Tremontaine Season 1

Review access provided by Serial box. Written by Patty Bryant, Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ellen Kushner, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese, and Paul Witcover.

When Serial Box contacted me asking if I wanted to review season 3 of their Tremontaine serial, I said I did not unless I could also read the first two seasons. I felt like jumping into season three without knowing who was who and what was what would probably do the story an injustice. They said sure, and here we are! My initial intention was to read the entire thing and review the entire series up to the current episode, but one of the things you should know about Serial Box serials if you don’t already is that there is a lot of word count for your subscription dollar in these things. You are definitely not getting shorted in terms of amount of fiction to read here. So I thought, well, I will talk about this project in pieces rather than all at one go.

This is a prequel to Ellen Kushner’s famous fantasy novel Swordspoint, set in her beloved Riverside and surrounding environs. I am fondest of the novel that she co-wrote with her wife, Delia Sherman, The Fall of the Kings, so the idea of other people co-creating Riverside tales did not bother me a bit. As the season unfolded in episodes, I found that the voice of each writer remained to flavor the text while giving a consistent storyline. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s episodes were my favorite, but there was no one who made me groan when I saw their name on a file.

There is more here than in the original, more perspective characters, more room for class diversity, ethnic diversity, diversity of gender and its expression. There is also less here: less focus, less tightness, less drive. It is a different category of thing. It is not trying to be the same. This is trying to be frothy, the chocolate cup that is so often discussed in its pages. And as so often comes up–it’s not as sweet a cup of chocolate as one might expect. Many, most of the characters may have sex in various configurations, but few of them seem to much like each other. This does not appear to be accidental–this is a serial about scheming. Occasionally there are pangs of conscience, furies of betrayal, confusion at a friend’s major or minor abandonment–but for the most part, plotting and planning come up a lot more than human warmth.

So…I will read the rest of this. I’m even looking forward to it on its own terms. But I also think it’s probably better suited to its originally planned style of reading, the serial, than the way I read it, because taking breaks for other styles of thing seems like it might be a very good idea amidst the individual episodes–not trying to live on hot chocolate but maybe having a sandwich from time to time.

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