The Straits of Galahesh
I’ve been fighting with this post for several days, but it stubbornly resists any kind of hook or angle. I still want to talk about The Straits of Galahesh though, so in the absence of profound or witty concept to hang this post on, I may have to write a straight up book review. Heaven forbid.
I read and reviewed The Winds of Khalakovo some time ago, and named it one of my best reads of 2013. Beaulieu’s unique world fit well with the sympathetic characters and non-stop action; I burned through the book in a couple of days and was immediately ready for more. However, despite the author graciously providing me with ebooks of the next two volumes, one thing or another got in the way and I didn’t start into Book Two until early 2015. Straits took much longer than Winds to complete, something I initially chalked up to changes in my reading habits. Thinking more and poking around other reactions, I’ve decided that it wasn’t just me. Straits is a deeper, more complex book that demands more effort than the first. It takes longer to set up, longer to get into, and longer to pay off, while dealing with the dreaded Middle Book Syndrome.
While Winds was big on swashbuckling in a comparatively small geographic and chronological area, Straits takes the time to expand the story both further into Beaulieu’s world and deeper into the history of Anuskaya. There are still plenty of swashes to buckle this time around, but in more kingdoms (Istanbul analog!) and with more and better bad guys. Anuskaya, with its windships and islands in the sky, is even more beguiling than in Winds. Beaulieu has created one of my favorite fantasy worlds here, improving it vastly by introducing new places. I didn’t think it would get much better after the first book, but the author surprised me. Yes, this remains the ever popular Seek and Slay the Evil Wizard storyline, but now we have the philosophical underpinnings to his dastardly plot! On the whole, the series benefits from the broader view. There is a trade-off as Beaulieu has to spend a substantial pagecount in the setup, but once things finally get rolling the momentum is undeniable.
It’s hard to assess the plot and write the sort of convoluted, analytical stuff that Two Dudes normally presents without first seeing where everything ends up in Book Three. Eye rolling and accusations of having entirely too much spare time will have to wait. The wait shouldn’t be too long though, since I am eager to wrap this up and find out what happens. The world might literally end, if the author is feeling so inclined, and the body count is just high enough that favorite characters may have to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop the evil, if vaguely well-intentioned, Evil Wizard from unleashing a hellish nirvana on everyone. True love will likely prevail however, just because it always does. That said, anyone who liked the first book will find no reason to skip the second. My expectations for the third are high.