Queen Of Wands (Special Circumstances) Hardcover – 21 Aug 2012
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About the Author
Multiple "USATODAY" and "New York Times" bestseller John Ringo is the creator of the landmark "Posleen Wars" military science fiction series which includes blockbuster "When the Devil Dances, "stand-alone near-future technothriller "The Last Centurion, "the Ghost military action-adventure novels, and the award-winning "Troy Rising" series.Ringo is also the coauthor of several series including the popular "Prince Roger" SF saga with David Weber.A veteran of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne, Ringo brings firsthand knowledge of military operations to his fiction."
Top Customer Reviews
What a cliff hanger to end on though!
How does this get resolved? Does it get resolved at all? Did SC Book 3 ever get written?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It's a fast and a fun read. Be prepared to suspend disbelief and enjoy. And, indeed, you will enjoy. In typical Ringo style, there's lots of action, some humor and a bit to think about. My only kvetch about the book is that it ended too quickly. I could easily have read another 120 pages or so. However, that might have intruded on the next book. Write fast Mr. Ringo, write fast! I' waiting for Barb and Janea's next excellent adventure!
This shouldn't be a break-through, but it is. The literary world abounds with characters with a multitude of different religious beliefs and that doesn't make them frustrating to readers. The fundamentalist Christian mindset is often portrayed in literature as different with such characters being inflexible, close-minded and intolerant (in my opinion, there's some good reason for this stereotype, but it's horribly over-used.)
In Princess of Wands (yes, I know, I know, I'm getting to the current book. Really), the character of Barb is written to fully embrace the tenets of her religion without being grating or frustrating to readers who don't agree with her. The stereotypical Christian is repeatedly referenced within the book itself and other characters are surprised to see how different Barb is. At the same time, the issue of faith (while core to the character, and her personal journey) doesn't overwhelm the book and you get a series of ripping good stories. I was left desperately wanting more, and the news of a sequel overwhelmed me with glee!
All of my excitement slowly drained away as I read Queen of Wands (told you I'd get there.) Queen of Wands doesn't change the character of Barb, but the story-telling itself becomes suddenly message-driven. It's not an exaggeration to say that, by the end of the book, the message is that atheists and agnostics threaten the very existence of the world. While there's an attempt at inter-faith ecumenicalism, the middle of the book is almost an attack on anyone who has chosen not to believe in a religion. Worse, the book sets up the idea that any future books will take this position as a starting point and run forward from there (leaving dead atheists and agnostics in its' tracks I suppose) This would be annoying enough in its' pomposity, if it weren't for the fact that this change really affects the quality of the story itself.
The narrative is no longer focused on a heroine who struggles against overwhelming odds, but succeeds through training, wit, and also faith. It becomes a literal "deus ex machina" resolution (whoops, forget the machina, it's just deus ex deus). Barb's skills no longer matter, nor does the ability of any human. The resolution of the main story is simply that everyone needs to believe hard enough! I'm not even worried about the theology here, it's just not an interesting story. Let's all just sit here and pray, may deliver a sound theological message for some, but it's boring, and that's the worst sin for a novel.
Even worse, in my opinion, this sequel takes away some value that I saw in the first book. I used to encourage people to pick up Princess of Wands to see a different portrayal of Christianity. It was a fusion of fantasy with Christian ideology. Now, I have to say, "but just ignore the second book and likely, any future stories in this series." Its' no longer a gateway to encourage people to get past their stereotypes of conservative Christianity. Now, it seems to own up to many of those stereotypes.
This central failure is combined with a recurring issue with Ringo's more recent works. He amuses himself by throwing in references to his favorite fiction, music, and other arts. Many writers have done this (the over the top example being Heinlein's Number of the Beast which is entirely this.) Ringo has taken to doing this in a smirking, juvenile way. It's as if throughout his writing he's standing next to you poking you in the shoulder, saying, "Get it? Get it?"
In Queen of Wands this continues with a grating cameo by characters from the show, Warehouse 13 (and I really LIKE that show, but this was annoying). He continues it with an entire story that serves mostly as a long advertisement for how great and fun Dragon-Con is (because his previous commercial for attending cons in Princess of Wands didn't get the point across.) Princess of Wands, at least mainly used the con as a setting. In Queen of Wands, the short-story set in a mythical ideal of Dragon-Con, the focus is almost entirely on the Con itself as a character. The main character is a con neophyte and so must be introduced to EVERYTHING about the con and have it all explained in excruciating detail.
If you're still reading after all this, you might ask if I liked anything at all about this book? I'm still pondering that question. The issues I've raised here unsettled me so much, that I can't say I'd want to read this book again (in contrast, I've reread Princess of Wands numerous times). It almost feels as if there was some external editor or other advisor who provided Ringo solid counsel on early drafts of Princess of Wands, and that person was ignored or not available for this second book. In the end, I'm just disappointed.
The supporting cast doesn't get as much attention, but part of that is the rather high casualty rate in these stories. The demons and other beings that haunt the pages tend to wipe out the unprotected, leaving the main characters to pick up the pieces.
Of course, some people are going to hate this book. While it doesn't preach, the fact that both of hte man characters are religious and devout seems guaranteed to annoy some people. To them I have to say that they need to read the book with an open mind. While the book definitely is writtne by someone who is sympathetic to religion and Christianity, there is no pressure to convert. Barbara Everette never demands that someone convert or accept her belief. Instead she tries to live a life according to the precepts of her religion and to accept the decisions of others. It's a difficult concept and one that John Ringo manages to put onto paper. In fact I'd say the atheiest point-of-view gets pounded a bit more than any other. Often to its detriment.
Otherwise, the 2.5 stories in the book are fun and exciting reads. The first story is split into two parts as Barbara and Janea are seperated by their enemies. Each has their own battles to fight before the monstrosity they are fighting can be defeated.
The second story increases the intensity, but also gets a bit overly political at times. (which is why I can only give this story 4 stars.) It's still an excellent story.
I definitely recommend this book.
My only complaint was the story was too short at 337 pages. I finished the book in one continuous reading. That wasn't my plan, I just couldn't put it down. I do hope the third book is already well under way because, Mr Ringo, that ending was just evil.