Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte

The Singing Sword
Written by Jack Whyte
Published by Tor
$17.99 paperback ($12.93 Amazon)
560 pages (mass market paperback version)

The Singing Sword is book two in the Camulod  Chronicles, following immediately after the events of The Skystone. Told in first person by Pubius Varrus who with his good friend and brother in law, Caius Britannicus, the duo continue to advance their dream of creating "The Colony" which will retain the best and truest essence of all that was good of Rome, even as Rome continues its slow slide into oblivion.

The biggest problem with the Singing Sword is Jack's editor. There are whole swathes of the book that could have been cut with little effect to the flow or function of the remainder of the story. Pages are spent on Pubius' lust for a woman who torments him with her "wicked ways" that leads into a bit where the Colony then decides they must deliberately strive for greater community. The whole striving for greater community could have been handled without the whole "torment" section.

Jack Whyte could have taken those pages to discuss how the Colony fared when their stores were burned by someone seeking vengeance against them for example.

When looking at most modern movies, the "main" bad guy shows up in one movie. This is usually because once that villain is introduced and his role done, he's no longer needed. Another villain can be brought in. Sadly, Jack no new menace here. Instead Jack brings back the villain from last book without change. As that villain came from a huge family, the author could have introduced a relative of said villain, a relative, whose whole family already hates Britannicus as established in the previous book. A feud going back generations even.

The good new is that Jack's writing is easy to power through in situation that might not be of interest to the reader. The first person narration allows the action to move quickly and after a few eye rolling incidents, I found things progressing in the actual story and plot.

Pubius and his people strive to usher in the future age of Arthur. They are allies of the Celts and marriages take place that strength the bonds of the former Romans, now calling themselves Britons, and the Celts. The Empire of Rome continues its crumbling. The Celts are slowly, very slowly, starting to use yew longbows of great pull, a direct nod to the future importance of the longbow to Britain.

The nature of warfare begins to change. Caius instructs Pubius and his allies to adopt to it by breeding horses, stronger, heavier, capable of carrying more weight. This is paving the way for the era of the mounted horseman and his specialized weapons.

These parts are well told fit in well with the epic feel that is proper for a "Camelot" chronicle.

If you're a fan of the myths of King Arthur and want to see Jack's ideas of what the "Lady of the Lake" and how Excalibur itself is forged, The Singing Sword is solid. Just be prepared to plow through some of the dross to get to the gold.