Manipulating death

I am reading a fantasy trilogy at the moment with rather a different structure than normal. I don’t think it all quite works, but one aspect of it I am finding particularly intriguing.

The first book opens with a short section (2 chapters) from the point of view of a character that dies. I was stunned by this, because the section is not a prologue, and as readers we come to expect that the character a book opens with will have some bearing on the whole story; most often that character is the protagonist. Certainly as writers this rule is drummed into us.

The main part of the first book takes part around 20 years later, with one of the main characters deeply affected by the death of character A. He dreams about her a lot, and towards the end of the book, these dreams become more and more vivid . . .

Then we reach book 2, which takes us back to the death of character A, 20 years earlier, and proceeds to explain that, yes, she is dead, but instead of her soul departing, she has been transformed into a semi-immortal being, one of several who were alluded to all throughout book 1.

What I like about this is the subversion of expectation. All the signs now are that character A is going to be a major character in the second book at least. The complete shift in perspective at the beginning of book 2 also opens the reader’s eyes in a big way as to what was going on in book 1. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll get some events retold from this alternate perspective, but it’s possible.

I think this is a really clever and interesting way to structure a multi-volume fantasy epic, that is obviously going to broaden quite substantially in scope.

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