There are very few real perks to being a pro writer, but one of the ones I love and covet most is to see another, seriously talented writer's book evolve. The road from from first draft to final edition is seldom traveled by anyone but the author and their editor, but often it's where you can learn the most about editing, revising and improving your own post-manuscript skills. It's a bit like being a spotter at the Olympics; you get to see all the hard work, preparation and practice runs that happen behind the scenes before the big event.
This is why a couple of years ago I jumped at the chance to follow the journey of The Endless Forest, Sara Donati's final novel in her Wilderness series. At the time I had not read any of the previous books in the series, so I was able to offer the perspective of a new reader. It was also an opportunity for me to see how another series author wrapped up a much-loved and complex story, something that at the time I really needed as I was also working on my final StarDoc book, Dream Called Time.
The whole experience was a delight from start to finish, and I probably learned more than I would have spending a year at university. I'm also happy to report that it's a great book to start with even if you haven't read any of the other Wilderness novels, although I will warn you, by the time you finish you'll want to have the rest of them. Because this is a final novel I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that the book isn't really about endings; it's about new love, time and people coming full-circle, and the endurance and strength of family. The story reminds us that whatever happens in the here and now, some things are eternal. I don't think there is a finer way to arrive at the finish line than with the grace, style and satisfaction you'll find in The Endless Forest.
But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name the final book in any series that you really enjoyed (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Sunday, February 14, 2010. I'll draw four names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned hardcover copy of The Endless Forest by Sara Donati. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.