It’s that time again. The spoilerific behind the scenes of the next novella in the series of novellas that recount the adventures of Helen Grace and Josiah Witherbloom.
As always, if you’ve not read the book, you really should. It costs less than a bottle of pop from a machine and it’ll last longer.
So, let’s head into spoiler territory…
At the climax of the last book, Helen had been spirited away by the Obsidian Emperor into his parallel world. Then, we jumped forward about a year and a half into the future to find Josiah and Wilhelmina searching for a way to get her back, all the while continuing to combat Lord Ashmore’s machinations.
First of all, let’s address the title. For anyone who read the last book, they knew that there was another key out there to the dimensional gateway to the Emperor’s dimension. The original one, in fact. The one that was not to be discovered for another three hundred years. So titling this one “The Other Key” seems a bit like a spoiler. I actually went back and forth on whether to call it that or not. But I really liked the title, and it felt appropriate. And, let’s be honest, did anyone think that Helen wouldn’t return? As readers, we suspend our disbelief and go along with a story, if it’s written well enough. But in the back of our minds certain truths seem very evident. Even though I’d gone through the motions of saying Helen was gone and Josiah and Wilhelmina were now the main characters, it did seem clear to me that most would be expecting Helen’s return. So I liked that the title sort of teased that. Because the story really isn’t about that.
Sure, it’s the plot. But Wilhelmina finds the key pretty early one, really only after just enough time to introduce what her life with Josiah is like now. The Other Key is what gets Josiah and Wilhelmina back to the Emperor’s dimension, true, and kicks off the adventure there. But it represents something much more powerful to Wilhelmina as a character and the book as a whole. This is very much a turning point for Wilhelmina. It’s the moment when she makes a terrible choice. A choice which the reader really only understands in the next book, and I’ll discuss that more in installment for the final book. I do wonder if people are a bit confused, here. Wilhelmina seems almost overly dramatic and almost hard to comprehend, I think, until you read the next book. She just seems jealous and resentful of Helen, and appears to make some rather huge leaps in logic about what her reappearance means. But, hopefully this is seen in a new light in the next book. That’s all I’ll say for now.
Speaking of Wilhelmina, it’s my hope that people like her by this book. If they weren’t on board before, I hope they are now. I really liked her. Here we see her mature from the wary maid (seemingly) dragged along by events into the full-fledged adventurer we saw hints of throughout the other books. I really enjoyed her and Josiah’s relationship. It’s actually slightly weird, especially for the time period. It’s all a bit untoward, actually, and I didn’t want to shy away from that. I mean, we know that their feelings are genuine, but the outside world doesn’t, and certainly doesn’t judge them well.
I had a lot of fun with the alternate world. If anything, I wish we could have spent more time there. I had thought to expand it a great deal and introduce more characters and subplots, but they just felt superfluous to the main events. But that world exists in a very visual way in my mind, and I hope I was able to communicate that to the reader so that it lives within their mind as well.
Of course, the other strand running through this story is that we finally catch up to Lord Ashmore and his friends. Ashmore has created for himself a little group that mirrors Helen, Josiah and Wilhelmina in some ways, but they are very different people. While our main characters are very upstanding citizens, Ashmore, Allisa and Jean are all outcasts, thrown together by mere chance, really. You get a tiny hint into what Ashmore has planned, and I hope that threw the readers off a bit when they realize his goal really isn’t world domination or anything so prosaic.
We also get to know Baker a little better, after him appearing in very small ways and mentions in previous stories. I enjoyed the short scenes he and Reggie had together. I think they played well off each other, until poor Reggie was done away with.
I really like the ending, where everything seems as though it’s gone back to the status quo. But it really hasn’t. There are hints around the edges of Helen’s character, I hope. She has been changed by her experiences. She’s a tiny bit softer. Wilhelmina changes too, in ways that probably don’t make sense until the next book. I actually felt really bad for her in that scene at the end. She’s putting a whole life away, really, with her adventuring clothes. And when she puts that maid uniform back on, she’s giving herself over to destiny. A destiny she knows won’t end well for her. To be in that place, to feel like you have no choice… well, it’s a terrible thing. A feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.