By Heresies Distressed

Monday, December 14, 2009


By Heresies Distressed
David Weber, 2009
Vaguely Spoiler-y for the trend of the series and events of the book.



Impossibly likable protagonists, creepy fanatical killers, six-legged lizards and a history lesson.  It could only be the latest from David Weber...

This is the third one in the “Safehold” series, which I've previously described as Arthurian legend meets Protestant Reformation plus alternate Industrial Revolution...IN SPACE.  (Even though the IN SPACE part is mostly theoretical, more like IN THE FUTURE ON A DISTANT WORLD.)

The third volume is better than the second, but still prone to brain-twisting naming conventions.  Conventions arrived at by (I presume) postulating what modern Earth names might look like after being wrung through the generations during 800 years of medieval society.  It turns out he's gone so far on that continuum, that he's come out the other end at fantasy names with too many Y's.  (Byrtrym?  Really?  Just call the man Bertram and be done with it.)

More action than the last one, dealing with larger problems, but still ramping up for actual conflict.  I can't decide whether I'd rather Weber come up with something to actually challenge Merlin (main protagonist), or whether I'm happy with the current (slight) limitations on his/her power.  Weber's very good at writing villains who make me feel ill, and the psychotically hypocritical, fanatically blinded, rabid, power-mad Grand Inquisitor is par for the course.  I'm often happy to give protagonists who counter these guys any advantage they require, and hang balanced story-telling.  I did end up feeling uneasy at the end of this book.  Weber pulls off some scary scenes, but nothing devastating, and having read plenty of his other work, I know that he is fully capable of devastating.  I'm left with the sense that the protagonists have to have a huge set-back in the next one, and that looming danger makes me unhappy.  The “good guys” have too many advantages, and that can't last.

I like that he highlighted again the dichotomy between Merlin's body and the mind inside, played to good comedic effect in Book One.

This volume may have focused on fewer characters, or possibly just didn't introduce any new ones, which helped the narrative feel more manageable.  There were some early on chapters where I had no idea what was going on, but I came back up to speed pretty quick.

I don't inherently object to a list of characters in the back, but these books would be much better off with a recap prologue, or, actually really useful would be a list of characters that INCLUDES their allegiances (at least as of the start of the book). 

For example:
Meaningless Collection of Letters: Bishop of City: not useful. 
MCoL: Bishop of City, secretly agent of X, worked with Y and Z, previously had A and B killed: useful.

Also the index needs a cross-reference, so when I start a chapter with Lord NameofProvince and his friend Lord NameofCity, and later there's dialogue between Mike and Jim (Or Myke and Jyym), I'll be able to remember that these are the same people.

But overall an enjoyable read nonetheless.  I had been skeptical after Book Two, but now I'll definitely keep reading to see what happens next.

4 Stars - A Really Good Book

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