Thursday, February 11, 2016

Opening the 19th Aethyr

So, we return to new material with Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Blades. Which, honestly, wound up being a very heavy road to plod through, but the effort was well rewarded by the journey.

We open with General Turyin Mulaghesh, last seen during the battle of Bulikov,  enjoying a rather depressing retirement in Saypur, spending her days drunk on fish wine and generally trying to forget everything. As it happens, Shara, whom we met last time around, who is now Prime Minister, manages to convince Mulaghesh to go back out on an errand on the Continent again to investigate mysterious goings on. That she uses blackmail to get the General off her island shouldn't matter that much. (Something about not having the time in for a General's pension, therefore she must go "tour" Voortyashtan until her term of service is up.)

Of course, while she's in Voortyashtan, if she can check up on what's going on with a missing operative and figure out whether or not the miraculous thinadeskite has some sort of Divine nature to it... Well that would just be swell, wouldn't it?

Upon arrival in Voortyashtan, Mulaghesh winds up staying with the Dreylings rebuilding the harbor, since the fortress built by Saypuri forces isn't considered particularly safe. The Dreyling construction site is overseen by Signe, the rather estranged daughter of Sigurd, also last seen in the Battle of Bulikov. The Saypuri are overseen by General Biswal, whom Mulaghesh served under suring the battle of the Yellow River. The Continental overseer, Rada, also has connections with Mulaghesh, since Rada was buried in rubble after the battle of Bulikov and Mulaghesh's soldiers saved her from the rubble. Rada dies healing work as well as taxidermy in her spare time.

Thinadeskite, it seems, is a wonderful conductor of electricity, not losing charge as electrons travel it. Indeed, it seems to gain extra power when electricity travels its path. So what if those who have killed get visions of Voorta's soldiers doing her work while in the mines? For that matter, when Mulaghesh has a vision of Voorta herself using Her sword to destroy the mine, who cares?

All of this leads Mulaghesh digging deeper into Voorta's mythos, made more difficult by the fact that unlike Bulikov, the Voortyashanis don't particularly miss their Divinity. Voorta was the first killed by the Kaj many years ago, so how is she reappearing?

Oh so much to go through here! Voorta was the first Divinity to create an afterlife, mainly to encourage her followers to fight on her behalf. To do so, she became lovers with the Goddess of life, and then split apart from her. (I kind of wish there was more than fragmentary information on that myth in here, since the story is one of the best in here.) The Voortyashanis warriors believed that they would go to the City of Blades upon death, awaiting the night when they shall return and destroy the world.

In the mean time, we get more information on the Battle of the Yellow River, wherein Mulaghesh's company got separated from the army, wound up behind enemy lines, and wound up burning the supply lines to win the war. As Mulaghesh remembers more, we begin to see the atrocities committed by said company.

And we get a really stunning dichotomy of what it means to be a soldier from Mulaghesh and Biswal. I'm sure older readers will read it as allegory to Vietnam, where as some of us younger folks will undoubtedly see Afganistan and Iraq reflected here. Even though in the end, the location matters little.

This volume is less heavy on the spy craft than the progenitor, but it honestly has much more things to say about humanity than Divinity than the first.

Really, I almost feel like digging up Piers Anthony's Wielding a Red Sword now as another vision of the meaning of war, but that would inevitably wind up with me reading all 8 Incarnations of Immortality again.

As a side note unrelated to this particular book, I have two more new books in my TBR pile. The issue I'm now running in to deals with the Main library being closed for a large remodel (they re-open in June) and the branch I've been frequenting in the interim getting ready to close next week to build a new location. (That branch has needed it for quite some time.) The problem being that this leaves me without really ready access to a library where I can wander the stacks looking for something to catch my eye. Also, the library's recommended lists that I used to get monthly no longer seem to be appearing at the same rate, and indeed, certain newsletters have stopped appearing at all. This does mean that re-reads will get reviewed on here more often as I try to catch up on stuff on the shelf.