Over my holiday I finished reading Time of Daughters II, the second half of Sherwood Smith’s novel set in the martial land of Marlovan Iasca, about a century after the time of the great hero Inda (a principal character in her teratology of that name).
Structurally, the novel takes you through a series of battles as the kingdom is threatened in different ways and directions: these are all brilliant—and harrowing. People act foolishly or thoughtlessly and have to face the full consequences. Sometimes people pull off amazing feats of survival and heroism—and sometimes these are celebrated, and sometimes they’re belittled or barely acknowledged. I was all in, emotionally. Although you continue to be involved with many characters, the through thread is most definitely Prince Connar. The story’s a battle for his soul, which in other hands might be reduced to a nature/nurture conflict or a good influences/bad influences conflict, but Sherwood’s not doing that: she’s showing **all** the things that go into making a person who they are. There’s your nature, there are the things that influence you, but there’s also when things happen, and the order in which things happen; there’s how other people reflect things back to you; there’s accident.
And other people are growing and changing too, in themselves and in their relationships with others. Nursing grudges or growing out of them is a theme. Two characters whose trajectories were interesting to watch were Fish Perenth, Connar’s personal runner, who started out his time back in Volume I as a sullen and unwilling sneak but grows quite a bit, and another is Cabbage Gannon, who starts out a bully but becomes someone who earns the love of the people he’s responsible for. Lineas remains a reliable delight whose approach to interacting with people I found myself trying to model at times. Her kindness to a deeply damaged (and terrifying) person near the end of the story brought me to tears. There are some very painful character deaths, too, which you feel particularly sharply for the pain their loss causes to others.
One thing that the book gets you thinking about is what makes a good king and how we feel about heroes. Although Connar is awful in many ways, he has the charisma that people love in a leader (he also works very hard at becoming one—he’s not a “natural,” though he has stunning good looks, and that always helps). His brother Noddy, by contrast, isn’t much at all to look at and gives an impression of being slow because he takes his time with stuff, but he’s much more the type of person most civilians would like to live under.
I look forward to my friends who are Sartorias-deles fans reading this so I have people to talk to about it.
Available from Book View Cafe (ebook only) and Amazon (ebook, paperback, or hardback).
PS Reading a story set in another world when you’re in another world is weird, very Inception-esque. You rise out of the story world and look around, and you’re still not in the world you know.
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