RogerBW's Blog

A Little Knowledge, Emma Newman 22 March 2024

2016 fantasy, fourth volume of its series. Cathy seeks allies in her reform of Neither society; Max finds himself showing disconcerting initiative given what's happened to his soul; Sam finds out what the Elemental Court is really up to.

This just keeps getting better, though the early chapters are a bit of a down-slope after the big events of volume 3: Cathy meets increasing resistance to anything like reform, Sam gets much the same from the club of top business leaders which he's suddenly joined, and Max is being sent on missions.

But all of this gradually shifts, and one of the key parts of this is Will, Cathy's husband in an arranged marriage. He is, in this volume blatantly, a villain, but still someone from the real world: he's no cackling mastermind, but rather a weak man trying to keep himself and his family safe, in the face of a ruler who has very specific plans for all of them, no notion of consent, and a complete willingness to replace them with others if it's more convenient to do so. So if a person would inevitably reach a particular decision if only they had time to think clearly, it's only reasonable to Charm them into reaching that decision now… isn't it?

Meanwhile Cathy faces a constant barrage of reasonableness: now isn't the time for big changes, take what you can get rather than pushing for more, you only have so much political capital to spend. It's necessary, but in the early part of the book it can seem very wearing. This is a book that feeds the flames of outrage at a broken society… but, being a fantasy, also offers the hope of mending that society.

Max starts getting some freedom of throught, and looking into his past. Sam meets the expected resistance to his plans to clean up the big businesses that he and the rest of the Elemental Court are running, but also some unexpected resistance. Loyalties are definitely shifting.

I'm looking forward to reading the final volume.

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Previous in series: All is Fair | Series: The Split Worlds | Next in series: All Good Things

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