Though I could not tell you the first thing about football, I love the TV show Friday Night Lights. Though I did not really understand the world of Ninefox Gambit, I mostly still enjoyed this book.
Most of the time, when a book dumps me straight into a different world in the middle of the action, I eventually catch on and catch up (like Fifth Season). For this one, I never felt like I caught up or figured out exactly what was going on.
Cheris is a Kel, a soldier fighting for the hexarchs and their empire. She’s leading a battle against some heretics, when suddenly orders come to stand down, and she’s taken from her ship. She thinks she’s in trouble, but it turns out her problem-solving and math abilities have caught the eye of the Powers That Be, and they want to use her and her radical idea (to resurrect a long-dead, completely mad general who won a bunch of battles and then turned around and slaughtered his own people and use his tactical ideas) to take back an important station from some other heretics.
Cheris is ‘shadowed’ by the spirit of General Jedao, the ghost traitor, and sent off to the Fortress of Needles. She can hear him, but no one else can. She uses a mix of her own ideas and his advice to come up with a battle plan to breach the fortress and take it back.
All of that is followable and interesting, but I struggled with the world-building. The heretics have messed up the pattern of calendrical warfare. The Kel soldiers are infused with formation instinct, and when they’re in certain formations, heretic weapons won’t work on them. When somebody gets out of formation, the whole thing falls apart and the soldiers drop like flies. There are different factions and wards, and it’s a lot to take in. I never did understand the calendar piece, and how a calendar could be changed, or have any effect on weapons – especially weapons like candescent numbers, dire cannons, calendrical swords…
Right until the very end, I had decided I would not read the next book in the trilogy. But then the end was pretty great, with Cheris alone on a warship (or cindermoth, because everything is weird here) after somebody (possibly/probably her own side?) tried to kill her, figuring out some secret history about her world and Jedao. I do want to see what the two of them do next, although I may have to read some wikipedia notes first to figure out what I missed.
Plus, I did enjoy the quietly funny moments:
“Sir,” said Nervous Engineer Three, “I’m having trouble getting the – oh, there it goes.” A soft click.
“Have more confidence,” Captain Weniat said. This had the opposite of the desired effect.