Hell's Foundations Quiver

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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Hell’s Foundations Quiver continues the story of Safehold as the two ‘picas,’ Merlin and Nimue, assist the Charisian Empire in its struggle against the corrupt Church of God Awaiting. After barely surviving the initial land assault by the Temple armies in the previous book the Charisian forces are now dominating the war on land but, despite further technological advances, a number of unlucky disasters are restricting their success at sea.

Whilst there is a danger that these books start feeling somewhat similar to each other, Weber, still keeps the pace moving along despite a page count higher that most authors can get away with. The pace is strong throughout which is often achieved by putting the reader into action scenes rather than simply passing the news of those events on through later conversations; something that became for me a big problem in some of the earlier books. He achieves this with a technique of which I would normally have been very suspicious; with a story told across such a global map Weber frequently must put the reader into scenes containing none of the main POV characters. To do this he will introduce a new POV character for just that scene (or sequence of scenes) and only for that scene, often killing them off at the end. This is not head hopping but it still feels like dangerous ground for keeping the reader engaged. However Weber gets away with it largely, I think, because he is so good at introducing and developing new characters in no more than a few pages.

Nevertheless I do have some significant complaints. I feel he is now modelling the Church too much on the Second World War Nazi party. Their leader – Clyntahn – like Hitler continuously interferes in military decisions forcing their armies into bad (and rather convenient) strategic moves and, also like Hitler, constantly surges from mere anger into raging tantrums, and his Inquisition priests – Gestapo/SS – treat the ‘heretics’ just as the Nazis treated the Jews with concentration camps and mass executions. It all creates an enemy that is just a little too unambiguously evil not to mention predictable.

From a writing perspective I find it infuriating the way so many of the main characters have first name, last name, military rank or civilian job title and, frequently, aristocratic title as well. All of which is fine except that Weber will use all of them independently in the narrative sometimes within the same paragraph. So for example Sir Dunkyn Yairley might be referred to within the narrative (rather than the dialogue) as Sir Dunkyn, Yairley, the Baron, Sarmouth and the Admiral all within a paragraph or two. With such a large cast this becomes increasingly difficult to keep straight when reading.

But overall Weber tells a good story and I have no hesitation about continuing to read this intriguing series.
 
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