What I’m Reading: The Giants’ Spear

The Giants’ Spear is the final book in Jamie Edmundson’s Weapon Takers Saga, and all the various story arcs come to their final conclusion here. (I also reviewed the first book in the series, Toric’s Dagger; the second book, Bolivar’s Sword; and, the third book, The Jalakh Bow.) This series has multiple storylines, so let’s see if it manages to wrap them all up in a satisfying way.

Just to review, the weapons in question in the Weapon Takers Saga are seven mystical weapons, blessed by the gods, that date back to when the lands of Dalriya united to defeat the malevolent kingdom of Ishari. Unfortunately, the Ishari, under the leadership of Lord Erkendrix, who is possessed by an evil demon named Diis, were not totally destroyed then. Now, centuries later, the Ishari kingdom is again invading its neighbors with the goal of subjugating all of Dalriya. Ishari has well-trained armies, scores of magicians, endless hordes of the bloodthirsty and disgusting Drobax monsters, and worst of all, a dragon that Diis has somehow transported from his home dimension.

At the end of the third book, our heroes had found five of the seven weapons, but lost one of them–the shield of Persala–when Clarin’s older brother, Herin, long thought dead, turned up in control of an Isharite force and defeated Clarin in single combat. To make the betrayal even harsher, Herin had poisoned his blade and intentionally nicked Clarin, so Clarin passed out before the fight was half finished. Herin allowed Clarin’s men to take his apparently-dead body back to Kalinth, where Clarin turns out to still live, barely. HIs friends Belwynn and the others nurse him back to health even as they prepare for the final Ishari invasion.

Meanwhile, Rabigar the Krykker, one of a race of tough-hided beings who can walk through stone, is visiting the sub-arctic island of Halvia in search of the sixth weapon, the Giants’ spear. The monstrous Drobax have infested Halvia as well, so Rabigar and his companions, including the eight-foot Vismarian woman, Gunnhild, must first fight off countless Drobax and then cross an icy waste in search of the place where the giants are said to sleep. During the journey, Rabigar is badly injured when an ice-wyrm bites his leg, and Gunnhild must carry him in search of the giants’ resting place. When they finally do find it, they come across the body of Oisin, an ancient giant king who makes Gunnhild look small. What’s more, the legend is to be taken literally–Oisin has literally been sleeping for centuries, since the last time Diis threatened Dalriya. When he awakens and finds how much time has passed and that he’s the last of his kind still alive, he’s in for a terrible surprise.

While Rabigar is in search of the spear, the wizard Soren is looking for the hidden islands of the Asrai to locate the final weapon, the Cloak of Asrai, in the south Lantinen Sea. He is able to enhance his own magical powers with another of the seven weapons, Onella’s staff, to create a bubble of air with which he can travel through the water. Eventually he does find the hidden islands, only to discover Arioc, a former servant of Diis who was defeated in a civil war (back in book two) arrived first. Arioc has enslaved the Asrai, a race with webbed hands and feet who can breathe underwater. Willl Soren and the Asrai together have enough power to overthrow Arioc and find the cloak?

With Rabigar and Soren searching for the final two weapons, our friends back in the besieged kingdom of Kalinth and the Brasingian Empire are holding off dual invasions as best they can. Due to the Isharis’ secret weapon, the dragon, our heroes’ efforts is not going very well, for the dragon can burn up whole units with a single fiery breath. Both the Kalinthians and the Brasingians are forced to abandon their initial strongholds and fall back to other castles and cities, leaving the terrible Drobax to overrun their lands. Much of the rest of Dalriya has already been conquered or allied with Ishari, and the ever-dwindling defensive forces of Kalinth and Brasingia are running out of places to escape to….

Whew! You can see there’s a lot going on here, and I can say that Jamie Edmundson hits the mark. He deftly balances the multiple story arcs and, not surprisingly, brings most of them together at the end. I sometimes had to check the handy character list at the front of the book to remind myself of names, but I never had any problem keeping the action in the various places straight.

Now that I’ve finished all the books, I can say that the series as a whole reflects the ongoing strengths and weaknesses of the individual volumes (not exactly an unexpected outcome!) The biggest plus is definitely the battle scenes–and The Giants’ Spear is even heavier on battles than the first three books. The battles are realistic and lucidly explained, genuinely exciting, and full of all the heroism and cowardice, strategy and reverses, and blood and gore one could hope for.

Another strength is the political situations and how the various royal characters and advisors interact, although there is less of that than in the previous books. In addition, despite a cast of eight or ten important actors and many dozen minor ones, individual characters are more or less well-defined and have their own personalities and challenges, intriguing adventures, and character arcs.

The biggest weakness is something I have complained about throughout the series–the dialogue. Characters speak using mostly functional language, and there is little effort to distinguish speaking patterns, even among those of different races. Never mind the many different human nationalities, but shouldn’t at least the elf-like Caladri, the sea-dwelling Asrai, and the stone-walking Krykkers have their own ways of talking? Shouldn’t romantic scenes have different dialogue styles than discussion of fighting tactics?

Still, my overall judgment of the Weapon Takers Saga is positive. For readers who are fans of careful description of medieval warfare, this series will be an especial treat, but I can recommend it for practically any fantasy lover.

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