Friday, August 14, 2020

Short Book Reviews: The Seven Kennings, Continued

A Blight of Blackwings, by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey)

This sequel to A Plague of Giants is as detailed and complex and just plain entrancing as the first volume. The war with the Bone Giants may be over, but the giants are anything but vanquished; their spies, invading forces, and menaces of various sorts, natural and magical, seek to weaken the surviving kingdoms. As before, magical gifts called “kennings” arise in certain people by way of life-threatening ordeals; once the kennings were thought to be only five, now a sixth (the ability to speak to animals, including insects, with predictably hilarious and dreadful results) has arisen – could there be more?

As before, the story is told primarily through a Bard, whose kenning allows him to adopt the appearance, voice, and verbatim tales of his subjects as he relates these songs and stories to the refugees from the Bone Giants war, gathered on Survivors Field. Each character knows only a small portion of the whole; each has his or her agenda, cultural context, affiliations, and personal biases. The effect is a bit like the classic movie, Rashomon, in which each character’s telling of the same events produces a radically different interpretation.

I loved the chance to spend more time with characters from very different cultures (and the utterly delightful portrait sketches). As before, with the first volume, I had favorites and in this installment was coaxed into widening the field.

The story ended on a cliff hanger, so I assume – no, I demand that there will be more.

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