This is my ninth book review for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge at Worlds Without End.
Jaida Jones was my random author pick for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge, so I went into Havemercy, co-written with Danielle Bennett, pretty much cold.
And I loved it. I did have one major issue with what was missing from the book, but what was there was a helluva story. Volstov and Ke-Han have been at war for over a hundred years. They’ve both got their magicians, but what really gives Volstov an edge is its dragons, made of metal and brought to life and fueled by magic.
More than the war, though, or even the magic, Havemercy is really the story of our four protagonists—a magician, Royston; a tutor, Hal; a student-cum-professor, Thom; and the dragon Havemercy’s pilot, Rook—and the relationships between them. The book opens with Royston being exiled from Thremedon, the capital of Volstov, for having an affair with a foreign prince whose culture is unaccepting of homosexuality. I admit I had a moment of doubt, especially when this was followed up by Rook’s blatant bigotry (not to mention his misogyny), but it was handled beautifully as Royston’s, and later Hal’s, viewpoints developed.
Rook himself was both outrageous and captivating. He thought very highly of himself and nothing at all of anyone else, excepting his Havemercy. His egregious behavior caused a diplomatic incident at the same time as Royston’s, and Thom was sent in to teach the airmen some manners, and perhaps try to understand their psychology at the same time. As Rook is the ringleader, that means reforming and understanding him, above all. Their clashes throughout the book are entertaining, but also insightful.
In the midst of all the lovely character problems, of course, there is still the war, and magic, and when things go horribly wrong it takes all four of them to prevent catastrophe. And of course, the metal dragons.
Unfortunately, my review would not be complete without discussion of the book’s major flaw. To wit, there are no women. All four protagonists are male, and while some minor female characters appear, none have important roles. The most memorable are Royston’s bigoted harpy of a sister-in-law, and the diplomat’s wife who dressed so scandalously that Rook mistook her for a whore, and who never actually appeared on the page except in gossip. A pretty abysmal showing.
Still, I know I am more attuned to that sort of thing than the average reader, and I did enjoy the book in spite of the lack. In fact, I’m already deep into of book 2…