Rating: 4 out of 5
Although enjoyable and humorous, I wasn’t overall as big a fan as of the previous volumes. I think in some way the logic behind these characters has started to feel old: instead of one character we could have followed throughout, there have been three with not much to differentiate them or at least that’s how it seems.
The architect of the events that this volume’s heading mentions is a Robur in the Etchen empire, a curious translator who ended up there because of past regrets. The changed setting does make for some interesting world-building, especially with regard to how the Etchen and other nearby people are portrayed. This is possibly the most interesting aspect of the book overall because the author has put a lot of effort into making different nations feel different.
The setting heavily borrows from Asia, i.e. nomadic groups striking at centralised empires which are unable to strike back or to really defend themselves. This is not all that common in fantasy and it’s even less common to have some originality in this borrowing: while the parallels are clear, Mr Parker hasn’t just renamed China or Japan into something different and kept everything else the same.
Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives and this book also has something much more important: a caustic quality likely to leave the reader smiling.