Sooooo . . . is Gods of Nabban a standalone or fourth in a series? Enquiring minds want to know.
Well . . .
Okay, okay, I’ll answer that one. People have been asking about that ever since The Leopard came out, and the reason they need to ask, of course, is that the answer is sort of . . . confusing. Maybe. Both? (Note: Part of this post is lifted from an email I sent someone in answer — I’m afraid he got rather a long answer as I tried to work out how best to explain what I meant — and one part I swiped from a postscript to a blog post I wrote for someone else, which I’ll link to from here once it’s up.)
I think of the stories about the seven devils and the caravan road as a bit like a medieval cycle of related tales. I intended that you-the-reader could come in at any point, hopefully find your feet in the world, and as you read further, make connections between characters and events. Or you could read the stories in order of internal chronology, and let it unfold that way. (I did the same thing with my Torrie children’s fantasy series — except those ones weren’t even written or published in chronological order.) In the caravan road books, each (and also the short story “The Storyteller” which I wrote after Blackdog but which is set earlier) is meant to be something that can stand on its own. (The exception is the duology Marakand, which was published in two volumes as The Leopard and The Lady — you MUST read those two together and in their proper order because they tell a single story.) Whichever way you read them, each story is going to have roots and branches running off to the others. That’s all to say that although there are many overlapping characters between the books, and a common deep history underlying it all, it’s not a series telling a single story; nor is it a series focused on a single central character. The linking thread is actually the devil-bonded warrior Moth who, with the wer-bear Mikki at her side and the Gods-forged sword Lakkariss in her hand, wanders in and out of the official heroes’ stories. However, she’s not the central protagonist of any of them except “The Storyteller”.
Here’s a breakdown of people the stories focus on, leaving out the characters who are confined to just one book:
“The Storyteller” – Moth & Mikki, quite a long time before Blackdog begins.
Blackdog – Holla-Sayan; Moth & Mikki; Ivah
Marakand: The Leopard – Ahjvar & Ghu; Holla-Sayan; Ivah; Moth & Mikki
Marakand: The Lady – ditto
Gods of Nabban – Ahjvar & Ghu; Ivah.
(That makes it look like Ivah might be the ‘series’ hero but remember that there isn’t one; she’s actually a secondary character with a knack for ending up in the thick of things . . . she’s the woman whose face is hidden under the G on the Gods of Nabban cover.)
I do think that you can read Gods of Nabban without having first read the Marakand duology, because in it, Ahjvar and Ghu, having unexpectedly survived the end of The Lady (that’s not a spoiler, because there they are on the cover, right?) are starting on a new story; they’ve changed a great deal from the people they were at the start of The Leopard, and the backstory that you need to know does emerge in small glimpses, without having to be a summary of what-has-gone-before. Gods of Nabban is a new tale, not a continuation of Marakand. But on the other hand, you may prefer to read things in the order they happen in the world. (Can I say, even so, that it’s always good to buy the new book if you think you’d like to read it, because that makes authors happy and publishers even happier, and increases the chances of the next book actually getting to happen? I know it’s vulgar to mention such things, but . . . gotta eat to write, y’know.)
That said, it’s really a matter of personal taste and how you prefer to explore a new secondary world. Some people find it’s fine to start with whichever one first grabbed their attention and then go back and forward to the others; others prefer to start at the beginning and have the world and cosmology unfold with the chronological history. However, so long as you don’t make the mistake of trying to leap into The Lady without first reading The Leopard (in which case you will be missing half the story for certain), in the caravan road stories I hope that enough of what’s essential should be there in each book where it’s needed, and be there within the characters as you meet them even if it’s for the first time, so that you can start with whichever story first caught your imagination and work out from there.