the Falcon Throne [book review]
While the latest Karen Miller’s A Blight of Mages was mostly a chore to read, this novel The Falcon Throne starts a new series in a completely different universe. In a rather pleasant manner, albeit somewhat predictable and slow-paced. The story takes place in a medieval world split into many small duchies, fighting one another without a central powerful figure, with additional struggles for power within each duchy. On the main island, hosting two such duchies (plus Marches in the middle!), Roric, one duke reluctantly comes to power by overthrowing his cousin, while the other duke is afraid of his violent oldest son Balfre and tries to promote the younger one instead. The whole book follows those characters to the inevitable war between both duchies. While the plot follows the evolution or lack thereof of the characters of Roric and Balfre over 15 years, it also pays some attentions to the economics of this world and the role of the merchants, who are hindered from dealing with alien duchies for political reasons and who hold the true power in most places through the huge loans the states took from them. Roric’s duchy is further weakened by bad weather, plagues and pirates’ raids, which makes one wonders how it can resist that long to being annexed by one neighbouring state… Contrary to Karen Miller’s previous books, magic plays a minor (if important) part in the story, which is for the best as it is not a very subtle part! It clearly helps in making some otherwise implausible transitions in the power structure of the novel… Characters may be slightly caricaturesque, especially in their dialogues, but they are sketched well-enough for their sudden death to come as a surprise! Indeed (minor spoiler!), most characters vanish before the end of the book, and very rarely of old age. If this reminds you of another throne, you are not alone! Most criticisms of The Falcon Throne see too much imitation of George Martin‘s Song of Ice and Fire series. And of his habit to turn central characters into corpses. While this is indeed the case, with a further similarity in insisting on politics and the relevance of supply lines, I did not feel a strong connection when reading the book. Pleasant enough to look for the next instalment!