RogerBW's Blog

A Darker Magic, Glynn Stewart 29 March 2024

2021 SF, tenth of its series. As the cleanup from the rebellion continue, Lieutenant-Commander Roslyn Chambers is sent to a backwater world that may be hiding war criminals.

I fancy I detect a certain authorial excuse-making in an early passage pointing out that, even though Chambers skipped part of naval training, she's not at all the youngest of her rank—there has been, after all, a bloody war if not a sickly season. But this isn't a problem I've had with Stewart's writing: he's picking exceptional people to write about, certainly, but those exceptional people never have it easy. Rather, they're just barely good enough to take on the challenges they face; and they don't get untainted victories.

Here, a matter of missing covert agents rapidly escalates, as the bad guys cause the release of something like a zombie virus, a toxin that provokes mindless violence in its victims (while rendering them conveniently immune to most non-lethal weapons). It's all very neatly fit into what we've previously learned about what's possible in terms of this setting's technology and magic, while at the same time working as a shocking and unexpected development.

And if Chambers misses what I thought was a fairly obvious hint… well, she's wrangling multiple crises while trying to keep as many people alive as possible.

If you're expecting more Damian, well, he's barely here. There's almost no space action. There isn't even a great deal of progress in the series' overall plot. This is mostly a side story, though one that sets up several points that I suspect will become important later. But I'm not demanding another book just like the last book; I'm happy to see where Stewart takes the focus next. He hasn't disappointed me yet.

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Previous in series: The Service of Mars | Series: Starship's Mage

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