Bingo 14 (Reading the TBR)
Fifth Ward: Friendly Fire has been on my shelf for a while, long enough for me to have gotten it not too long after it came out and have a sequel already out by the time I got to it. In a way, it’s a good thing that I waited as long as I did, because it seemed really timely for the political here and now in spite of not being set anywhere close.
The Fifth Ward series is set in a quasi-medieval fantasy world inhabited by dwarves, humans, elves, etc., and takes place in the city of Yenara. The city setting matters in particular because the main characters Rem and Torval are members of the Night Watch, who are basically the night shift for the city police. Reason two for the importance of the city setting is that you wouldn’t really have the racial, really more like species, tensions that are such a focus in the novel without that kind of location. This is where the relevance comes in.
The basic main plot has Torval, Rem and the rest of their fellow watchfolk trying to keep the peace between the human and dwarven stonemasons. Problems start with resentment over a contract lost by the humans and won by the dwarves, and things escalate to the point of murders, raids, and riots. Torval is particularly impacted because his oldest son is apprenticed to a dwarven stonemason, and he (Torval) has bad blood with the local dwarven leadership, making his police job all the more difficult. The narrative perspective shifts back and forth between some of the key dwarves and humans, and both sides have these internal struggles about doing what’s right or giving into the anger and resentment. Both sides give in, at least temporarily, and by the time they realize they have to get over their personal grudges for the sake of civilization, an ancient evil has been released, and now he Watch and the stonemasons of both species have to team up in order to stop the evil dark magic and keep it from killing everyone. It’s the internal rhetoric and agonizing that’s both really interesting and also really irritating, because I have a hard time seeing some people in modern US politics actually even considering one of the two approaches. This might have affected my enjoyment of the story a bit.
The other more side stories consider Torval and Rem as they continue to work together and become closer friends, and maybe start to make some decisions about their personal lives. Rem actively considers asking his girlfriend Indilen to marry him, but realizes he can’t in good conscience do that until he’s gotten up the courage to tell her the truth about his past. There have been hints that Rem is the son of high nobility who ran away from home to pursue a freer life, but he hasn’t even told Torval that stuff. He promises Indilen that he’s going to tell her everything as soon as they leave Torval’s home at the end of the book. This kind of cliff hanger would drive me up the wall except that novel 3 is already published, so all I have to do now is get my hands on it so I can find out what the story actually is and how everyone takes it.