Is It Time for Marla Mason to Retire?

I recently finished the last two novels in T.A. Pratt’s “Marla Mason” series, Grim Tides and Bride of Death. As usual, I enjoyed their fast-moving stories and the lively dialogue, with some unexpected twists and turns along the way (to be expected when Marla has to deal with chaos witches).

However, by the end of the latter book, I felt that perhaps the series has run its course for me. Part of it is due to the fact that Marla has become more powerful: she is now essentially a god who, if not immortal, is about as close as you can get to being so. As such, I think it becomes more difficult for this mortal to really empathize with her challenges and personal issues. It’s a bit like the old Dugenons & Dragons days for me, when I found I got more enjoyment out of playing low- to mid-level characters. Once the characters get really strong, the only interesting challenges have to be equally strong, and eventually you’re gaming with a character so much different from your average John Doe that it has almost nothing to do with your and my lives.

The other part of it is simply variety. I would like to see Mr. Pratt apply his not inconsiderable talents to fresh new endeavors: new characters, new plots, new worlds, even new styles. I’m sure it’s tempting to stick with a winner, and current fans may complain if he does not keep churning out MM stories, but even I can’t eat pizza every day, regardless of how much I like it. (Okay, I also can’t eat it every day because I’m on a low-fat, low-salt diet, but that’s another story.)

Time to Retire Marla Mason?

I finished reading T.A. Pratt’s Broken Mirrors this past weekend, and while I quite enjoyed it, upon completion I felt this was a good place for the series to end. This was the fifth book in the Marla Mason series, not counting the prequel, Bone Shop.

(Warning: what might be considered a bit of a “spoiler” follows, though I think it’s a very minor one.)

The reason I think it might be time for Mr. Pratt to move onto something new and let Marla and Rondeau enjoy their retirement comes in two parts. First, it simply seems to me that it’s a good place to end her story, even though this book did end with a teaser that implied the basis of another sequel. In spite of that hint, there is a certain “riding off into the sunset” aspect to the end of the story, even if it was not one hundred percent happy. The second reason is that the nature of the conflict in this story — Marla versus an alternate universe Marla — is, in essence, the ultimate challenge. Any other challenge in ensuing books is likely to be either of a lesser nature, or else risk going over the top into the realm of plot overkill.

I would therefore like to see Mr. Pratt take his considerable talents to new characters, settings, and situations (even genres?) and see what he can come up with. But even if he does stick with Marla for awhile, I’ll still look forward to reading it — if perhaps with a bit of trepidation.

(See also: T.A. Pratt’s “Broken Mirrors” Free on the Web.)

T.A. Pratt’s “Broken Mirrors” Free on the Web

I just discovered that T.A. (Tim) Pratt currently has his newest Marla Mason novel, Broken Mirrors, available on his blog site (as HTML). I have enjoyed all the other installments in the series quite a bit, so I snapped this up as soon as I noticed it mentioned in someone else’s status at I used Calibre to convert the HTML to a MOBI file I could use on my Kindle, but there’s no reason you could not simply read it in the original HTML format if you don’t want to mess with that (or simply order it from Amazon).

The books are what I guess would be classified as “urban fantasy”, with the protagonist being a sorceress of sorts who is the de facto leader/protector of the fictional city of Felport (which tends to remind this reader of Baltimore a bit, but your mileage may vary.) The writing is generally quite good, the action and the dialogue snappy, yet there are some deeper undercurrents that give most of the stories some depth, making them fun yet rewarding reads.

The books are more or less stand-alone stories, but it probably does make more sense to read them in order — though that leaves the question of when to read Bone Shop, since it is the last book published before Broken Mirrors, but is in fact a prequel to the entire series. So I’ll leave it to you whether to start there or with the first novel, Blood Engines.