Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Review: Republic

Republic by Lindsay Buroker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there's a word that characterises Lindsay Buroker's books, and especially her Emperor's Edge books, it's "reliable". You know pretty much what you're going to get: always something going on, multiple viewpoint characters, each of whom has self-doubt about something different and worries about what other people think of them and what other people mean by what they say and do, a fairly complex plotline in which the Empire (or, now, the Republic) is in peril, a bit of magic, some technology, fights, Amaranthe talking people into going along with her, Sicarius being hard to read, Maldynado wearing silly hats, hair's breadth escapes...

It's not easy to write books in which the plot is always moving along and, at the same time, the characters are developing and reflecting on events, but because of the tight third-person way this author writes, and the distinctive points of view of the characters, she consistently achieves it. I don't remember ever hitting an infodump, and yet the world is also consistently developing and opening out.

That's the positive. On the downside, the plots can also involve unlikely and convenient coincidences, especially when the main characters are getting hold of information that lets them know that there's some action to be taken. It does help to keep things moving (they're not doing tedious investigation work very often), but it's blatantly unlikely. I complained about this convenience in the first book, and again in the previous book, and here it is again, not once but twice. I'm also fairly sure that the technology works in ways that are highly unlikely or outright impossible - particularly the electricity underwater - although at least in this one I didn't notice any moments of outright unlikely human biology. (Some of the previous volumes have had the characters recovering suspiciously quickly, but this is an action trope, after all.)

The plant biology, now, that's unlikely. A three-inch cutting of a plant with no source of nourishment grows a foot and a half overnight (there's an odd mix of traditional and metric measurement, by the way).

This particular volume is long, but it never drags. It has multiple viewpoint characters: Sicarius the assassin, Amaranthe, Admiral Starcrest's wife and daughter, and Maldynado. Basilard, from Amaranthe's old crew, is also present, but isn't a viewpoint character and doesn't do much, and his love interest is barely a character at all. She doesn't get a name or any lines until nearly the end, and she's there solely to be his love interest. Not every character can be fully developed, I suppose.

Basilard is also the occasion of another unlikeliness. I don't care how good you are at languages, spending one day with a person during which a few conversations are translated for you will not make you fluent in their sign language, and will especially not give you advanced vocabulary for subjects that were never discussed at that time. It's a trope, I know, used to avoid tedium, but it still annoys me.

The editing standard in this volume appears to have dropped. I made 55 marks in my Kindle for typos, homophone errors (lots of those), punctuation glitches, continuity problems and unlikelinesses of one kind or another. I'll pass these on to the author, as I usually do, so expect most of them to be fixed soon, but if I found that many there'll be others I missed.

Overall, an enjoyable, but not outstanding, addition to an entertaining series, which achieves this mainly by delivering more of the same. If you love the series, by all means read it.

I received a free copy of the book from the author as thanks for a previous review.

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