RogerBW's Blog

Sword of Mars, Glynn Stewart 05 June 2023

2019 SF, seventh of its series. Roslyn Chambers ends up as a flag lieutenant in the big fleet trying to win the war; Damien Montgomery follows the clues to uncover something the enemy's keeping secret even from their own people.

Well, I was right about the enemy's FTL drive (I think everyone who was paying attention had that pinned down a book or two ago). Not so right about their FTL communicator. And an epilogue answers some questions, and raises others – but while I often have a poor reaction to this style of storytelling, by this point I trust Stewart to provide answers eventually.

The interwoven stories have, on the one hand, some good solid space opera (though it downplays the effect of magic useful at space combat ranges to the point that it started in plcaes to feel like generic space battle, the first time the series has had that effect on me), with decent consideration of what a flag lieutenant's actual job is like. Good stuff, though not great.

In the other thread, we have a covert expedition into Republic space, and much more of the interleaving of magic with mundane supertech that I've always enjoyed about these books: yes we have battlesuits, yes we have magicians, and neither of those becomes the one important thing that the narrative is about.

"Our terminal velocity is fifty-five meters per second," Romanov replied. "We pop the chutes at roughly twelve seconds' altitude, so around seven hundred meters.

"At that point, it should take us about forty-five seconds to land. It's going to be rough."

Damien considered.

"Are we talking stopping a nuke with magic rough or teleporting a space station with magic rough?" he asked. He'd done both of those. One had knocked him unconscious for days. The other had done that and wrecked his hands.

Romanov took a second to stop laughing before he replied.

"Not that bad. Crashing a shuttle rough. Pretty sure you've done that."

Damien sighed.

"That's still not a recommendation," he noted. "I've done a lot of things I wouldn't care to repeat."

As always, and I know I'm banging the same drum here, Stewart keeps it human even when there's a swarm of 50,000 missiles coming in at a fleet of a few dozen warships. Perhaps there's too much emphasis on the One Clever Tactic rather than the slog of a real battle.

Still enjoying the series, though, and I may dive into some of the spin-offs too.

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Previous in series: UnArcana Stars | Series: Starship's Mage | Next in series: Mountain of Mars
Previous in series: UnArcana Stars | Series: UnArcana Rebellion | Next in series: Mountain of Mars

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