WARLORDA novel by Jennifer Fallon
(2005, TOR Books)
The Hythrun Chronicles: Wolfblade Trilogy, book 3
Damin gathers his allies on the eve of war with a neighboring country, Marla aims to finish things with her nemesis, and a province tries to cope with its insane regent.
-- First reading (ebook)
The end of this trilogy had many unexpected twists and turns, and was quite enjoyable, night after night. I always looked forward to continuing the story, as things Damin expected were turned on their sides. The story was more straightforward than the previous two, and focused mostly on Damin, and the events and people he had to overcome to achieve his goal in defeating the invaders, though my one complaint is that the whole trap was executed exactly as it was laid out beforehand, without any real twists. Marla's plan to defeat her nemesis was also enjoyable, but much more predictable. If anything, I found Alija to be an inept villain, in the end. Damin's final moment of triumph is taken from him in an unexpected way, which was a nice way to end the trilogy.Spoiler review:
I'm almost sad to finish this book, as I quite enjoy this author's style, and I really enjoyed the characters -much more, I think, than the Demon Child Trilogy characters.
I did feel a little lost at the beginning of this story, as the things that were talked about at the end of Warrior were not even discussed for a long time. Of course, there are huge communication delays in this world, because all news has to travel by horseback, and most cities are still closed due to the plague, which seems to be in recession.But Damin travels to the province that borders Fardhonya, which has two passes across the mountains to that country. There he encounters a challenge to his authority, in the form of his brother Narvel. I like the way the brains behind Damin's own intelligence is Tejay. As a woman, she has a different perspective than Damin, and is able to look at the whole picture, and give unique solutions. Plus, she is changing the culture, even more than Marla did. Even though she is laughed at by all the men, she still believes she can be a better warlord than any of them.
Narvel comes with his own set of problems -he's sleeping with the wife of a baron who gave him shelter while he waited for Damin. Damin delays any resolution stating that only the High Prince can rule on the affair. When they reach Sunrise province, they find the reason Tejay left her husband to begin with. It seems he is an inept warlord and a mean man. When Damin sends him out to check on one of the mountain passes, he is killed by an avalanche, one sparked by Brak the Halfbreed to reduce the scope of the war and deny the god of war any chance at growing stronger.
The politics of Greenharbor was always fun, but the open war between Marla and Alija wasn't as interesting as I had hoped it would be. Marla keeps the dwarf's death a secret, but hires an assassin to kill Alija's slave. Alija knows the laws about the High Prince leading the army, so she makes the suggestion to Lernen, who agrees! This a huge blow to the war effort, but Damin handles it very well. While Alija is anticipating a huge embarrassment and maybe even the deaths of Lernen and Damin, as is her son, a warlord in his own right, Damin makes it sound like Lernen made all the suggestions, and makes him look like a genius, even though everyone knows Damin is behind it. What they don't know is that Tejay is also behind it, guiding Damin and pushing him hard for her own security.
When the battle begins, Tejay disguises herself as her dead husband in a suit of armor, leading the Fardhonian troops into a trap. It was well-written and enjoyable, but I thought the author should not have discussed the trap so openly if it was going to happen again exactly as it was described. It was effective, but I would normally expect something to go wrong at some point. In the end, the Fardhonian general surrenders after Damin sneaks up on him, after the trap is sprung and the Fardhonians are effectively defeated.
King Hablet of Fardhonia doesn't get to do much in this story. He worries about his eldest daughter as usual, as she takes a fancy to his new general. Hablet is paranoid enough to believe that if his daughter married the general, the warrior would be a great threat to his throne. But the war ends in disgrace anyway, so it doesn't really matter in the end.
Marla actually gets to worry about something other than her kids in this book. A high-ranking member of the assassin's guild has taken an interest in her, physically. He has a kind of magnetism that seems to make all women irresistible to him, and Marla falls for him, too. It's something that I think men have trouble believing and understanding, but I am led to believe it is a realistic effect. But Galon is also sleeping with Alija, something Marla uses against both of them. She finds a way to bring him into her world when Wrayan arrives, and mind-scans him. Then they begin to plot...
The plot was very confusing, and hard to believe. But Alija doesn't see through it, even when Galon tells her about it, as a plot within a plot. While she believes Marla wants her to implicate herself in the Fardhonian invasion, she angrily confesses to killing Ronan Dell back in the first book, as well as the head of the Sorcerer's collective at the end of it, and a whole bunch of other crimes, before Wrayan kills her silently, placing himself inside her mind. In the end, she feels like an ineffective villain. Waiting twelve years for a plan to take fruition in Warrior? Not taking advantage of all the information she got out of Elezaar at the end of that book? Falling for such a trap? I didn't feel that her machinations were all that interesting.
The assassin's guild still wants payment for services rendered when Marla had Nash killed, which was to be a son, but of course Marla can't give one away. After Alija is killed, she surrenders to Galon's seductions and offers to marry him. Since his son is already promised to the assassin's guild, her payment can be considered met.
Back in Krakandar, Starros is waking up the reality that his soul was sold to the god of thieves, Mahkas is crippled after Damin attacked him last book, and is paranoid that Damin will come to steal "his" city. Because Damin was so respectful of Lernen and won the battle against the Fardohnian, the High Prince granted him his wish to lower the age of majority, allowing him and several others to become warlords, making Mahkas' fears come true.
Xanda, Damin's half-brother and husband to Luciena, who was to be Alija's trap in the last book, is effectively in control, but has to appease his uncle. Mahkas won't open the city gates, nor send Damin support troops. Starros, fully bent on revenge, decides to give his new god a thrill, by stealing the population of Krakandar out from under the regent's nose. And he succeeds, thanks to the thieves' guild and several other guilds in the city. But when Damin arrives, he finds Mahkas already dead. It was his wife who killed him, with hundreds of little stab wounds. She finally realized, after Mahkas effectively killed their daughter, that she knew all his secrets. She figured out that he killed his sisters back in Wolfblade, and even Damin's father, and plenty of other smaller secrets. The news didn't affect Damin as I thought it would, but maybe because Mahkas was already dead.
The only problem I had with the end to this particular storyline was the way Wrayan said he couldn't prevent her suicide after she killed her husband, citing that he couldn't make somebody do something they didn't want to do -no coercion. But Rorin picked up the baron and held him upside down in a pub when he became hostile. Why couldn't Wrayan, much more powerful, have just lifted her up and put her down in a safe place?
As always, there were a myriad other smaller plots, which really filled out the book and the culture. Most of these were personalities, and made it a lot of fun to read. I would pick up other books by this author, as she writes a rich world full of interesting characters.
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