April 30, 2009

Esther M. Friesner's The Sword of Mary: A Sequel

I posted earlier about the book Psalms of Herod, and generally didn't come away from it with a good impression. The main detraction is that it is not a self-contained book. It just ends, abruptly. It was just by chance that I picked up the sequel, The Sword of Mary: A Sequel (at least the title makes that clear.) I had heard good things about the two books on tor.com in the comments of some thread, and so I picked them up. If you only have the first book though, I think you would be very disappointed. It just ends, halfway through. It would be like you started reading The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Part 1) and then that was it. Over. Frodo and Sam break off from the party and head to Mordor on their own with clearly nothing resolved and a lot left to happen. But that is where it ends. So be sure you pick up the second book if you do start this two book series.

That might be easier said than done though: it looks like it is a hard book to get your hands on. I'm conflicted on these two books because they deal very seriously with sexuality, power, sexism, politics and the judiciary (more in the second book than the first) and religion as a foundation for social order. These aren't fluffy summer-reading topics, and a lot of the world described in the books is grim and downright depressing. I think they are interesting in that it highlights some issues with blindly following through with tradition without thinking and analyzing it, but the two books seem a bit on the salacious side. I have to admit though that I did enjoy the story and by the end was rooting for the (initially quite annoying) protagonist. Friesner has also done a very nice job of world-building; she obviously put a lot of thought into the economics, politics, and control structures of her world. She doesn't go in depth into the history of her world, but it is hinted at, and I like how you get the feeling that there is the thought and complexity behind the world in the books.

The ending of Mary's Sword is also a bit abrupt, but is satisfying. I did enjoy the story though, and while I had a tough time getting into Psalms of Herod, The Sword of Mary picked up a lot quicker. It should though, because it already had an entire book to set it up!

So, a mixed review. If you invested time in Psalms of Herod though, you really should finish it out with The Sword of Mary.



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