Monthly Archives: January 2013

Co-authoring: The good, the bad, and the ugly

One of the questions we have been asked frequently about our book is one we weren’t expecting: how did we write a book together? Who wrote what?

So we thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about the process of co-authoring for anyone who is considering writing with someone else, to discuss what we found works and doesn’t for us, especially given (warning: shameless self promotion) we’ve co-authored a book chapter on the importance of mothers in Harry Potter that has just been published.

And as always we welcome your thoughts!

* How did co-authoring happen?

RW: I can’t remember if we did the Harry Potter chapter or the book first, but it would have started with something like: hey, what do you think about working together on ABC? Kimberley might have a better memory than me.

KMC: I think we’d already started work on the Harry Potter chapter. And my memory of the initial “let’s write a book conversation” involved jetlagged versions of ourselves in a hotel room, with me pacing and writing lists and Roslyn looking at me as though she was trying to figure how to get past me to the door if emergency assistance was required. 😉

RW: No wonder I can’t remember, I’ve blocked it out of my mind. 🙂 When I was doing my PhD I couldn’t imagine co-authoring anything, since English is pretty much dominated by single-author research. It’s your research, your thinking, your publication. After being employed as a research assistant in health research, I became more familiar with teams of authors who research and write up their findings together, but I was certainly sceptical at first, especially when it comes to large teams. Despite some cases where people don’t actually meet authorship criteria in multi-authored papers, now I am much more positive about co-writing and my current publications are probably about a half and half mix of sole/co-authored work. However, my sole work is still mostly English and co-authored is mostly health, so I think the divisions remain to some extent.

* What are some of the advantages to co-authoring?

RW: Being able to blame the co-author for bad reviews (“yeah but she wrote the bad bits”). Just kidding! There are several good things about it. One is intellectual – you benefit from a different perspective/ background/ mind to help give some more depth to the analysis or to take it in unexpected directions. My co-authors in my publications add a lot to my research, they make me think better and work harder and give new directions to our research, and this is a fantastic benefit for which I’m very grateful.

Another advantage is practical – sharing the workload, another eye to pick up errors, someone else who can carry some weight when things don’t go according to plan, you can cover more ground with two or more people researching something.

A third is psychological – being able to commiserate when the world fails to grasp our particular brand of genius, and to celebrate when a miracle happens and somebody actually likes the work.

KMC: The practicalities, definitely. It helps if the co-author has strengths you don’t; and it makes you more accountable. A deadline you’ve set for yourself and a deadline where a friend and colleague is expecting to have something on which to work are two quite different things. I loved the idea of co-authoring because I found the world of book contracts etc daunting and Roslyn had been through it with her first book. Plus, I am someone who gets stuck at various points in the writing process, and sometimes I just want a second opinion on what I’ve done and where I’m headed. I’m needy like that. 🙂

* What are some of the disadvantages to co-authoring?

RW: Three things come to mind: again with a practical and an intellectual side. First, the practical stuff: tone and coherency. Getting tone consistent across the whole piece is really hard sometimes when you have co-authors. People write differently, sometimes really obviously so. Kimberley and I are fairly similar in our writing anyway, but even so I can tell which bits she writes because it doesn’t “sound like” me, and no doubt the same is true for her (my usual litmus test is that if it sounds smart, I didn’t write it).

KMC: Funny, that’s my litmus test, too!

RW: For my journal articles in health-related work, when I am lead author I really try to go through all the sections and rephrase some things to add a bit of gloss to make it all sound like a united team wrote it rather than individual styles coming through, but in some cases it doesn’t happen and it can sound disjointed.

Second, for coherency, when you split up sections between people (eg, this person does the Intro, that person writes the Methods, or Kimberley analyses that book, and I write about that TV show) you really have to work hard to try to make sure that there is an overarching argument coming across, that ties the whole work together and builds across the chapters. So you need to watch out for repetition, gaps, introducing the same theories or texts multiple times, and so on. Again, doesn’t always happen.

The third element is about the intellectual side. Researchers usually don’t agree about everything (sometimes about anything), so when you write with co-authors you might find them writing things you disagree with – it might be their interpretation of the data/ texts or their philosophy. They might be focused on something you don’t think warrants that focus. I think you have to learn to walk a line – ultimately your name is on it and you have to “own” that piece of writing and take responsibility for it. But you also have to compromise and accept that your co-authors have an equal right to their interpretations and you probably don’t agree with everything so you have to wear it. My only exception to this is when you’re the lead author, I think there’s an extra level of responsibility and if you really disagree with a co-author’s interpretation you need to discuss that to find some common ground.

KMC: I’ve also taken the view that the lead author has the final vote if there’s disagreement, to my own detriment in a very early attempt at co-authoring which saw me avoid it for many years. In contrast, working with Roslyn was easy, as we do share ways of thinking, research interests and style, to some degree.

I think probably our biggest “problem” was around quoting True Blood, because Roslyn was keen to keep the book PG. I am a bit of a sweary bear, however, and it’s a sweary show, so it was quite tricky to find quotations which were useful but then still have them make sense if you removed the worst of the profanity. I was worried it might end up looking like a redacted WWII telegram but the more practical half of the team reminded me that using asterisks in lieu of letters was an option. It’s still one of the more interesting issues we come up against, because sometimes I’ll attempt to clean something up but I’ll miss 27 other instances of the profanity in a chapter, because it just doesn’t register with me.

So our contentious issues were fairly minor and usually sorted out quickly. In the end, the ‘lead author decisions’ have been things like: we had a discussion about whether or not, at final proof stage, we cared enough about the fact that we’d used the word “witches” in a gendered way when talking about Harry Potter, but in a gender-neutral way when talking about True Blood and Roslyn said she didn’t mind either way (So I figured we’d stick with how it was; which followed the texts, more or less. We might change it if there’s both an audience outcry and a reprint. So if you want that change to happen, comment below. And buy the book. 🙂 )

* How did we actually do the writing?

RW: We didn’t sit down together and write it side by side. At all. This is what I think sometimes people assume happens with co-authors, that we set up a computer and sit down and type our shared thoughts. I have actually co-authored with some other people where we literally sit together and work on sections, but that is very rare.

No, for me, co-authoring is a case of splitting up chapters (for the book) or sections (for journal articles/ book chapters). For example, mostly the lead author of journal articles will assign the sections (if the co-authors agree of course) so that each person is responsible for writing the draft of the Methods, or the Introduction, or the Discussion, etc, and then the lead author incorporates those sections into a master document. Often the lead author writes points for each section on what they think could be covered, to help the co-authors and maintain that coherency.

For the book, Kimberley and I split up the chapters down the line and each wrote three chapters and emailed the drafts to each other. We wrote about half the introduction and conclusion each, which involved one person starting it and the other person continuing it (swapping it back and forth until it’s done, not a neat division of writing one half each). At some point I had the bright idea of a seventh chapter so I wrote a fair chunk of that and Kimberley added to it.

We then read each other’s chapters and commented, changed things, and sometimes added a paragraph or a section. We shared responsibility for editing, proofreading and indexing. As lead author, Kimberley took most of the responsibility for that side of things and did more of that kind of work.

KMC: I think this is the fascinating bit. As Roslyn says, we didn’t sit down and write together, but swapped back and forth. There were times, however, when I was feeling a bit isolated by the writing process and invited myself over to hers so that we could work on the book–which meant each of us sitting on a computer in the same room, largely doing out own thing, but which allowed for more immediate conversations about any tricky points and gave me a bit of a jolt.

I’m about to start a co-authored book with a colleague from work and her previous co-authored publication utilised the “sit down together and type it up together” strategy, so it’s going to be interesting to try to amalgamate the two styles. I actually think it has potential – allocated tasks but meet up one morning a fortnight or whatever to join forces — like a staff meeting! We’ll see how that goes.

RW: We should probably point out that this blog is an example of co-authoring in our usual style. One started (in this case me), the other continued, then a couple more interventions from both parties before publishing.

* How does author order get decided?

RW: This can be political in some cases where seniority or other power issues are at work. One idea is that the lead author has more reward because their name is first and they are seen as having the most stake in the project, so they also take more responsibility and more of the load. In some disciplines the most senior person might get the last author position because that position carries some kind of prestige, but that’s not the case in humanities.

There are fairly universal rules governing who can be named as author  and these are pretty much based on: everybody named as an author needs to have made a substantial contribution to interpreting the data, writing the article, and approving the article. In some cases this doesn’t happen in reality but it should always be the case, and you should never be named as an author unless you meet those criteria. We probably all know of cases where co-authors have done zero to contribute, but one hopes they are few. And that’s the bad and the ugly bits of co-authoring. Possibly it can end friendships or working relationships when people fail to contribute to co-authoring or something else happens, but that hasn’t happened for me.

Having said that, it’s tricky to decide the order, is it based on descending order of contribution, ie, author 1 did 40%, author 2 did 30%, author 4 did 25%, and author 5 did nothing much at all? Is it alphabetical? It’s a discussion that should be had, early. It should be transparent to all involved, and everyone (mostly) happy with it.

For our case, I think we would have each been happy for the other person to be lead, and I probably insisted it be Kimberley and that has worked out fine. (For me, anyway … Kimberley?)

KMC: I have mostly co-authored with people who are on a similar level of seniority, which helps with the politics: almost without exception, the division of labour, credit and royalties (where applicable) has been equal. For us, the lead author question has come back to “whose idea was it” – which is why our names are in a different order if you compare our chapter to the book – and does that person have the time and energy to take the lead? (the lead author is usually the corresponding author, so there are more emails to draft etc). This strategy sounds easier than it is, however, since we have a number of, “Hey, we should do [insert wild project idea here]” conversations and sometimes it’s hard to know at what point they became serious. In the book project and our upcoming project, yes, I would have been happy with either order of names and I think draft proposals with reverse orders were emailed about at various points. And so far, it’s working fine, yes.

*Would we do it again?

RW: What a coincidence … Yet more shameless self promotion but it just so happens we are currently working on another project we think is pretty exciting … details to follow (we hope).

And on that note, please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences for this business of co-writing – have you had good experiences writing with other people? Some challenges? Advice to share?


Breaking Dawn Part 2: Movie review

The usual disclaimers apply, beware of spoilers in this review, though most people keen to see the final instalment of The Twilight Saga were lined up at the midnight screenings back in November when the film was released, unlike me, who waited a leisurely few weeks to see it and an even more leisurely couple of months to post a review.

Nonetheless: **Spoiler alert!**

I should preface this by explaining that I come to this series with mixed feelings, having enjoyed the first film and novel, but not so much the sequels. So I’m by no means a devoted fan, but neither am I a(n entirely) scornful critic.

The film is based on the last part of Book Four, with the powers that be having decided to split the final book into two movies for reasons of commercial gain artistic expression. Bella has married vampire Edward Cullen, their half-human half-vampire child Renesmee has just been born, and Bella has survived being turned into a vampire. The plot builds towards a confrontation between the good vampires (the Cullens and friends) and the bad vampires (the reigning Volturi and friends), and our vampire lovebirds are now in danger (again).

We discussed the Twilight novels (and briefly, the films) in our book, and specifically we looked at how the novels use some of the werewolf characters in regard to adolescence, gender, class and race (just a few minor things, then). I’ll talk about those aspects briefly and then move onto less serious things.

However, the werewolves were downgraded to bit players for this film; none of the formerly major wolves appeared in human form except Jacob and, briefly, Sam. There was an odd Christmas scene where the characters formerly known as Seth and Leah were positioned carefully so we never saw anything but the back of their heads. Perhaps the budget was a bit tight so they brought in some hair doubles? Very odd.

So it’s difficult to really add anything here about shapeshifting in the series because the wolves do not feature as much. Adolescence isn’t really approached here, since Jacob and his Quileute friends are fairly stable by now in their lupine identities and able to control their aggression.

Gender is interesting only insofar as the book and film both describe Bella’s increased physical strength, which for a time is greater than anyone else’s strength. Bella’s mental power is also an important factor in the book because of her ability to control her lust for human blood and her discovery that she has a supernatural ability to “shield” herself and others from supernatural harm, but this film struggles to bring in all the plot threads so this isn’t as big a theme as it might have been. So while it might be worthwhile exploring how the series constructs Bella at long last as “equal” to those around her (and most importantly, in her eyes, almost equal to Edward), by virtue of her change into a vampire, the film doesn’t really add anything different to what we already talked about.

Class again doesn’t come up sufficiently for discussion because we’re almost entirely in the lap of Cullen luxury in this film, with a notable exception of Bella’s father Charlie and his Quileute girlfriend, and I say notable because it is a striking visual contrast between the Cullen conspicuous displays of wealth and Charlie’s working class background with respect to their appearance/clothes/houses, which is the same with the class divisions between vampire/werewolf (or, white/ Indigenous) in the series.

Finally, race. In our book we talked about how the Quileute wolves learn in the climactic scene of Book 4 that they are not “real” werewolves but shapeshifters. How do these Indigenous people learn this crucial part of their history? The white ruling vampires tell them. We mentioned in the book that this is a little odd (if not suggestive of neo colonization) that white people need to explain to the Indigenous group their very existence and history, but there’s no need for concerns here when that entire subplot becomes just one line: “But those werewolves are our natural enemies!” protests one bad Volturi vampire as they leave peacefully instead of fighting it out as they wished.

Now that I’ve shown such fortitude in taking the film seriously, I have to talk about the superficial:  some of those aspects of this movie that were just a bit too silly and provoked laughter where it presumably wasn’t intended.

It might have been the opening scenes of Bella’s red eyes and flitting about the forests in a pristine blue evening dress while devouring beasts with her bare teeth.

Or was it seeing these characters run at superhuman speed through forests and over cliffs, which has just not gotten any less silly from the first movie.

Maybe it’s Jacob’s “imprinting” with Renesmee, which the film tried to gloss over as quickly as possible, and yet somehow nothing can take the ick factor out of pairing an adult male with a little girl no matter how much Jacob insists “it’s not like that!” (no, Jacob, it’s not like that. Yet).

Or perhaps the endless close ups of vampiric red eyes, which unfailingly displayed the faint circular rim of the coloured contacts the actors were wearing?

How about Jacob’s strip tease for poor old Bella’s dad? Words failed me. Stifled laughter did not.

Renesmee’s name? Renesmee’s nickname?

Or those CGI wolves, who just looked fake most of the time?

Carlisle’s very uncool haircut and colour that turned him from Forks’ nicest looking doctor to its frumpiest?

How about the motley cast of red-eyed International X-Men: Vampires and their assortment of odd super powers?

Or what about the characterisation of Bella? It’s business as usual here, displaying a range of emotions from frowning over a grim future, to frowning over Alice’s cryptic note, to frowning over Jacob and Renesmee’s romance (though I’m with you on that one, sister), to frowning over making her psychic powers work. But she does smile sometimes (see that earlier picture of her running super fast with Edward?).

Several things struck me as weird. These vampires are supposed to be dazzlingly beautiful, quite literally. So why were many of the actors in obvious, heavy make up? One wouldn’t think gorgeous young sparkly things should need so much eyeliner, lipstick, eyeshadow, foundation, false lashes, ad nauseum, but apparently so.

How are we supposed to reconcile the inconsistent ethics in the series, where the Cullens are constructed as “good” because they choose to abstain from human blood no matter how badly they want it, but where the same good characters will watch, without a qualm, another “less-good (but not entirely evil)” vampire kill a human?

Other parts were much better than expected. For instance, I was, quite frankly, nervous about seeing Creepy Renesmee on screen, but the filmmakers did an okay job of turning the freakish vampire-human hybrid into an entirely unscary, cute little girl. Probably not showing her little girl teeth dripping with blood helped with that.

Several parts of the film were effective. The battle scene trick was quite convincing (I have heard others heap scorn on it, but it worked for me), I sat there thinking for a moment, Hey, this is a lot more gory than I remember in the books, and since when did Carlisle and Seth and Leah all die, did I somehow miss that in the books? When we were shown those deaths were not real but just one of Alice’s visions, I found it oddly comforting. And then I found it deeply disturbing that I found that comforting, but there you have it. Mind you, the fighting was still weird to see people flying and fake wolves jumping around and magical powers being used, and all so very gory, with the opposing forces finding a vast number of ways to detach heads from bodies.

The end was a nice strategy of paying tribute to the previous saga instalments, showing Bella finally learning to share her thoughts with Edward, which was a neat way not only of showing her increased power over her abilities but also of showing a montage of scenes from the earlier movies.

If anyone else has any thoughts on this film series – or the novels – please feel free to share, even if the film feels like a long time ago now!


Book reviews: Taken by Storm (Jennifer Lynn Barnes), and Fathomless (Jackson Pearce)

In our book, we have a chapter on gender where we discuss a couple of YA series of novels that were unfinished at the time of (our) publication. Since our book has been released, two of these series have had a third volume published, and so I want to share some thoughts about them in the general context of what we discussed about gender and shapeshifting. I’ll also recap, briefly, the previous books in the series.

The first of these is a series of novels by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire. The series is aimed at a YA audience and tells the story of Bryn, a human girl who was saved by a werewolf pack after a “Rabid” wolf killed her parents.

Bryn is quite literally raised by the werewolves, and the first book is about how she leaves the pack after discovering the pack’s Alpha, Callum, has lied to her when he said the Rabid was killed. In fact, the Rabid’s still out there wreaking havoc and is changing humans into wolves, which Bryn thought was impossible. She disobeys Callum’s orders about a new wolf, a teenage boy Chase, and has to face pack law with a brutal beating. That leads her adult human guardian Ali to take off with Bryn away from the pack. A couple of Bryn’s friends also team up with her, and Bryn and her merry band of friends track down and stop the Rabid, and Bryn becomes Alpha of her own pack.

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

We put our discussion of this series in the gender chapter of our book. The reason for this is that the series touches on some of the power aspects of wolf pack hierarchies, and much is made of Bryn’s difficulties conforming to pack life. When she becomes Alpha, this is really interesting because she is: female, and human – two things that are slightly unusual for alpha wolves in many current iterations of teen werewolf literature. The second book is about Bryn trying to lead her pack despite being human, and dealing with a threat to her pack from some supernaturally gifted humans nearby.

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

At the time of writing our shapeshifting project, the third book Taken by Storm had not yet been released, so I thought we should discuss it here since we weren’t able to do so in the book. I had assumed that this would be the conclusion to the series but it is still open ended, and the events of this book don’t really move much beyond Book 2 if we consider how each ends. However, Barnes has said that she’s not planning to continue the series in the near future – but hasn’t ruled it out, either. So although this third book is apparently the last, it may not be the end.

In Taken by Storm – soap opera connotations of that title aside – Bryn is still struggling with being human as a leader of the wolf pack, and still under threat from others, still fighting off otherworldly forces trying to attack her lupine peeps. There is another Rabid on the loose and Bryn is worried it may be one of her own wolves, so they have to do some more detective work to figure it all out.

Time to insert the usual warning of ***SPOILERS*** ahead, so please stop reading if you don’t want to know the plot.

As in, stop right now and look no further.

***SPOILERS***

Okay, so moving on to the interesting bits.

Killing off the romantic interest is not exactly common in YA literature, so Chase’s death was unexpected. And, just quietly, not unwelcome, but then again I am not exactly in the target demographic, so I expect teenage readers would feel differently, as they should.

As we wrote in our book, Chase seemed to be a “ghost” figure who hardly played any role in the narrative. And now he’s dead, so I think we were a little prescient there. Not prescient enough, however, for just as Trial by Fire introduced “psychics” (people who can enter dreams, have supernatural abilities and the like), here we discover ghosts literally exist. Perhaps not quite literally, since ghosts are not alive by definition, but nonetheless here they are. Given Chase’s minimal influence on narrative, killing him off in the series doesn’t make much of an impact on the plot or on me personally, but full props to Barnes for doing this when some readers would no doubt be disappointed. On the other hand, if this is genuinely the final book, I’m not clear why he died. Being boring is a terrific reason to eliminate a character, but since most readers probably disagree with me here, there has to be a better reason than that for them to accept it. If it’s a motivating factor for Bryn to go on and do something, that’s good, but here it feels a little pointless.

We learn some more about wolf politics here, but it feels tantalisingly shallow, as if we get a glimpse of a much more detailed, interesting world that is being signposted for future books, but apparently not. There is plenty to work with: despite finding the musical-theatre loving wolf Devon irritating for most of the series, I found him much more interesting in this final book as he leaves Bryn’s pack (on good terms) to become Alpha of a neighbouring pack, while rare female wolf Lake is another character who could carry a story.

So how does it end? Bryn is unhappy and still determined to be changed into a werewolf so she can better protect her pack. In the second book she had asked Callum to do it, and as this novel ends he is about to attack her as per their agreement so that she can become a werewolf. Apparently he’s the only one she trusts to do it without actually killing her. So he leaps at her. The end.

As in, the end. That’s it, apparently, for the series. Romantic lead dead. Protagonist pretty miserable. Novel closes as Callum is about to strike.

Not, perhaps, what readers would like, and I rather gather from Barnes’s comment on this subject I mentioned earlier that she has received feedback along this line. Barnes points out that there is some kind of resolution because Bryn is finally on her way to werewolfdom, which is kind of a metaphor for growing up and learning to make hard decisions and be an adult, although I don’t know how far we can push that metaphor. But certainly it’s not resolved in many other ways, and I think that just as readers protested the end of The Hunger Games’s Book 3 Mockingjay for leaving Katniss in a kind of endless despair with only some bits of “hope” given, Taken by Storm also seems a downer (not on the same scale at all, I must say).

Where does that leave the gender politics? As we discussed in our book, Bryn’s power seemed to stem from her humanity given her ability to exist outside pack hierarchies, and it is unusual to have a lead female character involved with her subordinate, but these two aspects are undermined in this third book when Chase dies and when Bryn goes ahead with becoming a werewolf to gain more power for her pack. However, these wolf books still offer a refreshing change because the female character does not abandon everything for the love of a hot supernatural boy: these books are never simply about the romance, and this at least offers one alternative for readers who tire of Bella’s worship of Edward in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series or Grace’s obsession with her werewolf beau in Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver series.

Moving on to the second author, Jackson Pearce’s series that retell fairytales in modern settings with werewolf themes continues. We wrote about Sisters Red and Sweetly in the same chapter on gender where we were asking if these hybrid identities of human/ wolf allow the female characters more latitude to escape conventional gender norms and power relationships.

Sisters Red Cover

SWEETLY cover

These books take the Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel fairytales and give them a spin by turning the lead female teenage characters into wolf hunters: no longer victims waiting for a man to save them but kick-ass heroines a la Buffy, angst and all. The werewolves are called Fenris and are cast in the mould of villains: totally evil monsters who kill young girls. Pearce therefore uses werewolves differently to the sympathetic misfits we more commonly see in contemporary iterations, plus it’s an attempt to subvert some of the conventions around female victims and male predators.

Each of the books is a standalone and has different main characters (but linked in some ways, as we discover), and there is an overarching plot connecting all the books, a plot that concerns the werewolves. To this series we can now add Fathomless, which tackles The Little Mermaid tale.

Pearce_Fathomless_H#80EB7D9

In this book, we have three triplets, each with a power of touching someone and knowing their past, their present, or their future. The main character is Celia Reynolds, one of the triplets (and readers should recognise that last name and deduce that these girls are siblings to Silas and Samuel Reynolds, who each were hero wolf-hunters in the previous two books, and loosely based on the woodcutter of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, and the seventh-son-of-a-seventh-son idea as well).

The other main character is Lo, who is an ocean girl, which is the role of the little mermaid/ Ariel but in this version she has legs but lives under the sea (cue that Disney music in your head); leaving the sea is extremely painful when she tries to walk on land, but it is possible.

Again we have a revolving narrative where we take turns reading the perspectives of different characters, as in the previous two books, a device that never excites me as a reader and still doesn’t, though others may like it. In fact it becomes even more complicated in this book because Lo has a different name and personality when she is inside and outside the sea; inside the sea she finds it hard to remember her human identity, and her job is to try to keep hold of her humanity and not succumb to the monstrosity that eventually overtakes the other ocean girls.

Lo is one of many ocean girls living underwater, and Pearce here also pulls in sirens mythology, because Lo and the other girls have the power to lure men to their deaths by singing: men are almost incapable of withstanding that attraction and they go out to sea and drown. The belief is that the ocean girl who does this can then win her humanity back, but Lo has discovered this is not the case and that it in fact removes more of her humanity.

Celia meets Lo and tries to help her keep her humanity, so the novel is about Lo’s attempts to retain her human identity, as well as Celia’s efforts to find her own identity outside her triplet sisters. Like Taken by Storm, Pearce’s novel ends on a bit of a downer (but relatively speaking, it’s reasonably happy): the triplets can’t save Lo so she remains an ocean girl but they’re all good friends in the end so that’s that.

The other two books gave some hints about how werewolves become wolves and what happens to the girls who vanish, and so on. In Fathomless it becomes a lot more complicated and we learn that the Fenris take some young women alive, dump them in Ariel’s playground under the sea where they lose their human identity and eventually go off to join the Fenris when they have lost all humanity and turned into monsters.

But there is still much Pearce is not telling us about these Fenris, and that is probably to be revealed in later books, with the fourth book to be based on The Snow Queen fairytale and due for release later this year. I hope this next one provides some clarity: Fathomless is rather aptly titled in that I (and possibly not I alone?) was left in the dark about much of the Fenris mythology, and it’s easy to get a bit lost in all the bits about twins and triplets and ocean girls and Fenris and souls and so on. Given that gender is such a significant theme in these books – male villains, female victims, female heroes, male sidekicks – it will be interesting to see what Pearce does with the villainous Snow Queen.

Perhaps other readers found more clarity in Fathomless or have other points to make about these series (or other related novels) – if so, feel free to share your thoughts.