Monday, 21 January 2019

Review: The Philosopher's War

The Philosopher's War The Philosopher's War by Tom Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

War is always stupid and tragic, but I've always thought of World War I as particularly stupid and tragic, possibly because both of my grandmothers lost brothers in it. I wouldn't normally read a book set in WWI, as a result, but I enjoyed the first book in this series so much that I couldn't pass it by. (It was the best book I read in 2017.)

This one didn't disappoint. Here we have Robert Weekes again, 19 years old, sole male flyer in the Rescue and Evacuation Corps (in a world where women have more powerful magic, and drawing sigils in corn powder mixed with sand enables people to fly). He has to contend not only with the hazing and prejudice he suffers as an anomalous interloper, but also with the horrors of war, and with a plan to involve him in a mutiny to prevent the war being won through biological warfare that will kill millions. He has to constantly choose between his lover and his comrades, his duty and his conscience. It comes close to tearing him apart before the end.

I will say, it's a very American view of WWI; the Americans win the war, and the British and Commonwealth (and French) troops go mostly or entirely unmentioned.

One thing I did appreciate, however, was that the morally correct but legally dubious actions of the central characters gain them official displeasure, censure, and punishment (though not as much as early hints led me to expect), and that it's based in large part on powerful men's dislike of the existence of powerful women. The religious extremists who were such a key part of the first book are only briefly referred to in this one, but there's always the awareness that if they handle matters badly, the conspirators will not only draw down dire consequences on themselves, but on others like them.

A coming of age in a terrible set of circumstances, with strong and varied action sequences that mean something emotionally rather than just being there for decoration, and constant inner conflict to match the outer conflict that fuels and drives it. It's wonderfully written, too, and I look forward eagerly to the next in the series.

I received a pre-publication copy from Netgalley for review.

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