When I found out the premise and model of storytelling that Serial Box is doing, I knew I wanted it; when I found out who was participating and the quality of the work, I knew I needed it.
Serial Box’s stories come out in weekly “episodes” of about 30-40 pages. A variety of authors will work on the story, blending styles to create a cohesive whole. This was a ridiculously appealing model to me. I like the size of the installations, the idea behind it, the variety of authors, and the pacing.
It reminded me straight away of, yes, television, but, more intriguing, traditional radio dramas, the kind they’d play in the 30s and 40s. Suspense, action, killer dialogue, all with an extra ability to focus on character building and setting. The best of both worlds.
I was similarly impressed with the cast of writers they have on the story. Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Stanwick bring together an all star writing team. Between the lot of them, there are more awards than I have fingers and it shows in the story.
As you may have guessed, the story is a Cold War espionage story with a fantastical bent. The main characters, Tanya and Gabe, work for the KGB and CIA, respectively and are tossed together when Gabe stumbles into the world of magic and a secret war bigger than Gabe could have possibly imagined.
I’m going to gush about the story itself, the writing, and the characters all in a minute, but I want to start with my difficulties in reading the story. To be clear, all of these really have more to do with the story format and my expectations than with the story itself.
My two primary problems with the story were largely, I think, a result of the episodic aspect of the story.
First, the first episode left me a bit reeling. It starts with a quick jump into action scenes and conflict. While this was intriguing, I also felt like I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. There’s a lot of action without much build-up, so the magic and the characters were still very strange to me by the end of the first episode. The story was still interesting and engaging, just a bit of a whirlwind. The pacing slowed enough for me to catch up and, by the end of the next episode, I had a good, comfortable grip on what was going on. In a way, the set up of the story and the time it takes to build before the hook is more akin to a television or comics series than I had expected.
Second, there are times where, as a person reading the episodes all one after the other (Netflix binge style), I would be surprised when a new episode skipped ahead or a character suddenly knew something. This wouldn’t have been something I even thought twice about in a different medium. Again, this wasn’t a bad thing in the story, just something I had to adjust to.
Ok, commencing with the love.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Though it’s not the kind of story I would have thought I’d pick up, it has action, intrigue, and atmosphere that kills. I had been scared that the author shifts would be jarring or uncomplimentary. I was very glad to be proven wrong. The switch between authors was smooth. Though each episode has a slightly different tone or descriptive quirks, I found that I enjoyed the differences and that they worked together well. (Pssst: Clarke’s episode is my favorite so far)
Tanya and Gabe are interesting characters and the story is building. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do now that their stories are starting to cross one another more. I was really excited for one of the big reveals in this week’s episode (Finally finding out about Gabe’s past!). I don’t think the story will resolve in the next two episodes, but that makes the desire for a new season that much greater. That I look forward to the next episodes and another season is pretty exciting. Check it out so we can be excited together.
Want to read The Witch Who Came in from the Cold? I’m giving away 5 iBook bundles of the first three episodes! Click here to enter! The giveaway will run today through March 4th (next Friday).