Born to the Blade 1.10: Shattered Blades by Marie Brennan: An exciting penultimate episode that’s sure to please

ACK! I apparently never took this off of draft mode! I thought this ran last Friday! Whoops!!

Shattered BladesShattered Blades

by Marie Brennan
Series: Born to the Blade, #1.10

Kindle Edition, 58 pg.
Serial Box, 2018
Read: June 21, 2018

           The Warders’ Circle was supposed to prevent this kind of thing. It gave the nations a way to settle their disputes without warfare, with the limited and ritualized violence of a duel. But that only worked if people believed in it. It was a game, and everyone had agreed to play by its rules.

Until they didn’t.

Sure, there were still warders on Twaa-Fei. Juniors thrust into the role of seniors, unwilling and unprepared and, worst of all, unsupported. Their nations had abandoned them to play out what remained of this farce, while behind that disintegrating cover of civility they prepared for and carried out war.

Nations on the brink of war (well, just on the wrong side of the brink), almost everyone’s favorite diplomat the target of assassins (favorite of readers and almost every other diplomat), relationships torn apart — the home of the Warders, Twaa-Fei itself, is being ripped apart by violence. The stakes really couldn’t be much higher.

But this episode isn’t about the stakes for the nations (not that those are uninvolved — it’s just not the focus): it’s about Michiko making some important choices and acting on them, in ways that will leave her life (and potentially the lives of the people she represents) changed forever; it’s about Takeshi finding what’s been missing (I hope); it’s about Kris and Adechike getting all their priorities straight; and about a few other things that I can’t talk about.

In the midst of all this character growth, character development and conflict — we get two knockout duels. Not the civilized, controlled, formal duels of Kris’ trials, either — we’re talking two people who unleash everything they have — magic and swordcraft alike — at each other. Brennan absolutely sold this part.

This episode was everything I wanted — great character moments, better action sequences — and every character (finally) not worrying so much about playing politics, but about doing the right thing (even if it’s the wrong thing for someone else). My notes have me writing twice “this is the high point of the series (so far),” and there’s at least one other candidate for that moment in these pages. I’m hoping that the season finale continues the uptick we’ve been on for the last couple of weeks.

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4 Stars

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Born to the Blade 1.6: Spiraling by Marie Brennan: Just when things were looking up . . .

SpiralingSpiraling

by Marie Brennan
Series: Born to the Blade, #1.6

Kindle Edition, 47 pg.
Serial Box, 2018
Read: May 24, 2018
Yesterday, Serial Box tweeted:

Defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory as warders Ojo Kante and Kris Denn search for answers and their superiors grow eager for war.

That’s about the best way to sum up this episode without getting into too much detail. As much as last week’s episode was a reaction to the events of the episode 4, while setting the table for the next arc — this episode was a reaction to the final chapter from last week.

Which was a doozy and deserved these 47 pages of fallout. I’m not going to say anything about the main story because I’ll just ruin things for people who haven’t read it yet. I will say that I could not have been more wrong after last week’s episode when I guessed what was on the horizon. While I found what Brennan did with the characters most obviously impacted (Kris, Ojo) with this — Michiko was by far the most interesting character this time out, and had a lot more to do than one would expect.

I have no real clue about what’s going on with Lavinia and Bellona in this episode — which is pretty cool, because you know that’s going to explode in a week or two. I have a theory or two about Lavinia’s actions, but am halfway convinced that I’m wrong and that the writers have something far better in store. I can’t help but assume that Bellona’s plans will fail — mostly because that seems in keeping with the character. But if she succeeds, it’ll make Lavinia eat a little crow. Either will work for me.

I’m looking forward to episode 7 more than I’ve looked forward to any of the others. For the first couple of weeks, I talked about the promise of this series — it’s being fulfilled now, and I’m glad I stuck with this through my initial ambivalence.

—–

3.5 Stars

Born to the Blade 1.2: Fault Lines by Marie Brennan: I’m still feeling the promise of the series, but want more.

My intent has been to comment on these the week of release, but I just haven’t been able to keep up with everything — today I try to fix that (or get closer, anyway).

Fault LinesFault Lines

by Marie Brennan
Series: Born to the Blade, #1.2

Kindle Edition, 44 pg.
Serial Box, 2018

Read: May 1, 2018
So straight out of the gate, this makes me happy: there’s a “previously on” section — which is great, and something we need to see more of) — and a Dramatis Personae (with a cast this big, a major plus).

The question is, can episode 2 build on the goodwill that the ending of 1 caused? Ehhh…sorta? We get to know the island this takes place on a little better, the culture there — and some more about the nations represented (and those representing them). There’s some revealing interaction with Kris and Michiko, and it’s clear that’s where our focus should be. but I sorta want more time with Ojo than with them. That’s more about Ojo being interesting than the other two annoying me by their actions at the end of the episode. But not much.

For a fantasy world, I like the strange governmental structure — a mix of diplomacy and single combat — that they’ve developed for this series. In reality, ugh. But this is fantasy. so sure, why not? But I’m not sure that I’m buying it. There’s a seeming lack of advisors for these diplomats, which is hard to swallow (though narratively neater), especially with Michiko and Kris there’s a naiveté that screams that these people shouldn’t be left to their own devices. They’re like college students out on their own. Yeah, they might be capable, but they need some more wisdom. Letting an entire people’s futures to be determined by what a young, untried warrior (no matter how talented) who’s easily swayed by elders and friendliness is . . . suggestive of problems.

I think I like this series, but I’m not sure. Goodwill toward a couple of the authors will carry you for a bit, I’m just not sure how long it’ll last without the series doing a better job of entertaining me. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just not totally sold. This many pages in, I should be. I want to be — but I don’t think I am yet. I still assume it’s coming.

—–

3 Stars