March 03, 2003

Mistress of the Catacombs, by David Drake

This is the fourth book in Drake's Isles series; I didn't enjoy it quite as the others, but I was in a foul mood and blowing my nose every ten minutes, so I'm not sure if that means anything. Certainly the writing was as good as before, and once again the action wasn't simply a rehash of the previous books.

I've finally figured out what really makes this series taste different than others I've read recently--it really is a series. That is, it's a series in the old sense of a collection of standalone books about a continuing set of characters, rather than one gargantuan tale broken into N elephantine tomes. This is common enough in the mystery and historical genres (as the books of Patrick O'Brian bear witness), but it's come to be unusual in the fantasy biz.

Here the series is simply about the trials of Prince Garric and his buddies as they try to keep the Kingdom of the Isles from going under. This is an open-ended premise, as there will always be new foes and new crises; an author could milk it indefinitely. And, as it happens, the fifth Isles book is being published in hardcover this summer.

But the neat thing is, if there were never going to be any more Isles books, I wouldn't be disappointed. The fourth book ends satisfyingly; and so did each of its predecessors. I have similar expectations of the fifth, which I'll buy and read when it comes out in paperback.

Posted by Will Duquette at March 3, 2003 08:29 PM