Back when I re-read The Stars Asunder and read A Working of Stars, I decided to re-read the rest of Doyle and Macdonald’s Mageworlds books in internal chronological order. Partly, I was curious to see how Arekhon’s character changed over time, and partly I wanted to see if I could spot any descendants from or influences of characters in A Working of Stars. Mostly, though, I just like the chronologically-later ones better.
Yesterday I re-read The Gathering Flame, which is the prequel to The Price of the Stars et al. (reviewed elsewhere on this site). Though this is set during the First Magewar, it would be inaccurate to say that it was the story of the war; rather, it’s the story of Jos Metadi, Perada Rosselin, and Errec Ransome, who are in some senses the key figures of their generation on their side of the interstellar gap. (Arekhon, in his later persona, isn’t that prominent in this volume.) You could probably read this standing alone, but I think it would be a somewhat weird experience; it shows the beginning of the war, and some key events along the way, but ends well before the war does—I think. (That’s one of the things I have to look for in my further re-reading.) The arcs of the characters’ stories are at a good resting place, and the seeds of the victory have been sown—but if you didn’t already care about these people from reading the first three (published) Mageworlds books, I honestly don’t know how it would read. Again, I recommend publication order.
It’s also more fun reading these in publication order, because The Gathering Flame provides background for the first three, explains a number of mysteries (including one that should have been a mystery to me, had I thought of it, but was blindingly obvious once it showed up in this book), and adds a number of dramatic layers to later events. The Gathering Flame is also a less cheery book than the first three, as might be expected given the description of the plot. I’m quite looking forward to starting in on The Price of the Stars next, for these reasons and because, when all’s said and done, I still like the characters in that sub-series the best.