Sunday, 10 May 2009

Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe by James M Ward (Fiction, Fantasy, 8/10E)

2005, Tor, 288 pages

Content: a little fighting, lots of action

Before I get to the review, I would like to share a few surprises.

1) The protagonist is male.
I openly confess I prefer female protagonists. I relate to them easier. In my imagination, I am them as I read the book. I can truly transport myself into the world within the pages. I have read books with male protagonists, and lately, it seems like I'm reading more of them. I'm even enjoying it!

2) There's a new genre in fantasy – military sci-fi/fantasy!
After a recent trip to Maryland, home to the US naval Academy, I'm in a pro-military frame of mind, especially shis. When I saw the title for this book, I picked it up without reading the blurb. I'm over the moon that a whole sub-genre exists revolving around one of my current fascinations.

Now that's over with, on with the review!

As the title suggests, this book tells the story of Halcyon Blithe, a midshipwizard freshly out of training. For those thinking midship-what? A midshipman is the name awarded to the lowest (or, according to some sources, second lowest) rank in the US navy. In this story, Midshipwizard is exactly what it suggests: a wizard in the navy. Magic and warfare go hand in hand.

The thing which I like most about Halycon, is that he isn't perfect. He shines in some areas, and is very green in others. He makes mistakes in the story, mistakes which threaten the lives of everyone on board the living dragonboat. I found it was his character, and times humerous interactions with the rest of the crew which kept me reading. There are a few females, but no smush here!

I guessed wrongly about the end of the book, and who the traitor was. I immediately wanted to reread it to spot the clues hinting towards the traitor.

The only thing preventing me from giving this a full star rating is the fact that I kept thinking 'where's the action?'. Don't get me wrong, I loved learning all the ins and outs of life for the midshipwizard, the strange rituals which recruits don't hear about until they happen, the sheer volume of daily tasks that need performing on a ship. I loved the idea of a living boat (well, I grew up with a few living space ships thanks to Anne McCaffrey). The major plot line remained subtle for a fair amount of the story. When things heated up, they did move along at a reasonable pace, and there were moments of 'how will Halcyon survive?'

The good news is, there's a sequel available now: Dragonfrigate Wizard Halcyon Blithe. I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy so I can review it here.

James M Ward doesn't appear to have a home page. There are several sites hosting information about them, so go check them out.

Disclaimer: if any information in this review is incorrect, please contact me so I can amend it.


Danyelle said...

This sounds like an awesome book!

Yunaleska said...

It is, especially if you like knowing details :)