David Weber, The Sword of the South. Baen, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher. (Ebook.)
I confess myself astonished to read, after many years, a David Weber novel that isn’t largely composed of technological exposition, talking heads, and battlefield set-pieces. The Sword of the South is a strong throwback to Weber’s Oath of Swords, and opens a new chapter in the story of Bahzell Bahnakson, champion of the war-god of the Light.
Some seventy years have passed since War Maid’s Choice, and the forces of the Dark are moving once again. Arrayed against them, for now? There’s a mysterious red-haired man who’s lost his memory (but who might be a great warleader plucked out of time), a thousand-year-old wizard with uncanny knowledge, a cross-dressing assassin… and Bazhell. We’ve got a good old-fashioned sword and sorcery fetchquest here: go find and reclaim the Object of Power (a sword, natürlich) from the fortress of the Evil Wizard, who’s a pawn of the Even Eviller Wizards across the sea. (And for the first time in a while Weber’s written a villain who strikes one as understandable and even almost admirable in her self-honesty – although I might like her better because she doesn’t go chundering on about politics like most of his previous ones.)
I’ve got a giant soft spot for well-done sword and sorcery, and even though I think the most interesting characters in the whole book were shuffled off to the side very early, this is still a lot of fun. More smashing things! Fewer talking heads! Definitely better than I expected!