Joe DeRouen’s Threads is a worthy follow-up to his debut novel, Small Things. It’s meatier, more complex, and line-by-line better written than the first novel. Joe still has some growing to do as a writer, but he knows how to tell a suspenseful, entertaining story.
Threads picks up thirty or so years later than the first book, with the offspring of Small Things‘ trio of protagonists (Shawn, Jenny, and Fred Ruskin). In a relatively short time, people are being erased, timelines are in flux, and our two main characters, Ben and Katy, are traveling back to a time that’s just a few months later than Shawn, Jenny, and Fred Ruskin’s epic battle with Aupuch. There’s a new bad guy on the horizon, playing havoc with the timelines, killing off family members right and left. It’s up to Ben and Katy to team up with their parents back in the 1970s to fight not just one, not just two, but three villains amongst a host of lesser antagonists.
Strengths this time around include the relationship between Ben and Katy, the deft use of plot twists (with only one or two cheats as far as I could tell), and being able to spend time with the Small Things family again. Especially vivid is a new ability exhibited by one of the new main characters, described with such visual panache that it made me wish more time had been spent explaining and demonstrating this power.
By making this sequel, the second in a proposed Small Things trilogy, bigger and more complex, DeRouen may have lost a little focus. Not much, but enough that it distracts. One character could have been excised entirely, it seems, and the story would not have suffered. Additionally, a couple of detours along the way could have used a little tightening up. Discussing these detours in detail would result in spoilers, so I won’t.
Threads, according to the author, was written as an independent story, not necessarily needing one to have read Small Things first. In essence, this is true, but the first couple of chapters may lose inattentive readers. The number of magical talismans and the various magical elements of the big spooky house that served as a centerpiece in Small Things may also lose inattentive readers.
The best explanation of magical rules — controlled magic vs. wild magic — occurs unfortunately late in the novel. The discussion comes at a time when it’s needed, but I wish the time for the discussion (not necessarily the exact circumstances, mind you, because that would make for a very short novel) had occurred somewhere earlier in the book.
All said and done, Threads is a good, fun read. Very recommended, and I’m looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.
(Disclaimer: I was a beta reader for Threads and am mentioned in the dedication.)