The Road to Bedlam – Mike Shevdon

Unfortunately, I haven’t got all that much to say about this book. It’s the sequel to Sixty-One Nails, and I started reading it about a week and a half ago… and then I had a visitor for a week, during which I got basically no reading done, so when I came back to finish it today, I had mostly forgotten the plot. I shall probably re-read later in the summer and post a better review then.

What I can remember isn’t all that encouraging for me to read it again, though. It has much of the tone of its sister, and a lot of the pleasant, if not noteworthy, style of writing. But the characters have changed subtly, and not in a way that can be explained as down to the several month gap and change in lifestyle that fill the space between the books. The hero is now very much a hero. He has a sword and everything. He asserts himself more and really isn’t the same man who began his morning commute at the beginning of the previous book. It’s… sad, because that man had a lot of merit as a fantasy character. He was not a hero, exactly. It seems Neal has morphed into one while we weren’t looking. He still preserves the ignorance he needs to allow us to find things out, but he has a lot more confidence and power and is generally a bit more up himself. I am not pleased.

Blackbird’s change is at least explicable. But even with the entirely valid reason they give for it, her descent from kick-ass, grumpy woman into slightly pathetic pregnant lady is really annoying. Between them, the leading couple have gone from being an unsual couple that somehow works, neither of whom are really a major fantasy trope (or at least not entirely) to being a rather boring, uninspired, normal fantasy pair.

As to the action of the book, it’s not really any more inspired than the character development. No spoilers, obviously, but I doubt anyone would be surprised at anything that happens. To anyone. At all. I’m not even being hyperbolic for effect. It’s just tragic.

But in all this doom and gloom, there is one high-point: RAFFMIR. Love Raffmir. I can’t explain most of my reasons for this (plotplotplot) but there is one that is spoiler-free. FROCK. COAT. That is enough on its own.

Anyway… it’s not a good book. It’s the sequel to a good book, and may lead to a third good book (I have enough blind faith to go on to read Strangeness and Charm, no matter how bad this was), but it is not a good book on its own. The characters spoil it, and the plot lets it down further. The setting is still fun, and there is one (ok, maybe there are two, I like Greg) character that makes reading worthwhile, but they don’t do enough to balance out the rubbishness that prevails. I wouldn’t recommend reading this. Unless it turns out that the sequel is good. Then it might be worth reading just because it fills the gap.


About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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