As anyone who read my previous review of the series up to this point can imagine, I had this one on pre-order. As soon as it arrived I delved in (and the world could burn while I read — though see below how I handled it in between!).
What to expect
If you’ve read the series so far, this is possibly the last piece of set-up before the grand finale. (And if you haven’t, you need to go back to God Stalk and catch up!). Jame returns to Tai-Tastigon, the wonderful city that is the background of the first (and only the first) novel in the series. While this affords the reader (as well as Jame) some reunions, the tone is quite different.
The events in the book are spread over six days (not like the discrete episodes covering a larger time span, as in the previous books). There is also an almost metaphysical aspect, as Hodgell further explores the boundaries between life and death or lack thereof. It makes sense if you follow the series, as it will obviously provide Jame if not exactly the weapon then the last pieces of the puzzle for the final confrontation.
What I liked
I like Hodgell’s writing style, her depiction of martial arts without specifying a single move, the alien-ness and bizarre-ness she imbues the world, the rich historical knowledge and terminology that she brings. The characters and their adventures are always engaging, although — as usual — Jame is the centre and others stay in the wings (as much as we’d like to hear more from them).
What to be aware of
As mentioned, this is an epic cycle. Don’t jump in near the end and don’t skip volumes — there are just too many references to events in previous volumes.
A lovely addition to this wonderful series. Looking forward to the next — possibly final — volume!
One of the more interesting pieces of advice someone once gave me, is to learn to recognise that butterflies / sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as a good thing. Getting out of your comfort zone is when good stuff happens (like, y’know, publishing a book).
So while I am in awe of authors like Hodgell, that didn’t stop me from approaching her about interviewing Jame! And, rather than a restraining order, Hodgell has graciously replied — and has worked the ‘interview’ into something truly magical, that reflects the tone of the series.
You can read it here.
For those looking to get a copy of this (or previous) books on Amazon, note that the series numbers are different as some early volumes have been withdrawn and then republished as omnibus editions when Hodgell switched publishers (and we’re forever grateful to Baen for picking the series up!)