Book two in the Westmark trilogy; the plot continues. Only there wasn’t a plot to start out with, just a bunch of character studies, so, on with the character studies! To shake things up a little, some of the village idiots we met earlier are given main character status, and any main characters who stay in the plot have to develop new personalities to keep things coherent. So… I’m not sure where any of this is quite entirely related to the last book, except in the most bare boned of extenuating circumstances.
Florian: Master thief/traitor/conspirator/person-who-is-supposed-to-be-a-very-clever-and wise-hippie-den-father-persona. He wants to restore “democracy” (which means mob rule) to the kingdom of Westmark, Karl Marx style; everybody gets an equal share of everything, except the monarchy, who will be stripped of everything. Along with Cabbarus, and the nobility (whose job, in this book, is to stand around telling their princess she’s wrong while proving she is right), the monarchy is basically going to be massacred if Florian gets his way. The thing is, the country just got peace with the return of the princess in book one, so Florian’s grand-standing and brutal, near-terroristic tactics are only justified once the country is invaded by foreign troops.
Theo: Still an orphan by his own volition (having turned down a job, a mentor, a place at court, and a potential girl, in that order, because gutter scum is a such a good thing to be), he wants Florian’s approval, thus spends most of this intermediary plot line trying to win his favor by being more brutal in his tactics than the other guerrilla fighters (who claim to be fighting for the freedom of their country from the invaders, but they abuse the country-folk just as badly or worse, so their definition of free is up for debate).
The Monkey: Florian’s only criminal with experience in the underworld prior to working for Florian. This somehow makes him a gritty character, though his main occupation is to save food from being burned down with the villages at random intervals and share it with his friends. Executed after he escapes capture by the enemy, since someone so clever, brave, and experienced would only be able to escape capture by changing sides. Theo is of said one friends, and the other…
Justin: is a background village idiot from book one. Florian likes him. Thus, he is given command of the guerrilla fighters in various places, and is unquestioned in his leadership skills. His main intellectual accomplishment is justifying shooting Monkey in the back. Being the intelligent persona that Theo is, he idolizes Justin and tries to save his life at peril of their entire mission. Justin continues to hate Theo because he hasn’t been with Florian long enough (when that excuse runs out, he starts hating Theo because, in aforementioned life-saving effort, Justin gets a scar on his face. Sheesh, most movie stars sit still for hours every day to get their facial scars to look as ‘cool’ as his sounds).
Mickle: She bests the generals at battle plans, her mother at ruling, the enemy at negotiating, spies at spying, and a prince at fighting. Just another day in the life of an ordinary princess. Oh, and she’s no longer the very proud, I-can-do-this person, no; now she is the sweetly rebellious daughter whose only desire is for the good of everyone else, so that’s why she tells everybody what to do in this “charming” way that makes them agree with her almost immediately. Mickle also gets several sub-plot characters involved, including a pair of siblings who make Theo look smart, the writer of a humor column, the ever-whining doctor, the queen (who’s shed the whining, and is now the resident worrywart), and a foreign prince who has been raised his entire life by lying, pompous, weak, evil, gluttonous people yet is honest, humble, strong willed, good, and handsomely trim. Whew. The only thing she isn’t great at? Choosing a suitor (the foreign chap is clearly the most intelligent and honorable guy in the running, despite his pitiful fighting skills). Otherwise, she gets her way the entire book.
Overall: Not worth reading. Why did I keep reading onto the second book of an author who is clearly not my type? I actually read this one first, for one thing. Also, I had forgotten my journal and there were still four hours left in the car when I finished “The Kestrel”. Finally, in the spirit of fairness, I assumed that my reasons for disliking this book could have to do with not understanding the background plot (never assume). The style is gripping, but in an obvious fish-hook sense, not engrossing. For a fantasy-adventure with character studies AND a plot, read “The Three Musketeers” and its sequels.