Book Review: Legend of the Sword (In Her Name: The Last War #2) by Michael R. Hicks

Legend of the Sword
Legend of the Sword by Michael R. Hicks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary:   Six months after the alien Kreelan Empire launched its invasion of human space, the Confederation of Humanity is rapidly growing. The planet of Saint Petersburg, however, would rather see the Confederation destroyed. With a secretly built navy, they have lured the Confederation fleet into a trap, even as the Kreelans prepare another devastating attack.

The second book in the In Her Name series has me left in a bit of a quandary. I honestly feel like this story didn't know what it wanted to be. A cold war epic? A social commentary? A mythological & mystical journey? All of the above? There's a lot in here but it just didn't feel cohesive to me.

When reading about the spy situation on the ground with Valentina, I really liked it. When delving into the political dance between the Confederation & St. Petersburg over where the coal ash & nuclear weapons were & how Riga factored in, was enjoyable. Tesh-Dar's quest & angst for a successor just seemed really disconnected from everything, including the battle the Kreelans are bringing to bear on St. Petersburg. As with the first book, there were some convenient turns (so much so that I was disappointed that I was correct in having guessed them Sato has fatal radiation poisoning so the Kreelan save him with their super healing gel in the middle of a battle where they're bent on killing a multitude of humanity for the glory of the Empress... because he's "The Messenger". ). The point that the Messengers are so very revered has been made since book 1 so I'm wondering why the Kreelan seem so confused by Sato's reactions to their repeatedly singling him out to save while he watches his fellow humans slaughtered & left for dead. Surely, past Messengers the Kreelan have run into have had similar reactions over the thousands of cycles the war & decimations have been waged.

I still need to know more about the Kreelan but so far they, Tesh-Dar especially, just seem so surface & flat they aren't reading as "real" to me. Li'ara went a bit deeper what with all her introspection in this book & I really began to care but overall, the Kreelan leave me wanting. I mean, I get it. Epic warrior society, prophecy, destiny, Bloodsong, invincible & they make it all look good because they do everything with a dash of beauty to the glory of the Empress, while being all blue & badass. But it's not making me deeply empathetic to their plight. The only thing that makes that somewhat okay is that with the exception of a few "special" humans, the rest are dispatched relatively quickly & aren't written in a way that even if you liked them, you much mourn them. I wanted this to read like BSG but on a character empathy level, it's just not there. On the upside, St. Petersburg fared somewhat better than Keran in that they weren't left to utter decimation as sport to the Kreelan & left behind by humanity after the big battle.

There were long expository re-introductions to characters met in book 1, right in the midst of conversations that really broke continuity & seemed like unnecessary filler. Possibly it's just me though, I read the first book recently so I didn't need to be reintroduced to these people in depth. Honestly, I'm still interested in where this is going & I do like the political & diplomatic backdrop of this series, I think the story quite shines there, so I'll definitely go to the next. My understanding from the reviews I've seen is that for those who've read the original trilogy, it's fantastic but I can't help feeling that I should be able to pick up a series at what is its actual beginning & feel the epic.

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