In this post, I’ll look into one specific type of narrative I encountered: one where the story is told by a narrator retrospectively and interrupted here and there with the narrator’s perspective. While my sample on this kind of narrative is small, it was enough to discover potential issues in that approach – something I’ll talk about now.
The first possible issue with that is obvious: the risk of spoilers. If the narrator reveals that a character is alive in his part of the story, it obviously means said character survived whichever tale is he telling. If that is any of the main characters, it might reveal something that completely changes my view of the book. For me, a story is about the journey too, not just the end. If you know where the journey leads, only the end remains. This is exactly what happened in The Wolf of the North trilogy (my reviews for books #1, #2, #3) where the narrator revealed that the main protagonist and antagonist both survived to that moment – even before we actually knew the full story behind who and what they became.
The second issue is creating abrupt narrative shifts you can’t understand before the end. That is the reason I struggled (despite liking the main story) with Blood Song. There, each part of the book (and the sequel as well) is set up and narrated by someone else, happening pretty much just before the final part where those stories converge. The trouble is, that happens much later than the story begins and causes time jumps and mentions of events before they are actually revealed. If the story itself is good and draws me in, these interruptions will actually hurt my enjoyment and I might remember much less what was said in those passages that are (at least for the moment) disconnected from the main story.
Now, both of these aspects can work in a very specific situation. The story of Arthas, one of most famous characters in WarCraft game universe, is told this way. The reason it works is that the book is written as a retelling of events the readers are expected to know from the story in previous games and builds on it by showing some events in more detail. For someone who’d come to it out of nowhere, it’d probably lead to the abovementioned issues.
Now, to wrap it up: as always, all I’ve said is my personal experience and opinion. Different people have different preferences and this style of narrative might actually work for them. For me, it does not. The two series, especially as I read them close after one another, severely undermined my opinion of this narrative and I’ll likely be wary of it.
As always, I’m open to comments on that matter, as well as book recommendations.