Hand of the King's Evil

by Chaz Brenchley

Cover image

Series: Outremer #5
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: December 2002
Printing: October 2003
ISBN: 0-441-01110-1
Format: Mass market
Pages: 245

Buy at Powell's Books

This is the fifth book in the Outremer series. You don't want to read it without having read the previous books.

I was hopeful after the excellent end of Feast of the King's Shadow that this series was taking a distinct turn for the better. Unfortunately, that wasn't really maintained here.

Some things Brenchley continues to improve. The annoying bickering and immaturity of the characters in the first few books of this series appears to be gone for good, which is remarkable. The plot mostly keeps moving along here too, and there's more to be seen of the djinni and the 'ifrit.

However, this is clearly a setup novel for the last book, and therefore involved quite a bit of revisiting of characters who'd been left behind, revisiting of emotions and emotional conflicts to make sure the reader knew they were going to be important, and moving characters around so that they'll be in the right places. I was left rather unsatisfied with the story, an interesting if creepy setup of something like a fanatical cult that in the end nothing much was done with. And worse, the narration really started bugging me again.

In the first book of this series, I disliked the narrative voice somewhat. Brenchley seemed to be trying too hard on his descriptions and repeating himself too much on character emotions. This has continued to a degree throughout the series, but it had been getting better until this book, where it takes a distinct turn for the worse again. I felt like some characters were constantly rehashing the same thoughts presented as if they were new, like emotions that had already been established were being described all over again.

Obviously, this is not a book that one chooses to read or not read baesd on its own merits; it's the fifth book of a six book series, so unless you gave up after the fourth book, you're going to read this one to get to the end. The plot is advanced, particularly once one gets to the latter half of the book and things start happening again to the characters one cares the most about. It's just a bit disappointing after the strength of the last book.

Followed by The End of All Roads.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-07-26

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