Monday, November 14, 2016

Review of The Exiled Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Rather than volumes or books, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Assassini trilogy has been divided into acts. And it’s an important detail.   Reflective of the operatic mode, Act I The Fallen Blade introduced the characters and setting, and set them in motion; Act II The Outcast Blade dug deeper into the characters and issues between them, all the while setting the stage for Act III, The Exiled Blade (2013), to bring everything to a rousing conclusion.  Grimwood apparently possessing a solid knowledge of the art of theater, The Exiled Blade does not disappoint.

Drama is abound at the outset of the novel.  Alonzo, in a fit of potentially conceived rage, is exiled to Montenegro.  While this would seem to bring calm to Duke Marco’s court, there are rumors Alonzo is amassing forces of the Red Crucifix. In his wake, Alonzo leaves a corpse, a tiny corpse—Leopold, Giulieta’s son.  Tycho enraged at the death of his lover’s child, the young man with uncanny powers sets out on Alonzo’s path, intent on finding and killing him.  Meanwhile, Emperor Sigismund has his sights once again set on Venice, and sends his son Frederik as ambassador.  Frederik wooing the Lady Giulieta in Tycho’s absence, consoling her in her loss, matters are anything but settled in Venice…

In the concluding, as in the middle and opening acts, The Exiled Blade maintains operatic style.  The characters and their dramas are at the foreground, while the details of setting and time fall by the wayside.  Chapters are stage sets that do not transition in situ from point ot point, rather use dialogue and action to form waypoints of story, the transitions implied by chapter opening and endings.  Fully theatrical, Grimwood even borrows a couple of pages from Shakespeare (e.g. the death of Polonius and Juliet’s “death”) in resolving the threats to Venice and her royalty. 

In the end, The Exiled Blade is a satisfying conclusion to the Assassini trilogy.  While I wish Grimwood had concluded Tycho’s story with a little more flash and color, the reader shouldn’t forget that the state of Venice, particularly its royalty, has always been front and center.  (And indeed the state of Venetian politics is finally settled—at least for the time being.)  There have been some issues with the series (e.g. what’s the difference between an outcast and exiled blade?), but overall Grimwood has been extremely consistent in delivery, and The Exiled Blade is no exception.  It caps the series, not as the most sophisticated material on the market, but certainly better written than the majority of paranormal fantasy.

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