The Warrior’s Bond by Juliet E McKenna
Review by Cat Fitzpatrick
In the fourth of Juliet E McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn series we are back with the chosen man Ryshad, elevated from a sworn man as a reward for his earlier investigations into the ice island wizards. This is set in the same time period as the third book, so whilst his love Livak is travelling to the forest and mountain communities to find out about aetheric magic, this follows Ryshad as he follows his lord to the summer solstice festival, where the great houses come together to celebrate, as well as plot and scheme.
Also attending the festival is Temar, a young nobleman from the lost colony across the sea. As the highest ranking of those awake, he represents the interests of the colony, and has to learn fast the changes in society that have taken place in the hundreds of years he was under an enchanted sleep. As Ryshad was involved as a representative of the House of D’Olbriot’s interests, in the wakening of Temar and many other colonists, he is now charged with accompanying Temar as he makes his first foray into modern society. It’s a rocky road to tread, with other houses resenting the influence D’Olbriot has on the potential riches to be found on the colony’s island far out to sea.
This is a far more contained novel than others before it, with all of the action taking place in one city, and the intricacies of the higher reaches of society forming the backdrop of the action, rather than far-flung islands or mountain villages. I think it serves a useful purpose to a point because up to now we have had little contact with the great houses, and the ruling emperor, instead following Livak and Ryshad on their separate journeys around the lands.
Ryshad, as a chosen man and as a companion to Temar, is caught between his old world of being out on the roads using his own initiative, and being back holding court with his lord. With he and Temar having battled within Ryshad’s mind due to his sword holding Temar’s soul, he feels a strong responsibility to him, which means he has to constantly choose whether to follow and protect him, or follow his lord’s instructions. It’s a turning point in Ryshad’s life, along with having to decide how to be with Livak once she returns from the mountains, and I feel that this is woven very well into the wider picture of the politics of the empire encompassing Temar as houses scrap for a piece of the wealth on offer.
Action, particularly magic, however, is limited. There are both Hadrumal mages and an aetheric magic user from the colony present, but nothing overly dramatic takes place, and the ice islanders, who were the original bad guys of the series, seem to just be idling around on their island whilst one of them is causing trouble over in the mountains in the third book. A bit of the driving energy of the series has sapped I feel, and despite there only being one book left in this series, McKenna’s attention seems to be more focused on building up the world of Einarinn rather than on how the threat of the ice islanders is to be nullified.
However, this is still well written and it’ll be interesting to see how the strands come together in the fifth and final book.
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