A mixed bag, but one I’m nevertheless glad I read
One of the reasons that we love the fantasy genre so much is that, so often, we aren’t given only one book, but rather one book of three, five, ten, or however many Raymond E. Feist has written. There are any number of standalone novels that do in fact stand on their own (Night Circus, for example) but a lot of the novels we get to read are part of a series, and therefore must be read a little differently.
This can be great – especially for those of us who simply don’t want to leave a particular universe – but it can also be a drawback. This is the case with Miles Cameron’s latest novel, A Plague of Swords, the fourth book in his ‘The Traitor Son Cycle’. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book – I did, in fact I loved it – but it isn’t a book that stands on its own. It is entirely dependent on the previous three books, and by the end we’ve barely even been given a separate story – rather, Cameron has moved his overall story forward, with a few minor climaxes.
It’s the equivalent of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – entirely dependent on what has come before, whose sole purpose is pretty much to set up what comes next. While A Plague of Swords might not be of the same quality as Empire, the analogy nevertheless works. If you are a newcomer to Miles Cameron’s work, do not start here.
All of that being said, Plague is great for those of us who are invested in the larger series. While I had barely any memory of anything that had come before (I simply read too many books in the time between releases to remember) I was able to pick up enough as I read to be able to add to the larger whole. I wish there was a dramatis personae at the beginning, or a recap of some sort, but I managed to push through and by the time I was a third of the way through I had pretty much remembered all I needed to. This might sound like another drawback for some readers – and I admit, Cameron’s penchant for similar sounding names, and confusing-sounding names from all over the world, does at times make it difficult to keep track of who is on whose side, who is who, and who is where.
The character development I was rewarded with was wonderful – a significant quality of Miles Cameron’s writing. Although the number of POVs and continents we are brought into contact with definitely doesn’t give us a lot of time with everyone, we do get to see some characters progress. Additionally, the larger story continues to unfold, and the real villains and threats are continually revealed, their plans becoming more defined.
One major issue with this book, however, was the atrocious editing. The copy I received to review read like an early Advanced Readers Copy (ARC), but was in fact (appeared to be) a final release edition. Yet the number of grammatical and spelling errors, resulting in some very sloppy and confusing pages. I was quite surprised – it’s not unusual for a book to have one or two errors, but I lost count of just how many issues there were. Hopefully a revised version might be in the works for future reprints.
Nevertheless, even though this book was confusing for me to start reading, added very little and was not a story on its own, and was littered with so many grammatical errors, I still enjoyed it. It is certainly not a book that can be read on its own – and I wish I had the time in my life where I could have re-read the preceding book to refresh my memory before I started on Plague – and is utterly reliant and dependent on the series as a whole. This could be seen as a bad thing, and I’m not wholly impressed, but I still enjoyed returning to this world and visiting again characters that I have come to appreciate and enjoy spending time with. In the end, a mixed bag, but one I’m nevertheless glad I read – and I’m still looking forward to future sequels.
Review by Joshua S Hill
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