schneefink: River walking among trees, from "Safe" (Default)
[personal profile] schneefink
I finished the Inda series :)

Book 3, King's Shield:
Inda finally goes home! We did not see Evred's reaction to hearing that Inda is coming home, boo.
And everyone loves him immediately, even though they haven't seen him in years. At least Tdor realizes that it's kind of silly since she doesn't really know this current him.

Evred is being a bit stupid, but where are his advisors? Poor guy. He's an inexperienced leader, he was never raised to be king, his father and brother and uncles are dead, the older Jarls are either untrustworthy or not available, the younger nobles don't have more experience than he does and he doesn't seem to consult them either... That does not seem like a sustainable form of government! (The former Harskialdna probably set it up this way on purpose.) No wonder he clings to Inda. He remembers Inda as the guy who always came up with brilliant plans, and from all he heard about Inda's adventures with the pirates, Inda is a far more experienced leader and commander than he is. That does not mean he should commit his entire army to a plan Inda made in a few days, before Inda even re-learned land warfare, without consulting other people. Yes, it did turn out that speed was of the essence, but iirc they did not know that when they set out. Inda could have overlooked something obvious because of his inexperience, with bad results.

Almost no Jeje in this book :( A very brief period of Tau/Jeje, nice, but then Jeje leaves (without even saying goodbye to Inda!) and we don't hear from her again for the entire book. Which was really shitty toward Tau, and also unnecessary: she could have not told him anything about what she was doing but still at least replied, so he knew she wasn't dead on the bottom of the ocean somewhere. I'd hoped the magic on her communication device had stopped working or something, so that she had a good reason. I was hoping for a lot more Jeje, first in this book and then in the next, but now I'm mad at her.
At least she did find Tau's mom! I look forward to that one. Tau as Inda's first Runner was great, and I loved Tau seducing Evred (and then disappearing, because he's good at reading people and knew how Evred would otherwise react.)

I started to like Signi more in this book, but I still wish there were more descriptions of Venn culture because I can't imagine them at all. Nor am I all that interested in them, tbh.

Inda does become Evred's Harskialdna :) I did like that at the end of the book we saw proof that Evred can say no to him sometimes. Eventually they'll work very well together, in peace-time too. They both have a lot to learn, especially Inda. He did think of using the pirate treasure, but of course it's not quite that easy (also Fox won't be happy.)

Unfortunate side-effect, Branid becomes Jarl of Choraed-Elgaer, which wouldn't be so bad if not for Dannor Tya-Vayir. She only appears in maybe two chapters, but she's the worst kind of villain, and I don't look forward to the kind of trouble she could cause in the next book at all (probably I would be less worried if the next book didn't have "treason" in the title.)

The battle was okay, though I did get more confused than usual with so many different groups and terrain issues etc. The two hundred women holding the castle against the army for days was super cool if tragic, and I liked the girls fleeing too.


Book 4, Treason's Shore:
What a ride. I finished this book right before I had to leave the house and unsurprisingly I had trouble shaking it off to think about other things. Whew. That did not end the way I expected.

We finally saw more of Venn culture, better late than never. The dags were okay, I was even a little bit interested in Durasnir and his family, they did their best in a terrible situation. (Also, does no other country have mages? Even if they are all neutral, would they not react if the Venn suddenly started to use magic in battle?)

The main part of this book covers several years, and it took me a little while to adjust to the switches from from several chapters happening in the course of a few days to several months happening in one chapter and back again, but overall it worked. It does mean that there are several long months that are pretty open to imagination, like the several months while Inda is in the north and Tau sleeps with both Evred and Hadand, several months while Tau is in Bren and Evred refuses to write back to him at first, etc. This book has so many interesting characters & I enjoyed almost every PoV, though I was also occasionally annoyed that I could not spend as much time as I wanted with my favorites, or not the time periods I wanted. Inevitable with such a large cast and long timespan though.

The ending of the fight against the Venn seemed a bit, hm, random, after all the set-up. Rajnir fighting free by himself at the exact right time and escaping with the help of Durasnir's son, fine, but then being fished out of the water by Inda at the exact right time? That was very sudden. Looking back, Inda not bringing back his head despite orders to do so (iirc) is probably foreshadowing for what happened after.

Evred in this book… He's just so unhappy all the time. It was set up in earlier books, but I was hoping it would get better, not worse. Thinking to his unborn son "do not be like me," ouch. He's afraid of his own feelings&actions so he controls himself all the time, keeps himself distant from everyone, even reads private messages from Fox to Inda, the one person he trusts (and when he confesses to Inda Inda doesn't seem to care, heh. And really, Inda forgot about communicating with Fox because of one fit of temper? Wtf.) He does sleep with Tau for a while, allows himself at least some release of tension, but as we didn't hear that much about the Dei family before, him sending Tau away partly because he finds out about his family seems like an overreaction out of anxiety. And then it takes him months to even write back. He has issues.

Speaking of Tau, the reveal about his mom(s) would have made a bigger impact if the Dei family had been set up earlier/better, as it was there wasn't enough context imo. (Tau too left without saying goodbye to Inda, btw, just like Jeje did – is Inda so terrible at goodbyes, or are Tau and Jeje? Probably a combination of both.) I guess it did give him an advantage as a diplomat.
Tau's kind of… reluctant fascination and lust and later complicated feelings for Evred are great. Him writing to Evred via Inda just to make Evred laugh was cute. Tau thinking about "civilizing" Evred seems a tad condescending (though I can see where he's coming from and what he probably meant), but it's probably part of, how Jeje put it, Tau needs (or at least wants) to be needed. Of course he feels that he's failed him, after. Tau never considered himself Marlovan, but he did get an important job from the king and would be considered to be under his authority, at least by Marlovans. I can't see it happening (maybe if Barend hadn't been able to go?) but I'm curious what would have been if Tau had accompanied Inda back to the royal city. It probably wouldn't have changed much. Or if Tau had returned at some point in the next years.

I really liked the big conflict between Inda (&Tau&other friends) and Evred near the end. It's an interesting question and both positions are understandable. No wonder Evred doesn't comprehend other (smaller) kingdom's political positions in this case, no one ever taught him, and he has no competent advisors in this matter. If he'd been there and Inda and Tau could have shown him around, I'm pretty sure they could have convinced him, and they would have had a better chance if they could've just spoken in person, but instead they relied on very short pieces of written communication, nicely portrayed how frustrating that was on top of everything. I also really liked that Evred did ask Hadand and Tdor etc. to help him understand Inda and Tau's views, and that they couldn't either because they, like Evred, just had completely different experiences of how political realities work. And to be fair what Inda and Tau were trying was built more on hope and optimism than experience.

So then Inda went against orders, and rode back to submit himself to Evred's judgment, no matter what, even if that meant a painful death :) Even better than with Miles&Gregor because it was a legitimate conflict and not a misunderstanding. I loved it. (Even if I was a bit sad that Inda couldn't stay his Harskialdna.)

The ending after that, though, was pretty quick and not quite satisfying. Inda gets a good ending, and I was happy for him – he even got to go home and be Adaluin in Choraed Elgaer :) Evred, however, spent the next 40+ years as king in the royal city, and from what little we got I'm not really optimistic that he found many moments of happiness during that time. His sons seem nice but they don't have much in common, he has one daughter-in-law that he likes and one he dislikes (was making the future queen terrible really necessary -.-), he does have Hadand as a close friend, and presumably other friends but apparently nobody who's close enough that he says goodbye before leaving. That's just so sad. And he never liked being king either, he gave it up as soon as he could, probably the one thing he enjoyed wherever he could was working in the archives and then he can't even enter the morvende archives again. I loved that Tau met him there and they'll travel together, that part was great. But that takes so many years! At least they were peaceful, but still.
I understood that Inda and Evred at least communicated somewhat: Evred sent letters, Inda presumably a few if probably not many, and Inda does return to the royal city later once a year when is son is there. But nothing like their earlier closeness. Inda saw Fox a few times and probably exchanged irregular letters with Tau, who maybe passed on greetings by Jeje or maybe she too wrote a letter once a year, and Tau and Evred probably didn't have any contact.
I was very glad to find a What Happened After overview on the author's homepage, and even Tau/Evred post-canon fic that she apparently wrote herself. The overview at least gives some more information about what happened to other characters (though I consider none of it strictly canon.)


What I also really liked about all four books, btw, is that not only are queer people everywhere, but there's also a big variety of romantic & sexual relationships, and marriage & romance & sex may be connected, but do not have to be.

In general: I like (most of) the characters a lot and their relationships, I like many tropes that appear & are well executed, and I enjoyed reading the whole series a lot :) Especially from the second book onward.
You might like these books if you enjoy close friendships, close friendships across hierarchy steps, loyalty themes, stories about kingdoms and/or pirates with battles and alliances, romance stories that tie in nicely with everything else without dominating, queer stories, people trying hard to do their best and sometimes failing, a little bit of cool magic but not too much, some other things that I'm forgetting right now; and if you don't mind a slow beginning to the series, an omniscient narrator and frequent PoV switches (give it a try if you're unsure, it works well imo), a main character with some Mary Sue qualities that it might take you a while to warm up to, not overly graphic but still serious depictions of the consequences of battle and war, and probably some other things that I'm forgetting right now. (Writing recs is hard, ask if you want more details, warnings etc.)

Date: 2017-05-07 03:17 pm (UTC)
naye: robin from one piece reading, with the words "book love" (book love)
From: [personal profile] naye
Oh man the book hangover from this series was fierce for me. To the point where I couldn't bring myself to leave the world and read a bunch of Sherwood Smith's other Sartorias-Deles books, even if they are different in tone (YA) and content (romance & adventure with much less queer representation).

Yeah, there's a lot of sadness in these books, especially for poor Evred who makes a real mess of his own emotional life but at least keeps his kingdom from ruin...? Also he didn't have Inda horribly executed, so there's always that! And he does get a very belated happy ending with Tau, which I thought was lovely. ♥ (And how sweet isn't it that Tau and Jeje and Dasta became a stable triad with joint kids and everything? So sweet.)

But I was expecting much worse, and am glad that I mostly bawled my eyes out for minor characters that I wasn't quite as attached to as those I'd known from the time they were kids. (I bawled my eyes out a lot in the reading of this. Like. Made my wife worry!) And I'm so glad Inda and Tdor finally made it back to the home of their hearts, and made it a good place again. For some reason that really got me in my sweet spot - as does the idea of Gramma Tdor finally seeing the world and having adventures and inspiring little girls. ♥

But OH YES. The casual queerness; the way relationships could be of all configurations and leave people happy (or at least trying to be happy while dealing with their own jealousy rather than trying to sabotage a relationship partner/rival) is one of the things I adore about these books. Breaking out of the rigid modern husband/wife dyad and views on sexual monogamy (and the requirement to be sexually active to be fulfilled as a human) is SO NICE?! I'm just queer, not poly, but I love seeing a world that actually represents a wide range of the human experience of desire, love and partnership.

Also the books have a LOT of women supporting each other, which always makes me happy. ♥

And finally - Inda as a character on the autism spectrum also makes me happy, because it's unusual to see that portrayed in such a positive, accepting light.

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