Considering that a lot of classic fantasy genre tropes come from this period and region of history, perhaps that is a bit of an oversight on my part, one that reading Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series has helped me address. In fact, reading these books, combined with some thinking I've been doing recently about plotting, has led me to some interesting reflections. So while this is still a review of the series, I also want to talk a little about those thoughts.
In the previous two books in this series, a lot of time was spent bringing players into place and setting up introductions. There is plenty of action, but it all retains a fairly light touch - there is a sense that, although things are happening and changes are occurring, nothing really major has changed yet, and anything that has changed is not necessarily permanent. This is common in series, when you start to look at them holistically; it takes time and words to put all of the characters into the places they need to be for the plot to start really picking up. With The Stiehl Assassin, the plot definitely accelerates.
As I was reading this book, I was wrestling with a confusion that had nothing to do with its contents, and which I should seek to clarify. This book, sold in the US as Margaret of Anjou, is the same book as Trinity, the title under which it is sold in the UK. And now that we have that exceedingly minor point of confusion cleared up, we can get on with the rest of the review.
For a publishing site, there aren't really a whole lot of published works here on IGC. We have The Grounds Warden, which is just a stand-alone short story, and we have Zombies in a similar vein. Of course, we also have half a season of Blood Magic, with new episodes coming out at the end of each month. It's this last that I want to address, because I alternate between being excited about how well our library of Blood Magic stories is developing, and worried about how working on Blood Magic stories has led to drastically less work on my other projects.
There are a lot of last days of the month falling on a Tuesday or Thursday this year, or at least it seems that way, and while I haven't use all of them to talk about Blood Magic (which as you know releases a new episode on the last day of every month), I did want to do so this time, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it's been awhile since I posted about the series, and for another, this is the halfway point of the first season. Six episodes are now live, with six more to go to round out the first full season. So it seems worthwhile, at this point, to pause for a moment and take stock of where we're at in the series, both within the Blood Magic world, and in our own.
There's a lot of really good new fantasy on the market right now, but some of it can start to seem derivative, especially if you read a lot of fantasy. It's refreshing, therefore, to come across something new that is also original, and that was the case with The Lies of Locke Lamora, at least to an extent. It was definitely one of the more enjoyable and well-written fantasy books I've read in awhile.
This is our last review of a Cradle book, at least for awhile, since there aren't any more currently written. However, this is by no means the last book in the series, so I sincerely hope that Will Wight will be returning to finish the series soon. As amusing as it would be to be able to say that I read this book both first and last in the series, that mild amusement would not come close to balancing out the disappointment of not being able to find out how the series ultimately ends.
I came off of reading Ghostwater especially eager for this sequel, Underlord. Ghostwater provided a substantial amount of imaginative information about the deeper intricacies of the magic system, and I was hopeful that Underlord would give us the chance to see that new knowledge applied. Instead, Underlord gave us insight in an entirely different direction, involving the characters (and by extension us) in the fringes of world-wide political intrigue.
Of all seven Cradle books that have been released so far, Ghostwater was my favorite. This novel delivered on all of the promise that I perceived when I read the first book. It has the most robust character development of the series so far, digs into the technical details of the magic system, instead of just building out to the next level, and it gives insight into some fascinating aspects of the world and the story that have only been alluded to before. Perhaps most strikingly, it is drastically more imaginative than other books in the series, which is a testament more to the level of imagination involved here, than it is an insult to the imaginative level of the other books.
Looking back, I realize that I kind of blasted Blackflame. I stand by my critiques, but it really was a book worth reading, and I certainly wouldn't want its possible missteps to dissuade you from reading Skysworn, because this fourth book in the Cradle series was exactly what the series needed.