Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Coffee Trader by David Liss

While I enjoyed Peter V. Brett's novels in the Demon Cycle, I'm loath to order the next book and wait for it in the mail. Especially when I had dozens if not hundreds of books waiting to be read. Especially when there is another book or two after that third novel that hasn't even been released yet!

Among those is The Coffee Trader by David Liss, homepage here. It's worth a look at if you're a fan of historical fiction or comics. Yeah, that's right, David Liss writes comics as well. Sheesh.

I'm mentioned David Liss before, for example, the Whiskey Rebels, and he's a fantastic historical author. I find a lot of things to think about in terms of how the world was, how it is, and how those things can be applied to a role playing game.

For example, while I'm nowhere near finished with the Coffee Trader, there are numerous bits talking about the plight of Jews.

There is the terror of being a hidden Jew. One that has to do everything relating to its religion in secret and fear the Inquisition coming for them. One problem here is that because the Catholic Church gets your property and possessions if you're convicted of being a Jew, that prosperous merchants fall to the Inquisition even when they are not Jewish.

Another problem reveals itself, in talking about who to tell your faith to. I mention this because one of the ladies in the novel doesn't know she's Jewish until she's married off. Her father and family were worried that she would be too much like her mother and have a tendency to gossip which would result in the family being killed. So for her, being a Catholic who hates Jews is all she's ever known her whole life.

That makes an interesting character. Where one's training and background have all followed one path her entire life only to be told, "Well, that's not the truth." Even her 'real' name is different. The potential for character moments are high there.

In addition to the outside persecution though, there is still internal strife. When the characters feel they have a 'safe haven', they are taken in by the Jews of Amsterdam but then have to follow all of the laws of those Jewish tradition holders or be thrown out of the community. This leads some of the merchants and traders to do business in places out of the way, where they will not be seen by members of their community.

Now that's also role playing potential. Not only is there the risk of being spotted by members of your own faith and community and being thrown out for it, there's risk in putting yourself into those situations where no one from your faith or tribe can help you. In those out of the way locations, who knows what could happen.

The Coffee Trader is so far enjoyable and I'll probably have another post about it later. The role of faith and ethnicity and the merchant  background that David Liss brings the reader into are so far compelling and enjoyable while being thought provoking at the same time.