Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Tracato

Author: Joel Shepherd
Series: 3/4 in the Trial of Blood and Steel
Genre: Fantasy/Fiction
Pages: 347

Warnings: Torture, Death, Sex, War?
Rating: 3/5

Finally, something happens! The war that I've been expecting since the first book, Lenayin's invasion of the Saalshen Bachosh, has finally started! I feel like it certainly took long enough. On that note, one thing I noticed is that this book, unlike the previous two in the series, jumps right into the action. There is very little time spent on new character development, which seems fair. We already know all the main characters pretty well at this point.

Towards the beginning Sasha and Alythia arrive in Tracato (surprise surprise) at the beginning of the book, at we jump right into some complicated political turmoil in the city. For the first time, the concept of leadership that isn't hereditary is introduced to the reader, and thus there are actual political factions that aren't nobles of some kind. I think Shepherd has some entertaining commentary on rabid politics when he created the Civic Stein, an analogue of a Labor Party, who have a very legitimate beef regarding land ownership. Not without cause, he presents a world were politics is just has belief-laden as religion, which I completely agree with. It's why you're not supposed to talk politics or religion unless you want to fight.

In addition, Tracato has an Ulenshaal, the analogue to a University. I wouldn't really mind if Shepherd just used the same names we used, spelling of imaginary works is not my strong suit. Besides, I've always been suspicious that the more made up words a book has, the less likely it is to be good.

At this point there are several factions in Tracato: the Civic Stein and their many systematizers in Ulenshaal, the Tracato Officials the Judiciars and Blackboots (Judges and City Police), and the feudalists which are largely made up of formal noble families. Into all this mess steps Rhillian, who does pretty much the same thing she did in Petrodor: cause major upheaval and chaos, during which Sasha gets captured by one of the masses (Civic Stein in particular).

In addition, there is lots of military action all happening at once: the Rhodaan Steel, which are the Rhodaan nation's army (of which Tracato is a part), attack and conquer Elise, a neighboring nation, during the first half of the book. After which there is a bit of civil unrest in Tractao, and the Blackboot squelch this. During the final portion of the book the Lenayin army chills in Larosa while Sofy gets hitched, then travels to conquer Enora, the second nation of the Saalshen Bacosh that will have to be defeated, and the site of the most holy Verathane temple and the impetus of the entire war. Clearly, a lot of plot went and happened.

The pace of the first two books in the Trial of Blood and Steel was pretty forumlatic. The first half or so of the book was spent learning about the characters and building up to some sort of battle scenes that only pertained to the book, not the series. I felt Tracato completely skipped the introductions and started instead at the first set of book-specific battle scenes, in this case being the Tracato civil war. Then it jumped to the series-wide conflict, the Toravan/Lenayin invasion of Enora. I was personally pleased to see this focus on action and moving forward the overall plot of the series, and I preferred the way character development was strewn throughout the book. It felt much more realistic, and I didn't feel like I had to fulfill some sort of characterization quota (which is saying something, because I love Sasha). It just... felt a little better paced to me. I look forward to the finale! (it is the finale, right?)

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