Books and Bookability
Posted at February 12, 2023
Let’s catch up.
The Swordsman’s Oath, by Juliet E. McKenna
In the follow-up to The Thief’s Gamble, we follow Ryshad Tathel as he investigates the Elietimm — the shadowy villains planning to invade the mainland from their distant island. But that’s not his only problem: people keep trying to steal his sword, an artifact from the Tormalin Empire; he’s plagued by strange dreams; and then he’s captured, enslaved, and sold off to royalty from the Aldabreshin Archipelago.
It started as a fairly generic fantasy novel, but it had me once Ryshad was taken to the archipelago. It could’ve been terrible — it’s from his perspective, and he’s a white guy sold into slavery to dark-skinned people from the tropics. (Yikes.) But McKenna put a lot of thought into it, and the islanders are never portrayed as lesser or savage, just … different. And when an Elietimm emissary shows up, it gets gloriously tense.
There’s still some odd vocabulary, which I complained about in the previous book’s write-up. But I liked it.
1635: The Papal Stakes, by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
The Ring of Fire series is incredibly inconsistent. Depending on the writer, sometimes a book will be full of battles and politics, or it’ll hinge on obscure religious conflicts, or it’ll be a portrait of small town life in unusual circumstances.
This book, as you can guess from the title, is from the sub-series about the Catholic Church. It’s a thriller.
At the end of 1635: The Cannon Law, a lot of Bad Things happened. This continues the story. It adds some new characters to the mix, most notably the American who blew up the Tower of London in 1634: The Baltic War. The Spanish Empire is once again the villain, and the USE and their allies are fighting to keep the Catholic Church free of Spain’s control.
There are actual stakes, consequences, and, yes, religious debates. I think I prefer the prior novel, but this is close behind. It’s good!
1635: The Dreeson Incident, by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce
This was rough. Virgina DeMarce writes stories with a tonne of subplots and even more characters, and it’s hard to keep track of who is who and what their deal is. Getting through this was a slog.
On the plus side, I like how she’s willing to portray uptimers adjusting poorly to this new world. In most of the books we’re meant to sympathize with the Americans, but her characters can be small-minded and sexist and racist. There’s some good stuff in here. I wish she’d narrow her focus.
We Cry the Sea, by Glenn Quigley
It’s been a hassle coming up with something pithy to say. This is the finale of a series, and I read the other books before I started doing these write-ups. I keep getting into long-winded explanations of what happened previously. This is what you need to know:
OK. Robin Shipp is a middle-aged fisherman. His father died under mysterious circumstances when he was young, leaving him orphaned and outcast in a small fishing village. In the first book, he finds out what really happened that night, clears his father’s name, and falls in love. In the second book, he accompanies his boyfriend to another island, and … a lot happens. It’s all very complicated. The important thing is that he meets his secret half-brother, a thug working for criminals in the city; and he learns that perhaps his father wasn’t the upstanding fisherman he thought he was.
In this book, Robin hears a rumour that his father might actually be alive, and living under a different name as a pirate1. He has to know the truth, so he immediately sails off in pursuit of the ship that may be carrying his father.
The problem with this book is that Robin’s story goes on hold for the first half. We’ll see a scene from his perspective to confirm that he’s still chasing the boat, and then everything else will be about his friends back home dealing with their own problems. I was invested enough in the characters to enjoy it, but I kept thinking, Why are we spending so much time here when the plot’s over there? It picked up again once Robin finally caught up with his father, but I wish it had skipped to that part.
That said, I liked it. Robin ends the series in a very different place than he’d started. It’s a story about reckoning with the past and moving on.