The Second Empire


Paul Kearney


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

May 12, 2007

his is the fourth book out of five in the Monarchies of God. Kearney has picked up the pace, lots of dramatic stuff happens in the Second Empire, but I still find myself wondering how he is going wrap up this series with just one more book to go. There are so many plotlines that apparently still have a lot of story left to tell. For example, the pope Himerius fails to appear in this book.

In this fourth book, Richard Hawkwood returns to the story (after being missing for most of book 3). Hawkwood, Murad and Bardolin struggle out of the deadly tropical jungle of the Western continent and sail for home, their expedition is a failure, now all they hope for is survival. Bardolin has been cursed with lycanthropy, he can turn into a werewolf. He begs for Hawkwood to kill him, but Hawkwood hopes that Golophin, the chief sorcerer of Hebrion, can cure Bardolin. Unfortunately, when Hawkwood reaches port, Kearney shifts him off the stage again, which is too bad, because he ought to get more of his story told. Bardolin is haunted by the ghost of Griella, who died in the first book of the series. When Murad returns to Hebrion, he resumes his scheming evil ways - each of these three interesting characters deserves a long wrap up to their story, I wonder what Kearney has planned for them.

Kearney spends most of the pages in this novel dealing with the Merduk invasion of Torunna. The Ormmann Dyke has fallen, and now an overwhelming invasion force threatens the capital. Corfe Cear-Inaf is now commander of chief of all of Torunna's armies, but he is greatly outnumbered, and the nobility of Torunna scorns him despite his proven effectiveness against the Merduk. Corfe does, however, have the support of the Queen. Corfe gathers his men into a marauding army, to strike at the Merduks who are marching toward the Torrin Gap. There are some violent battle scenes.

Other than Hawkwood and Corfe, the true hero of this series is Abeleyn, the King of Hebrion. Abeleyn faces the treacherous ambition of his former mistress Jemilla. Unfortunately, Kearney doesn't spend much time with Abeleyn and his bride-to-be Isobella, but there is great potential here. Jemilla claims to carry Abeleyn's bastard son. Meanwhile, Hawkwood is dazzled by Isobella, but she is betrothed to the king.

Meanwhile, the dark lord of the Western continent, Aruan, is apparently about to launch a plot that has been decades in the making - presumably, he is going to invade and set himself up as ruler. Kearney has given Aruan almost god-like powers, so thwarting him will require some heroic derring-do.

Reading these books reminds me of the non-stop adventure stories of John Carter of Mars or Conan. While those series focused on a single heroic character, and the Monarchies of Gods has a host of characters, the plotting and the storytelling styles seem similar - the author devotes everything to advance the plot at a breathless pace. All the characters act, rather than think. It is a fun a style, the kind of tales that lead to a thousand painted images - I like the covers to the books in this series - their bright primary colors with almost cartoonish imagery are a good match for the prose inside.

Hopefully, the last book won't be a major letdown. There are some many plot lines to sew up, Kearney could really impress me, or he might fumble the conclusion. We shall see...