Like a Mighty Army By David Weber

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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For me at least, Weber continues his roller coaster Safehold writing. The early books were great and then number four – A Mighty Fortress – limped in with 900 pages of info dumps, conversations and pseudo history text. I noted at the time that it was the most boring Weber I’d yet read. Then he recovered with How Firm a Foundation; the action was back reviving the joy of reading this intriguing series. But then he plummeted again with Midst Toil and Tribulation where once again most of the action was recounted second or third hand in dull conversations. Now we’re back up again; Like a Mighty Army is a return to form with excellent action and a well-paced story. Despite its 764 page length it felt like no effort and, in fact, reaching the end was a disappointment (in fairness over 60 pages of that 764 was the list of characters and other appendices!).

There were no really big Earth-shattering (Safehold-shattering?) reveals in this book, not even any major new bits of technology, just a realistically enjoyable account of a global war fought on multiple fronts. One slight concern I have is that Merlin Athrawes, being a pica robot based on technology so far ahead of Safehold technology that he is closer to magic in their terms, is to all intents and purposes, and pretty much deliberately, as big and blatant a deus ex machina as you are ever likely to find and, twice now, that has been used to cheat death for two of the major protagonists; once in a previous book and now again in Like a Mighty Army. Generally Weber is very good at not over using Merlin’s abilities and has created a plausible context that limits those powers but every now and then he pulls one out of the hat that does push it a little too far. Nevertheless he is mostly restrained on this front but I worry that he has now introduced a second pica giving himself more opportunities for such sleight of hand.

And that second Pica provides another couple of grumbles. Firstly why, oh, why does Weber have to dive into the cool looking but impractical sword sheathed over the shoulder? Pica or not, unless you have the arms of an Orangutan you are not going to draw a katana fast from a sheath slung on your back; it’s just not sensible but it seems his new female pica (another iteration of the same Nimue Alban) is going to be doing just that. And the second grumble? Please spare me from authors who think it cool to populate their novels with unpronounceable names. Safehold is filled with such names, though at least all the major characters have easily pronounceable names, until, that is, the arrival of our new pica – Nimue Chwaeriau. The first name is easy enough but ‘Chwaeriau’? No… just no Mr Weber!

Never mind, this was a good enjoyable and well-paced read. I just pray the next volume doesn’t slide back again.

4/5 stars
 
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