I wanted to read 100 pages of her confusing thoughts and rituals.

I kept asking myself whether Rothfuss’s publishers was just so happy they had something to publish in the long wait for the third book, The Doors of Stone, that they just published this to tide the fans over. I am in two minds about this. If they genuinely loved the story, I’m okay with it – I might not like it but others still do and will enjoy it and all. But if it was a marketing ploy, I’m not too happy with it. But there’s no way of knowing for sure.

srcek

I have read other novellas – though I don’t pick them up very often, truth be told. As much as I liked Sarah J. Maas’s work until recently, for example, I never bought her Throne of Glass novellas. I understand the fans who do want to read such stories – like I felt with The Slow Regard of Silent Things, they are probably desperate for more content about their favourite characters.

It just feels to me like this extra content is something that was rightfully axed from the original plotline, which probably means it made the story weaker. If it was an essential part of the plot, or character development, or whatever, it would have been kept in the main storyline! No? I know novellas are a way for the authors to explore their worlds or characters in more depth but are these scribbles really meant to be published? To be shared with eager fans?

I’m not sure about this. I think I would rather read fewer pages from a certain author if I know they’re polished to perfection and the story is tight and the characters solid. Reading novellas feels like loosening that effort, like watering down the greatness that was the original story.

So reading novellas that accompany your favourite series is a double-edged sword. You’re desperate for more page-time with your beloved characters but at the same time, you’re probably reading discarded thoughts that should never have seen the light of day (or the outside of an author’s computer).

srcek

So, how do YOU decide? Do you always pick up companion stories or are you a purist in this regard?

Have you read any really great novellas to your favourite series?

I’d love to hear from you!

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  • Greg Hill

    I don’t usually read novellas, I know I was going to read Four back when I was reading the Divergent stuff, but I never did (I think I even have it around here- somewhere). But I like the idea of novellas- quick reads and if they add something to an existing setting, why not? so I’m open t it. Or even a good standalone novella if it sounds good. But if it is just a marketing ploy- not so much. :)

    I did just read a pretty good novella- Date Night on Union Station- it was free. :) So that helped. lol

    • Standalone novellas are a different creature altogether, I think. I like those, though I often wish there was more of the story or that the character were more fleshed-out.

      This Slow Regard book is presented as a regular 130-page paperback (it even got a hardback release), so I really think it was a marketing thing. I like it when authors write a little something extra for the fans, but this was just ridiculous.

      • Greg Hill

        Ah I see what you mean. I’m surprised they did a hardcover release for a 130 page book?? That does seem to indicate marketing reasons… and sorry to hear this was disappointing. It’s tough too with these big fantasy doorstoppers- GRRM is the same way, he has various other projects coming out but not the book we all want lol. Course I know it must be tremendously difficult to get these kinds of books out, so I try to be patient… :)

        Anyway back to your topic- yeah I guess I haven’t read many (any?) companion novellas per se, but I can see where it would be possible to like and dislike them, for the reasons you state.

        • I’m telling you, they were just happy to publish SOMETHING by Rothfuss, that’s all there is to it. :/ And yeah, I sort of understand authors who write such long, complicated books (a doorstopper is a great expression!) – they are fed up with their stories or whatever and want to pursue other projects but DAMMIT why did they start something so epic in the first place?! Wasn’t Martin’s story supposedly meant to be a trilogy at first? It’s ridiculous how much time readers commit to such series, only to have to wait for FIVE YEARS for the next book to be written. Right now, I’m kind of disillusioned with such series and am only starting ones that are shorter/already finished.

  • I didn’t actually know Patrick Rothfuss had released a novella, but seen as I haven’t got around to reading The Wise Man’s Fear yet, I probably won’t be reading this for a while.
    Plus I totally agree with you – surely the contents of these tie-in novellas would be in the actual book if it was relevant. I think the only tie-in thing I’ve ever read is Sarah J. Maas’ novellas, and I did actually enjoy those, but I think that’s because they were prequels, not just extra bits, or a story revolving round a side character. I tend to become really attached to the main character in series, so if it’s a book about the world of the story without them in, then I always feel like I won’t enjoy them that much.
    Great post! :)

    • Thanks! :)

      Yeah, if you still have The Wise Man’s Fear to get to, I see no point in reading this just now. I mean, it’s supposed to be 2.5 – so you ought to read it after TWMF. I hope The Doors of Stone will get a publishing date soon! So far, there’s no cover, nothing.

      Yeah, I heard that the Maas novellas were prequels, that might be interesting, but I kind of fell out of love with that series. *sigh* I hate it when that happens, especially since I loved HoF so much! Eh.

  • I actually love novella! Novella is usually quick and easy to read, so it’s perfect for when I’m busy with school. But I don’t always read every novella, even though I love the series. For example, Leigh Bardugo write these companion folk tales for Shadow and Bones, and even though I love Shadow and Bones, I’m not interested to read it because it’s not about the main characters. So basically, if the novella is about the characters from said series that I love, there’s a high chance I’ll read it. Anyway, this is such an interesting post! I never thought much about novella before :)

    • Hi, Tiffany, thanks for stopping by! :)

      Yeah, that’s a good point, novellas are a great choice when you want a quick story but don’t have time to invest in a long novel.

      And yep, hearing more about the main characters is always good!

  • Novellas can be VERY hit or miss for me. Some of them deliver amazingly and really are a story that stands on it’s own, well developed and structured like a full size book. Others are more like what you described here^^ And the thing is you don’t know for sure till you pick it up and read it! I adored the Mistborn novella even more than the more recent books. And yes I loved the ToG novella too but others are really lackluster.

    • Exactly! You can never be sure before you pick the novella up and give it a try (unless you really trust someone who has read it before you). My husband read The Slow Regard and didn’t like it but that just made me more curious. :D I’m weird like that.

  • The only novellas I read are the separate ones. Not ones part of a series. But I do enjoy reading the standalone novellas. I rarely love them like a full length novel, but I do find them a fun quick read.

    • Yeah, standalone novellas are different, they can be really great to have a quick, funny read. But I often find myself wishing the characters were more fleshed-out or that it was simply longer (especially if I like it a lot).

  • I don’t mind extra novellas and whatnot as long as they are, in fact, extra. If I love a series, then yeah, I’m happy to get all the extra time with the characters as possible. But I don’t want to be *forced* to pay for a companion novella because it contains something essential to the story. If it’s essential, it should already be in one of the main books.

    I’ve noticed this weird trend lately though of releasing shorts and novellas from the POV/about random side characters. And often the side characters who are kind of antagonists or just who fans really don’t seem to like. I can think of five series off the top of my head that I’m reading or have read that have done this. And after trying two of them, I’ve decided no more wasting my money on that. If I don’t like the character, I honestly don’t care to pay for his or her separate story. So for me it all depends on how much I like the series and what the novella is about.

    • Nah, this isn’t the case here, there’s no extra content in the sense that it’s essential for the main plot. I didn’t expect there to be, it would be weird, and I agree with you: if it’s a vital piece of information, its place is in the main books.

      Huh, that’s a weird practice. I think this is what I was talking about in the post: that sort of character development belongs in an author’s mind, not the hands of the readers. If it’s an attempt to humanize the villain or whatever, it’s even worse: the author has to decide what the characters are like and then be consistent with them!

  • I am not a huge novella reader… but at the same time I really like them. I think they can be just to keep fans happy and feed them more of a world between book releases to keep interest up, but I sometimes think it’s just an author fleshing out the story. They don’t tend to be essential to the story but it helps to flesh out characters and their back story, or link up the story between books. Sometimes they’re just nice.

    I mean, I read the Throne of Glass novellas before I abandoned all hope of keeping up with the series and I liked them. They gave backstory which was vaguely explained in the books and made them more real. They were just nice to read and gave some better understanding to the story.

    I think novellas are great when you’re craving more of a world and when they’re written well. I don’t know, they may be a marketing ploy but sometimes you just can’t get enough and fall for these things.

    • Yeah, I get that perspective. Getting in-depth knowledge about other characters, backstory or setting can be very interesting, but it has to be done right. I still haven’t read Laini Taylor’s Cake of Night and Puppets (I think?) because as much as I love Mik and Zuzana, I’m afraid of having their story spoiled for me.

      I think I’ll be sticking to “main novels” only for a while. I have so many series to finish it’s unreal and reading companion novellas just extends my tbr list.

  • Great post! I rarely read novellas, truth be told. I read my first one this week because I got sent a physical book that included three published novellas to review. And I liked it but I felt like most of it wasn’t necessary. Only the one which showed how their lives were after the ending of the last book intrigued me but the rest felt unnecessary. I’ve never been compelled to pick up novellas even if I’ve loved the books…I’m not sure why!

    • Thanks! :) I haven’t read many companion novellas, either, but I was craving some Rothfuss and now I’m disappointed. I don’t know whether I should give up on such novellas altogether or give other writers a chance…

      But as you said – most of what you get in these novellas isn’t necessary because if it was, it would be in the main plotline of the series!

  • I think the only companion novella I’ve read is Fairest by Marissa Meyer, which is a companion to her Lunar Chronicles. I really enjoyed that one, because it explores the villain of the story in much more detail than the novels do or are able to do within the way they are set up. So, in that case, it really worked out. I’ve read mixed things about Sarah J. Maas’ novellas, though, which I’m planning on reading this summer. I guess I’ll find out what my opiniong on those are.

    The novella you’re describing seems pretty pointless, though… That does sound like a marketing ploy, which is just a shame. But like you say, there’s no way of knowing for real! I think novellas do pose an easy solution to making a quick buck, so there’s a danger there. In other cases they do seem to add something to a story, though. I wonder, however: are those stories really necessary to the main plot if they were not deemed important enough for the actual series? I think companion novellas take up a strange place within a series; they’re supposed to optional, additional reading, but they’re also supposed to add something. How does that work? Interesting discussion!

    • I’ll be looking out for your review of SJM’s novellas, I’ve heard good things about them but never felt compelled to pick them up for some reason.

      I don’t think it was just about money with this novella I read – it was the case of the publishers being happy to have SOMETHING of his to publish, whatever it was – he’s been chewing on the final instalment of the trilogy for YEARS and nothing is finished yet.

      And yeah, that’s definitely a good question – if the information provided in the novella was crucial, it would have been included in the main plotline of the series, not left out like this. *sigh*

  • I rarely, if ever, pick up companion novellas these days. I read a few back in the beginning of the Lunar Chronicles series…and realized one of them had stuff that probably SHOULD have been in the second book. Which was strange.

    I don’t think the companion novella is necessarily a bad idea–when you’re really enjoying a series, or a book, you want more. I think they probably work best for me when they’re epilogues (like a little story Cristin Terrill posted online set after All Our Yesterdays–not necessary to the book, but fun for fans), or when they’re about side characters I want to know more about. And sometimes when they’re extra mini-adventures that are well written and fun. :) Of course, the prices publishers charge are usually deterrents…

    • Huh, yeah, that does sound strange – why would the author leave out information from the main plotline only to include it in the companion novellas? I only read Cinder, I think, and didn’t like it enough to continue with the series. Sadly, I’m a bit of a black sheep with this one. :)

      Ah, Cristin Terrill’s novella is a really good example! I forgot about that one completely, I liked it as well! The fact that it was free to read probably helped, what can I say. :)

      I wish more novellas were like that, just little morsels of additional info. But I don’t think I’ll be picking up many companion novellas in the future – I have so many series to finish as it is!

  • MissBookiverse

    I whole-heartedly agree! Most novellas unfortunately are pretty useless. In general I think they are a a nice addition to a universe, especially for readers who can’t get enough and I do prefer it if they’re optional and you don’t miss out on anything important if you only read the novel/s but some just don’t add anything new at all, they’re like drafts or rightfully cut scenes. Also, I think they should always be for free, that way you can be sure it’s an added bonus and not a way of making more money (unless it’s a printed collection of several novellas, that’s fine).

    • Yeah, I think that if companion novellas were free as a rule, it would make more sense. I would feel less disappointed if I didn’t like them, for one! This particular novella was even published as a 130-page hardback, I thought that was a bit much (for 18eur or something) and decided to wait for a paperback. I’m glad now that I did…

  • I only read them if the reviewers mostly seem to agree that they are 1) good 2) an important addition to the main storyline.

    Most Recent Post: Critical Elements in Designing a Post Index?

    • Yeah, waiting to see a couple of your trusted reviewers’ opinion is a good strategy, I think. I just don’t remember anyone I know reading this one when it was published, so I had nothing to go on! Eh, I’m glad I read it, otherwise I would still be wondering about it. At least I know now.

  • So. I usually read novellas, but I also rarely like them. Why do I read them? Because I am afraid I will miss something if I don’t 😂 Also, it ups my Goodreads count, and that’s always a plus, right? So… I read them for really ridiculous reasons. One that I LOVED was The Lady in Blue, which was a companion to Grunge Gods and Graveyards by Kimberly Giarratano. It was FABULOUS. One of my favorites- and not just for a novella, but in general!

    But I am ALL FOR fewer, more quality words. I don’t think every story needs a bunch of extra crap. The Hunger Games didn’t ;)

    • Ha, I understand your point of view, yeah. I’m afraid I’ll miss something, too – but then I also somehow trust the author/publisher that they wouldn’t put something really, really crucial into novellas – that would be really bad, I think. But if I saw reviews for a novella saying “you should definitely read this before continuing with the series”, I’d go for it, definitely.

      Yeah, see, I bet Collins was under lots of pressure to write more stories set in the Hunger Games world, it would be a gold mine to be sure – but she never did, I respect that! :)

  • I’m so torn on this topic! I really like “in between” novellas that fill in the gaps between books in a series, especially if they’re cute and fluffy or expand upon characters’ relationships in some way. These kinds of novellas are pretty common for UF series (Seanan McGuire, Kelley Armstrong, Jane Yellowrock) and I’ve never once been disappointed by them because I know precisely what I’m going to get.

    I have, unfortunately, been burned a few times by “epilogue” novellas that take place after a series is over. Sometimes the story is done for a reason, you know? If authors want to write a novellas as fan service that’s perfectly fine with me, I just wish they’d make it clear that that’s what they’ve done before so people know what to expect.

    I think a lot of the unhappiness around this Rothfuss novella is because the marketing, the blurb, etc. didn’t give people an accurate picture of what to expect. But I haven’t actually read it, so maybe I’m completely wrong! ;)

    • I rarely buy these “in between” novellas for this exact reason – they’re cute and fluffy and nothing much happens. :D I don’t know, I have trouble keeping up with series as it is, no use adding more books to my tbr list if they’re not absolutely essential. There are some authors where I’d read ANYTHING they produced, though (Rothfuss being one of them, sadly), so I guess it really depends on the author/series.

      And YES, stories end a certain way for a reason. I don’t know why authors can’t let them go – or maybe it’s the publishers milking the popularity of the series, who knows… In any case, these are often pretty bad.

      Yep, that’s it exactly. I mean, if I picked up the book at the bookstore and actually read the foreword, in which Rothfuss explicitly states what it is and what it isn’t, I might not have bought it at all. But, being the trustful creatures that we are, A. and I just went and bought it as it was. Oh, well. Lesson learned, right? :)

  • I rarely read novellas. When I DO read them, I find that often I feel pretty much like you do – they don’t add all that much to the story. I suppose they have to be that way because not everyone reads them, but it feels a bit like wasted time. I DO remember enjoying the novella for the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman. And then, some series have novellas that are almost as important as the regular books – I always try to tell people about those when I come across them!!

    • Yeah, I hate reading a novella and feeling like I wasted my time and money with it, too. I mean, I have trouble finishing (or following) series as it is, I start so many new ones each year, so it’s silly to add more titles to my tbr if they aren’t absolutely necessary for the story.

      I wish there was some kind of label on the cover/in the blurb of the important ones: “You have to read this or you’ll miss out on important facts” if it’s crucial and “This one is for true fans who enjoy reading extra stuff” on the unimportant ones. :)

  • I could never switch to a Mac because of the positions of the Ctrl key and Apple command key! It messes me up every time I need to use a Mac.

    I find novellas to be rather hit or miss. I generally read novellas for series that I enjoy, because I’m curious what the author will do with them and the additional information about the characters and I can’t resist information I don’t have. But I read them knowing that I’ve been disappointed about 80% of the time. I think short stories are a different sort of skill because you have to pull the reader in and make the character interesting with so fewer words.

    Most of the time when I do like a novella it’s a scene in the book but from a different character’s point of view. Like the first Four story from Divergent or the Tailor story that Leigh Bardugo wrote for the Grisha trilogy. Also, the Warner story from Tahreh Mafi’s Shatter Me trilogy.

    • Haha, you get used to it pretty quickly, actually, it’s just the switching back and forth that’s horrible. I keep making mistakes on both keyboards. The number of times I type y instead of z (and vice versa)…

      Yeah, standalone short stories are a completely different beast. But like you said, companion novellas often lead to disappointment for me, too. I’m usually pretty good at resisting them but when I don’t I always end up regretting it. *sigh*

      And yeah, getting a different POV is interesting, I think I’d like a novella like that.