Post March 23, 2016, 11:14:26 PM

A Show of Strength by Grisha Syssoyev

Overall, there's a pretty fair amount to like about this story if you're a consumer of fantasy. A lot of the writing is quite good and it has an interesting plot. I liked that magic was only very sparingly used.

I found some parts of it that didn't work too well for me, though; aspects of it pulled me out of the story.

Specifically, the first thing that struck me as improbable was:
Gawain snorted furiously, and batted the spyglass out of Graves' hand, sending it tumbling down the hill, where it implanted itself into a snowdrift.

Ronen Graves chuckled. Parvaiz murmured something beneath his breath, and Graves grinned to himself.
I would have expected a fairly volatile reaction from Parvaiz at the disrespectful treatment of what I'm sure was a very expensive instrument in that setting.

Then there was the one-on-one between Graves and Gul Hektor. I felt that whole scene was a slow read when it should have gone quickly; the paragraphs and sentences are long and I think there's too much detail in the description of the fight.

Some of the details of that fight seem a bit improbable to me, such as Graves getting a broken leg in the horse collision. Possible, I suppose. What I really had a hard time with was how much Graves was able to do with a broken wrist. Then the Baron seemed to be doing nothing for a while as Graves broke his fingers one by one.

Then, we have Graves dying from nothing more than a broken wrist and a broken leg, with no damage to vital organs. Those aren't life-threatening injuries, at least until you specify more detail: a person could bleed out from a broken femur if it opened the femoral artery, and not always then. Look up combat injuries for details.

Moving on, I couldn't see the reason for Torbjorn's assault on Parvaiz's little negotiating party. I can't see that it did anything to advance the story, and Torbjorn seemed to have enough power that he didn't need to do that.

Still speaking specifically, all the way to the end, we have:
"Death to the Third Legion!" chorused the Sixth Legion, fists and swords held aloft in defiance.
This struck me as a very unwise thing to say in the presence of a new boss who can kill you with a word and wouldn't miss you at all.

On to generalities.

Granting that this story is from the POV of a career warrior, I found the view of the world disturbingly incomplete: all we see is war, and the only details we get are those pertinent to fighting in the immediate moment. There are no civilians at all, no females, no children, no one chopping wood (quite a lot goes into stuff like siege towers, battering rams, and arrows), no one raising food or tanning hides or thatching roofs—no mention of the water supply—you get the idea. This universe has no civilian infrastructure at all. These civilian industries are not trivial; soldiers can't fight without a lot of food, clothing, armament repair, etc., which makes civilian industry a very important part of any (successful) warrior's tactical and strategic calculations. I'd liked to have seen that.

I also had the impression that this is part of a larger overall body of work; it hints at a bigger picture and other outcomes and consequences.

All in all, though, not bad. Hope this helps,

I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?