I haven’t talked about what I’m reading in a while. I have several series I’m rotating among because I have this weird thing where I burn out on a series if I try to read it straight through. So I read a book from one series, read one from another, then read one from another before going back to the next book in series 1, and so forth, except the order I get to them varies depending on the mood I’m in.
I’ve just finished reading book 3 in one of the series, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to hold up and be something I can recommend. I’m not sure what the name of the series as a whole is (the library doesn’t have them categorized under a series name), but the first book is Inda by Sherwood Smith. I’d put it in the “if you liked A Game of Thrones” category because it’s largely about court intrigue and how people get into petty power plays while there’s an existential threat out there that they’re going to have to deal with, but it’s not as gory or disturbing. I’d also compare it to the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold, although this is fantasy rather than science fiction. There’s the warrior society, and there’s the main character who’s a charismatic natural leader and genius strategist who has a knack for pulling victories out of thin air and winning people over to his side.
The first book starts out looking like a “school” book. Our hero is a second son in a noble family, and traditionally the first sons are sent to the royal academy to train to be warriors who fight for the king, then they’re supposed to go home and train their younger brothers, who will defend their homes while the older brother is fighting for the king. But there’s a break in tradition in which the second sons are also called to the academy to train. What these boys don’t know is that this is all part of a scheme to undermine the king’s second son and change the kingdom’s power structure, and this sets in motion events that will totally change the kingdom. Young Inda is a natural leader, and when he befriends the shy, bookish prince and pulls together a group of boys who shine in the academy, it totally upsets all the schemes. That leads to Inda being exiled to a merchant ship, and his life goes in some strange directions from there.
It’s hard to describe much more of the plot without spoilers, but we get to see these boys grow up and go through all kinds of things. In the book I just finished, they’re adults and leaders in their own right, dealing with the fallout from the plots that started in the first book. All the plotting is very twisty, and it’s fun to see all the various plot threads converge, merge, and diverge. Like with the Song of Ice and Fire books, there are storylines taking place in a variety of locations, and characters from one storyline may end up meeting up with other characters. The worldbuilding is pretty detailed, with fully thought-out cultures. You get a sense for their social structure and priorities and how that has worked to shape their society.
The stories do get a bit intense. There’s violence, since we have war and pirates, and I have skimmed over a few parts or flipped ahead to see what will happen so I can brace myself through a difficult part, but I like these characters enough to want to know what will happen next for them. They’re also really, really fat books. It takes me weeks to read one, but that means I get to be immersed in that world for a long time. I’m taking a break to read something else before I dive into the next book, but I’m eager to do so, so I may not make it through my whole series rotation first.