Monday, September 10, 2012

War Maid's Choice by David Weber

In this most recent book in the War God series by Weber, recently released, we see all of the traits that the author has become known for, especially in the Honor Harrington novels, but with some common threads with his Safehold series, as well. Weber makes a full shift to multi-threading of the plot lines, with Tomanak's Champion, Bahzell, not exactly taking a back seat, but getting nowhere near as much airtime as in earlier books. Interestingly, seven years have passed since the events in Windrider's Oath, and seven years have passed in our world, as well, since the last book was published.

The war maid in the title is Leanna, daughter of Baron Tellian, and one thread of the story begins with her returning home for her twenty-first birthday. She has slowly come to grips with the way that many of her old friends, fellow nobles, and her father's servants have treated her since she "disgraced" her family by becoming a war maid, and possibly the thing that has saved her from bitterness has been knowing that she has always had the unconditional love of her mother and father. One of her reasons for returning is to tell her mother about her desire to make her own love known to a very unconventional (for her culture) person, and let the chips fall where they may. Leanna also surprises us in some other ways; being chosen by a courser as a windrider and having her love affair blessed by a visit from gods Tomanak and Lillinara.

The evil wizard, Varnaythus, plays more than a cameo role in this story, as his incessant travels and plotting are highly detailed here. By the time we get to the climactic last 100 pages or so of the book, we begin to wonder how ever can our heroes escape his tightly woven web of treachery. And, indeed, some of our beloved characters pay a price at the end, though one of them puts in a strange Obi Wan Kenobi appearance after being killed by one of three devils summoned to this plane by one of the dark gods, Krashnark.

Varnaythus' plot to kill Baron Tellian and blame him for the simultaneous assassination of King Markhos, having sent a group of mercenaries to do the job, with a false trail laid leading to the Purple Lords, but Baron Cassan is scheduled to arrive just in time to kill all the witnesses and put his own spin on things, is enough to make your head spin. But Leanna, the War Maids, loyal Lord Trisu (who is a bit of a jerk in earlier novels, but demonstrates that personality traits don't necessarily override loyalty and competence), and the Quaysar Temple Guard manage to squish the pests in the end.

Another thing that really makes this a Weber-esque novel are the theme which we've seen before in Honor Harrington stories, is exploring the human  telepathic bonding with other sentient species; tree cats vs. coursers. Also, we see the same sort of Connecticut Yankee development that he writes about in the Safehold stories, except that the source of technology there is the android Merlyn Athawres, and in this story it is the dwarves who are inventing newer, faster, weapons with better alloy technology and building canals and light rail to move goods more quickly - Oh!, and a funicular, as well. Also, it's LONG - 596 pages, a typical Weber trait these days.

The conclusion of this book leaves us with a strong alliance between dwarves, Sothoii and hradani, the forces of the dark gods seriously weakened for a time, and rising enemies from those in surrounding lands who see their own prosperity threatened  by this new union between hereditory enemies. It will be interesting to see what develops next.

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