Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review: Tales of the Left Hand, Book 2

Tales of the Left Hand, Book 2
Tales of the Left Hand, Book 2 by John Meagher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this, though less so than the first book.

One of the problems with Book 2 of a fantasy series that's planned to be at least a trilogy is that it can contract Two Towers Syndrome, and be about people moving around and getting in position for the next book. We've had our introductions in Book 1, now Book 2 is "people travelling and their adventures along the way".

There are plenty of adventures along the way here, though they take a little while to get started. There are sword fights and a ship chase and a murderous bigot and desperate magic that goes horribly wrong. I'm not saying the story wasn't exciting, just that it was more transitional than it was conclusive.

The other thing I wasn't so keen on was the worldbuilding. I'm not a fan of the worldbuilding approach where the author takes whole Earth cultures - or the stereotypes about them - and just uses them unaltered. It annoyed me a little in the first book, but there it was mainly the accents and names of the people from various islands - there was a German one, a French one and so forth. (I'm listening to the Podiobooks version, narrated by the author, and different accents is part of how he distinguishes the characters. His voice work is very good, by the way.)

Here, though, we have a captain from the "French" culture, and he actually drops French words into his speech (and is a wine snob). We have a "Caribbean" character, as well, who speaks in a wince-inducing patois and wears dreadlocks. (He also, for some reason, speaks about himself in the third person, always an irritating habit in a character.) He comes within about an inch of being a Magical Negro, in fact, though the usual fate of the black character is barely averted by another trope: magical ability discovered under pressure.

So, less successful than Book 1, for me. Still, it's a good adventure yarn at its core, and I'll stick with it for Book 3.

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