So Tower of Silence, the fourth of five in Larry Correia’s Saga of the Forgotten Warrior, is out, and Larry promises that there’s only going to be five books, so yay. It’s a really good book, in a really good series, and I recommend it AND THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR BOOKS SO FAR, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. SotFW is some of Correia’s very best work so far—a work that plays to his strengths (action scenes, over the top violence, strong and violent men, strong and sometimes violent women, unexpectedly detailed worldbuilding, and snarky humor), while also building on them. Correia started out with the schlocky Monster Hunter International, a gory and brainless homage to a) B-grade monster movies, b) guns.
He’s gotten so much better since then, and Saga of the Forgotten Warrior showcases that growth. So the action scenes in this book/series are never pointless or excessive; the violence either exhilarating, shocking, or deeply satisfying; his characters, male and female, have depth, intelligence, and personalities that develop and expand as they move through the world and face the challenges that plot and life throw at them. And apparently his world has fractional reserve banking, so….I’ma say he indeed put some thought into the worldbuilding. Crucially, he doesn’t waste audience goodwill by including detailed scenes of financial analysis—but the world of Lok does have an authenticity about it when the characters discuss the economies of rebellion, war, and wholesale genocide.
And despite that last sentence, there’s also a healthy current of dark but snarky humor throughout.
There’s also several heartbreaking deaths and plenty of nauseating ones.
SPOILERS COMMENCE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
One of the things that always bugs the hell out of me in a certain genre of fantasy is EVERYONE BLOODY HAVING TO TRAVEL FROM POINT A TO POINT B, ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. Just because JRR Tolkien did it doesn’t mean you have to, too, and it drives me bonkers when other authors use “travelogue” to substitute for “plot.” Other books in this series have had that tendency, to a degree. This one mostly doesn’t (Ashok not initially being on the correct continent is the only exception). Correia has managed to place his characters, mostly, where they physically need to be, and lets the plot proceeds with, around, and occasionally over their dead bodies.
One of the other things that Correia does is write a very satisfying book. Because his characters are multi-dimensional and intelligent, their actions lead very logically to consequences–some of them planned, some of them unforeseen but predictable to the readers because this is how the world and stories set in this world logically work. Even better, some of the consequences might not have been explicitly predicted by the readers, but fit within the rules provided. So, after we have been shown that magical communications can occur best when communicants embed their messages on adjacent demon bones, and that the Inquisition is harvesting their bones from a captive demon held in a massive tank beneath their headquarters, [SPOILERS] Omand eventually finds that all messages that have ever been sent using that creature’s bones are known to it. Omand is intelligent, lusts for power, and has absolutely no limits when it comes to increasing his power, but he has several significant blind spots when it comes to the actions of other people–or beings–who also have no limits. (Hence always underestimating Ashok.)
The other part of why this book is so satisfying to read is that the characters are intelligent, competent, and largely proactive. The plot is a series of moves and countermoves by people who have clearly defined goals and ambitions. Thera wants to save the casteless. Bharatas wants revenge on Ashok Vadal. Jagdish wants to keep his family safe and the honor of House Vadal intact. Rada wants to undo the harm she has done by forging reports leading to genocide. Ashok wants to get back home and protect the Prophet. Devedas wants power. Omand wants unlimited power. The demons want unlimited revenge. Each of these characters works to get what they want.
As far as wordsmithing goes, it’s competent and brisk. Correia knows what he’s good at, and improves on what he’s not.
And we already have discussed the action scenes. They’re great.
SPOILERS COMMENCE: PLOT SUMMARY
So I’ve reviewed Son of the Black Sword and House of Assassins, books 1 and 2, but failed to review book 3, Destroyer of Worlds. This is because while SotBS and HoA were fairly self-contained stories with satisfying conclusions, Destroyer of Worlds ends on a downer note-slash-cliffhanger. The Great Extermination has begun and Ashok is out of commission as far as leading the rebellion goes. As a matter of fact, he’s just washed up on the shores of Fortress after having had his throat cut in a duel and falling into an icy river.
Book 4 opens with Ashok still out of commission, after having been imprisoned in the deepest dungeons of Fortress / Xhonura for almost a year. Unlike the rest of Lok, the people of Xhonura do remember the prophesies about the return of Ramrowan—but there are many pretenders, and the easiest way of dealing with them is to see if they can survive the sort of conditions that Ramrowan could have. Unfortunately, even when proof of the prophecy’s fulfilment is presented to them (and their current tyrant meets, uh, the end that comes to those who piss off Ashok Vadal), Xhonura itself is still politically divided and unready to take action to support their Avatara. And support is very necessary, because Thera has decided that Sons of the Black Sword need to strike a decisive blow against Capitol and the Great Extermination.—and in her council, the right-hand man of her priest and chief advisor, is Javed, a spy for the Inquisition.
Meanwhile, the chief Inquisitor, Omand, starts to leverage his position with the demon he has kept captive and tortured beneath the Inquisitors’ Dome: in return for the deaths of the blood of Ramrowan—all the blood of Ramrowan—power. Thing is, despite Omand’s cunning and intelligence having brought him so far, he’s still quite blind in certain vital ways.
Also meanwhile, our other heroine, the ex-Librarian Rada has been warned by the black steel artifact of which she has been made keeper. She, her Protector bodyguard Karno, and their host and friend Jagdish, must heed this warning if they are to survive…for there really are powers greater than man at work in the world of Lok, and they have decided to move.
Oh, also, there is one hell of an “uh oh, uh oh, oh shit!” cliffhanger ending here.
Rated: “You bear my name. For I am the witch.“
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