By Schism Rent Asunder by David Weber
Synopsis from GoodReads:
The world has changed. The mercantile kingdom of Charis has prevailed over the alliance designed to exterminate it. Armed with better sailing vessels, better guns and better devices of all sorts, Charis faced the combined navies of the rest of the world at Darcos Sound and Armageddon Reef, and broke them. Despite the implacable hostility of the Church of God Awaiting, Charis still stands, still free, still tolerant, still an island of innovation in a world in which the Church has worked for centuries to keep humanity locked at a medieval level of existence.
But the powerful men who run the Church aren’t going to take their defeat lying down. Charis may control the world’s seas, but it barely has an army worthy of the name. And as King Cayleb knows, far too much of the kingdom’s recent good fortune is due to the secret manipulations of the being that calls himself Merlin-a being that, the world must not find out too soon, is more than human. A being on whose shoulders rests the last chance for humanity’s freedom.
Now, as Charis and its archbishop make the rift with Mother Church explicit, the storm gathers. Schism has come to the world of Safehold. Nothing will ever be the same…
The first novel in this series was disappointing – I’m very happy to say that this novel was much better. I still didn’t find it up to my usual expectations for a Weber novel, but it was easier to get into and definitely flowed a lot faster. Perhaps that was due to it being about half the length of the prior novel, or perhaps there’s a different reason.
I think it helped that there was better diversity among the book’s narrators (rotating third person limited POV). More women, for one, as well as giving those women multiple scenes. But also a greater variety in the men between why they were doing what they were doing. More and more of the antagonists were given greater nuance, although in some cases that still paints them in unflattering light.
The spelling of the names is still bothering me. I’m getting better at remembering who’s who, but new names are still pulling me out as I go ‘now how would that be pronounced’. But overall, it’s going smoother as I grow accustomed to the weird spellings and pronunciations.
The battles in this book were more streamlined, which also helped, although the industrial revolution details still tend to provide paragraphs that I’m skimming over. Mostly because they’re not why I’m still reading the series.
As for the major twist revealed at probably about the 1/3 to halfway point… I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, it makes certain future issues easier in a very good way while still giving good reasons to not make such things easy in the present. On the other hand, it does in some ways feel a bit like a cop-out in regards to some of Merlin’s issues. However, there was some light foreshadowing for it in the first novel (which I took to be foreshadowing something else entirely, so good job Weber!), so it’s not as if it came completely out of nowhere. And the explanations surrounding the twist make sense.
A much better second installment, this one rates a solid 3 out of 5 stars.