In my curiosity to understand novellas, the most important thing I wanted to know about them was if it was still possible to tell a compelling story with far less words. But not just a compelling story, but one that was just as enjoyable as a book that might be between 300 and 400 pages as a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels tend to be. Can a writer endearing characters in relatively so few pages? Can a writer tell an engaging and thrilling story with enough depth in half the length normally expected? I went with Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward Flight novellas as I could directly compare it to any of the three previous books and, to my surprise, Sunreach provided a very strong argument for a novella’s case.
For the brevity of this novella, it wasn’t too surprising how well-developed Freyja was as a character. While a novella can be quite short compared to that of a book, there’s still plenty of space to develop the main character focused within the novella. Freyja Marten (FM) is the core character of this story in a similar manner as Spensa is in the Cytonic series. FM, despite how short the story is, still comes off as an endearing and thoughtful character. However there is an issue that she doesn’t quite change drastically from the beginning of the story to the end. That being said, it’s still good and meaningful character growth from start to finish.
One cannot expect a long, convoluted and dynamic story in the length of a novella. There just isn’t enough pages to go through the gambit of twists and turns one could expect from a full length novel. That being said, novellas do appear perfect for a focused, engaging and exciting story. Sunreach focuses on a singular problem that they have to deal with and solve and everything revolves around that plot. It still has a lot of moments of anticipation and excitement in which FM’s story is still a thrill to read from start to finish. That being said, when considering the overall length of the story, it is quite short but that’s exactly what one should expect from a novella.
Novellas seem to be a lot more focused in the story it’s trying to tell. Because of this, some things naturally have to be sacrificed and, to and extent, the amount of worldbuilding done cannot be as extensive. There are ways to give nods and implications to certain things that aren’t related to the main focus of the story but never a fully elaborate explanation I imagine. In Sunreach, the focus is primarily on the slugs and the ability to achieve Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel. The set up and discussion regarding the slugs takes the primary focus and still is fully developed and thought out as one could expect from a novel. But other parts of the worldbuilding that would normally be expanded on seemed to be briefly discussed and likely left to be expanded later on. It seems like you can get away with this in a novella part of a larger series, but it must be harder for a standalone novella.
As to be expected, there isn’t a massive difference in the language used between Sanderson’s Cytonic novels and this novella. The tone is similar and it very much feels right at home with the whole series. However, it should be noted that the length of the chapters and the descriptions are kept much shorter as would be expected. There’s a lot more care taken in the words chosen as there’s more importance with saying more with less words than normally used. That being said, the novella still does a good job in conveying an engaging story with how it’s written.