A Mighty Fortress, by David Weber

Funny how these things work.  I was going to write an article about this book for last Wednesday, but then I was caught up by Worm.  If you haven’t read that article already, I strongly suggest that you do.  The truth is, I’m still torn by the temptation to just fall back into reading more instead of writing this.  But A Mighty Fortress deserves its dues, and it’s best for me to write about it before all recollections of my previous life are completely washed away by Worm.

A Mighty Fortress returns to the world of Safehold, with all of the previously established intrigue, religious strife, and budding world-wide warfare that David Weber has thrown together into this meaty fictional stew.  At the end of the previous book in the series, I was feeling a little let down: it wasn’t that the book was bad, it was simply that it followed my expectations so completely that I didn’t feel inspired to immediately grab the next book.  But now I’m glad that I did; while it wasn’t some magical honeymoon moment, like the first denouement of a radiantly new setting, it was most definitely a lot of fun.  Still true to form and somewhat predictable, but totally worth the read.

The most refreshing aspect of this book is that it doesn’t start immediately where the last one left off.  For the first major time in this series since the initial time lapses, we’ve moved forward without having to cover every incident in between point A and point B.  It’s remarkably refreshing, really.  This breather has allowed Weber to change circumstances in a few completely sensible ways and skip towards the more exciting bits that I could see coming in the last two books.  The distant mountains of drama and action that I saw looming on the horizon have crept closer overnight, covering us in the shadow of their approaching chaos.  It’s tantalizing in the best way.

I don’t know how much of my reinvigorated enthusiasm for the series also has to do with the fact that I haven’t read anything in it for the past several months.  I did pound through the first few books in rapid succession, and I must admit that I may have worn myself out on them.  After this hiatus, with many other stories in between to cleanse my palate, Weber’s stories are once again fresh and appealing to me.  If you thought that maybe you wouldn’t keep reading after the last one, I suggest that you give this one a try.  You might want to wait a bit if you were feeling particularly burnt out on the series, but I can reassure you that it’s still quite good.

Now, watch out, because there are a few *SPOILERS* up ahead.

I’m glad that Merlin’s secrets are finally a little bit more widespread.  The delicate balancing act of sharing more information without compromising the technological secrets of Merlin was starting to wear thin, and having that dynamic shift (even slightly) feels far more interesting than entering the third book in a row dominated by the same difficulty.  Now that more people are aware of Merlin’s capabilities, it seems like other pieces of the story can finally get the attention they deserve… things like the infighting between various members of the Church hierarchy, and the character development that we see there.  Or the struggle to avoid the clutches of the Church’s Inquisition, and other fun things like that.  All in all, I think those storylines are going to get more of the attention that they so richly deserve, and I’m looking forward to it.

The peripheral players, like the Earl of Coris and Princess Irys, are also getting more attention, and I have come to enjoy reading about them.  I had previously been quite unhappy to be distracted by them from the main story arcs, but now I think that their eventual interactions with the main characters will be absolutely fascinating.  And I’m having a good time watching them develop in the meanwhile.

Basically, I think that this book was far better than its predecessor.  It’s most certainly worth a read, and I’ll get to the next book in the series sooner rather than later.

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