So here's the problem. You have a successful young adult fantasy series that's run to more than two dozen titles. How do you keep it fresh? After all, even in a city as rich as Quentaris, there are only so many stories you can tell - surely? That's the dilemma that faced Paul Collins and Michael Pryor - the creators and editors of the Quentaris novel series.
Well their idea is just about the most original I've ever come across. Quentaris has been ripped out of this world and thrown into the rift-maze to end up… - well no one knows where. Different! Oh, and just to make it more fun, the city is now equipped with sails so it can now navigate through the various other worlds, meeting other city-ships as they go.
Brilliant surreal, it's like a Terry Gilliam young adult novel. Quentaris travels see them encounter dragons and pirate cities (the former helping, the latter attacking) and generally trying to find a way to adapt to their new environs.
As a counterpoint to this grand scale main story Collins has provided, interspersed with the city's ordeal, a very personal story of struggle. Tab Vidler is an orphan, determined to make it as magician. You just know she is going to be important in Quentaris's survival.
This is quite simply wonderful. Enough of the old Quentaris remains - the city is still the city we know, the people are the same people we've read about before but everything is different. Collins and Pryor should be applauded for this. Not only is it one of the most inspired of directions I've ever seen an established series taken, but to make such a change without it feeling forced is commendable.
They've given the city a new life and set the stage for a whole new, and eager anticipated (by me), new set of adventures whilst producing one of the best books in the series so far. This could have been so easily a "necessary" book, one that was not all that enjoyable to read but needed to give the subsequent titles somewhere to roam. It's not. This is great.
Long may Quentaris reign!
Ford Street Publishing (and Imprint of Hybrid Publishers)http://www.hybridpublishers.com.au/fordst.html