Once again I have grabbed hold of a David Drake book by the lapels, roughed it up, and shaken it until all the delicious story-bits come out. Goddess of the Ice Realm continues the formula that David Drake has found so successful previously, returning to his excellently conceived Roman / Greek / Atlantean setting and pitting the heroes against multiple enemies serving one greater terrifying threat. There are few innovations in this addition to the series, and most of the storylines will feel familiar to those who have read the previous books of the series, but if you like the characters and enjoyed the previous books you’ll almost certainly like this one too.
Yesterday Mattias made a passing comment about L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Saga of Recluse series, and how the author only knows how to deliver on 3 or 4 different stories. Having not read that series myself I can’t weigh in on Mattias’ remark, but by the time you hit book five in the Lord of the Isles series, you start to notice something similar. Giving credit where it’s due, David Drake has done an excellent job of making a wonderfully fun series for me to read, with a delightfully designed setting and characters that I have come to know and enjoy. I’m just a little sad that it looks like he’s finally falling prey to the repetition-beast.
I think it wouldn’t feel quite as obvious if he had done as good a job of establishing the foes this time as he did in Servant of the Dragon. Though I suppose he had to do that work in Mistress of the Catacombs in order for me to feel like it made as much sense here. I still enjoy watching the characters solve their problems, but I wish that there had been more time to foreshadow the “future badness” that was so clearly en route.
I think part of the issue here comes from the separation of the various characters, especially by magical means. It has become so much a part of the series that it’s quite predictable by now. Maybe Drake will pull a surprise reverse and leave Cashel with everyone else in the next book, but I wouldn’t count on it. Perhaps this is because Drake’s characters have become too powerful; now he has to single them out for harsh treatment if he wants to give them a real challenge.
There are some aspects to this that I appreciate, in that it gives us time to see each character take the limelight (like Sharina this time around, which was awesome). It also allows Drake to divvy up sections of the story into short-story chunks that can more easily be switched between for the purpose of heightening tension.
But seeing Cashel wander through other worlds time and again — perpetually picking up female hangers-on who slowly develop an interest in him without him returning the favor — gets kind of old after a while. I’d be happy to see a little more variation. Maybe Cashel could escort or protect a man? Or the people he escorts and protects could not develop a crush on him? He’s faithful to Sharina and that’s cool, but that dynamic doesn’t have to be showcased in every story by having him turn down other people’s mostly-subtle propositions. It works just as well to have him wishing he could be back with Sharina instead of wandering through some alien wasteland.
Anyway, I enjoyed this one and I’ll be getting the next one out from the library some time soon. Unless something terrible happens, I’ll probably keep reading the whole series. But I do wish that it could feel a tad bit more… fresh again.