There is an old Klingon proverb that states: “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold” (or at least Khan claims that, even though apparently the saying originated in 1841 in the book “Mathilde” by Eugène Sue). It basically means that it is better when carefully planned and prepared. What is the cost of vengeance? And when does the quest for justice cross the line to vengeance?
This seems to be a major them in this, the second novel in the Tales of Mantica series. Ashal, a young Naiad, and her placoderm bodyguard Magadolon find themselves betrayed and outcast from their society, unable to return to the home the watery Trident Realms beneath the waves. Ashal swears vengeance and thus her journey begins.
The book takes place on the borders the Hegemony of Basilea, and shares some similarities with the first book of the series. Basilea is one of the few ‘good’ kingdoms in Mantica, but even though the angels (Elohi) come down to fight alongside the human knights and sisterhood, there seem to be many there who practice the pure letter of the law while subverting and twisting it to their own evil purpose. In addition, the desire to fight against the oppressive regime for the good of the common people can often mean making very difficult choices – and at what point to do the planned ends justify the means to get there?
For a book based on a mass combat wargame, there are surprising few battles within (not a fault at all, as I personally rarely enjoy most fight scenes (and did not enjoy as much the book of short stories in the series, that seemed to be all setups for battles). Instead it is much more character driven, digging into what drives both the heroes and antagonists.
Some of the characters are not as fully fleshed out as I would have liked, and too many times it seems that we hear someone saying they are doing this for a better purpose, but then fail to ever attempt to show or even explain what that better purpose might be.
There are some good surprises in the book, and some unexpected revelations. (Ok, the fact that Naiads are all female is not really a revelation (it is right there in the third edition book), but it was still a surprise to me (since I haven’t finished reading all the fluff in the afore mentioned book). Not all characters are what they seem.
Overall an enjoyable read, and it did leave me wanting to know more about the future of at least one of the characters. It has also given me an idea (an inspiration) for a new army modelling project (though not what you might think). I do look forward to seeing what Stoddard does next.
Because it is all fun and games . . .