Darkened Blade by Kelly McCullough
Aral is called upon by the shade of his goddess to perform one last task in her name and the name of Justice. Aral gathers about himself the last remaining Blades for a thrust at the Son of Heaven and his risen horde. As the time draws closer the decision weighs more heavily on Aral, who must decide the greater evil – to do nothing and let evil flourish or to intervene and knowingly cause the death of until innocent lives?
I like McCullough’s work with the Fallen Blade series because while it smacks of some very traditional fantasy series it also spends a lot of time questioning the underlying logic of the systems involved. Not only does it question the ethics behind blind obedience to a deity or superior but also the ramifications to the populace affected by the choices people might make. It is also a series about redemption and I, for one, would like to believe in most people’s ability to redeem themselves and others.
While I miss Tien and the adventures Aral has had there in the past this story carries us from the Sylvani Empire through Varya to the ruins of the order and on from there. We get to spend some time with Siri, Jax, Faran, and even Kelos as they work together to avoid armies and risen across the eleven kingdoms. And generally try not to kill each other.
I am sad that we don’t get one more adventure or interaction with Captain Fei, but the book was a strong ending to a very enjoyable series. I think the Blades of Namara need a vacation or a hug after this round. They’ll receive a bit of a break from the written word as this is the last planned installment of the series, sadly.
I’ll miss Aral Kingslayer.
If you haven’t read McCullough’s works and enjoy assassins, magic, familiars, and a world of deities and world building that span millennia then dive in with Broken Blade. Think a little more linear and traditional Vlad Taltos by Steven Brust if you need something to situate it in the genre.
I am sure after some time passes I’m going to have to reread this series.