Last week, I finished Sebastien De Castell’s novel, Saint’s Blood, the third book of the Greatcoats. Like the previous two, it was a fun (well, okay, mostly fun) rollicking adventure yarn full of wit, humor, and swashbuckling derring do. As much as I enjoyed the previous two installments, I’ll give Saint’s Blood higher marks in that it keeps the main cast together. Both Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow have bogged down when Falcio val Mond (our noble protagonist) has gone off on his own. Really – for me anyway – it is the banter and interrelationships between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti that really make these books sing. Take one of them out of the picture and the landscape darkens noticeably.
As fun as it was, there were a couple of issues for me. Castell’s language has always been colorful, but in this installment things just seemed more…explicit. It just felt a bit out of character. And the repeated use of “arsehole” just felt a bit silly. Likewise, rather than his usual pragmatism, Falcio seems far more pessimistic and defeatist in this adventure. That might make sense given the natural of the adversary (sorry, no spoilers), but again it feels out of character and inorganic, as though Castell decided he needed to recast Falcio’s personality to fit the story rather than the other way around. But while these detract slightly from the whole, it doesn’t diminish the story, the characters, or the finale. And what a finale! I cheered the finale of Knight’s Shadow – if you’ve read it, you know exactly the part I’m talking about – and Saint’s Blood closed with at least as much joy in this reader’s heart.
The most bittersweet part of finishing Saint’s Blood is in knowing that the fourth installment, Tyrant’s Throne, is the final book of the Greatcoats. It feels funny to say that – I am not a fan of endless series or of authors who ride one series into the dirt in their careers. Yes, that applies to Terry Prachett and Jim Butcher, as much as I love their work, as it does Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, and Robert Jordan (the less said about those the better). And yes, I know Butcher is working on a fantasy series too but c’mon. 24 Dresden novels? Really?! When he gets to #22, someone needs to send ole Jim a copy of Stephen King’s Misery just for laughs.
But yes, it is bittersweet to know the Greatcoats is coming to an end. Not only because I’ll miss the adventures of Falcio, Kest, and Brasti (and Ethalia, Valiana, and Dariana), but because this is the first series of books that I’ve had this much fun reading in a long time. The swashbuckling adventure genre isn’t awash with options these days. So while I wait for the Dallas Public Library to get their hands on Tyrant’s Throne, I’m going to be looking for a new voice that brings me the same thrill. Wish me luck.
A Parting Gift
An excerpt from the novel. Don’t worry, it won’t spoil anything. Go ahead and read it:
Udriel is what we call in the business a sanguinist: a fencer whose primary strategy is to go for little cuts—wounds that sting and bleed and distract you, until you start to slow down without even realizing it. Sanguinists take their time, pulling you apart bit by bit, until they can end the fight with a single, brilliant flourish—they usually go for an artery so that you end up bleeding out spectacularly all over the floor. It can create quite a stunning tableau for the audience.
I hate sanguinists.
The moment I read this passage, I said to myself, “dammit, 7th Sea needs sanguinists!”
Throughout the book, Falcio describes a number of duelist archetypes. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling all of them into a single file so you can add them to your swashbuckling game of choice. Flashing Blades, Honor+Intrigue, Witch Hunter, All For One, Savage World of Solomon Kane, it doesn’t matter. All of these games need sanguinists. And now they can.