West, Michelle -- Skirmish

If you look at the inside cover, this is the fourth book of six in the "House War" series. In reality: this is the start of the second Jewel Markess trilogy. The first Jewel trilogy can be read on its own, and I did; it's about a young girl growing up on the streets, who gathers unexpected friends and allies. It ties up reasonably well, albeit with sequel hooks and a slightly awkward "Now she leaves on a journey!" roll-off.

Then you've got eight books in two series, written earlier but set later. I haven't read those. Then Jewel's second trilogy starts. This is a problem. The author has synopses up on her web site (http://michellesagara.com/books/skirmish/) and that's fine, but reading about sixteen years of the protagonist's life isn't the same as experiencing them.

(Yes, I know what I just said.)

Jewel returns from her journey (or set of journeys) to find that The Terafin has been killed by a demon. She would prefer to put off the all-out political struggle until after the funeral is over. Good luck with that, Jewel.

I said of the Elantra series: "it alternates between esoteric discussions about magical theory and incredibly uncomfortable social interactions. Occasionally they're the same thing." The description applies equally to this series. (Yes, I should have included "rampaging magical catastrophes" as the third element. But the discussions occur during those too.) Jewel, like Kaylin, has magical talents not matched by (but also not matching) the older, wiser, more studied mages around her. Like Kaylin, she works on instinct; her role in catastrophes is "does the right thing at the right time."

(Which is why the social interactions are important! A character who just walks into a tidal wave or a faerie court or a demon-tree or a whatever, and walks out covered with roses and sparkles -- repeat per chapter -- is not a protagonist. She's a Mary-Sue-oid or, at best, an allegory. Both Jewel and Kaylin have to do things they're not good at; usually people things, like office politics or hiring spies or not pissing off someone who can breathe fire on you.)

(Also, they have to figure out why what they did was right. That's where the esoteric discussions come in.)

Kaylin works for me, because her beat-cop life grounds her. Young Jewel worked for me in the first trilogy; her struggle to survive with her den played the same role. Adult Jewel is almost working for me, and I don't think the author has slipped; I think I missed Jewel growing up. Her concerns as a Terafin House member and Council member are as valid as her long-ago street concerns, but I don't have a handle on them.

At the same time, I don't feel like reading eight books to catch up. So much the worse for me, and I will struggle through.

Tangential and possibly pointless complaint: there are talking cats. I also complained about the talking ferrets in Kari Sperring's latest book. (Although, it turns out, I was wrong in guessing that Sperring keeps ferrets.) I don't know. I have liked talking cats in other books. Tanya Huff writes a hell of a talking cat. Kit's dog Ponch is terrific. Jewel's talking cats, I do not like. Maybe I'm over this trope. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood this year.

They're not annoying -- I mean, they're annoying the way cats are, but that's not annoying to read. They even do some interesting things. (Sometimes in non-cat-like ways; sometimes in extremely cat-like ways.) I just kept thinking, "Why did it have to be cats? They could have been people. Or rocks. Or anything that isn't a cute fuzzy animal that readers like."

Crap, I am in a bad mood this year. Go ahead, enjoy the cats. Don't mind me. I'll be smirking about the fact that Jewel also has a pet stag and a pet elf-warrior, and they're not remotely cute or fuzzy.

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