October’s Baby (1980)

Mocker and his friend Bragi Ragnarson get involved into a scheme by their old associate Haroun. The king of Kavelin has died, and Bragi’s official contract is to help the queen defend the throne against all usurpers. But the real intent of Haroun’s plan is to make as much money as possible, and maybe even get the kingdom for themselves. But the Dread Empire also has plans for Kavelin, and soon Rabi finds himself between a rock and a hard place, with enemies closing in from all sides.

If there’s one rule for Glen Cook’s books, it’s: nothing is sure. Plans unravel by contact with reality, people change and your enemy from today might be your ally tomorrow. If you survive until then. This is written in the same style as the first Dread Empire book, dense and taut. Everything moves fast and you have to pay attention to remember what happened to whom, and where. It’s a bit exhausting to read, and I thought the payoff for the bigger storyline with the Star Rider was a bit too meek to feel satisfying.

It’s mostly a book about the military campaigns of Bragi to save Kavelin from usurpers, and reads less like a fantasy novel than a historical war novel. I also wondered whether Cook had any idea where the story was going, or whether he just made everything up as he went along. I had the same feeling in some of his Black Company books, but there I got a good payoff, but since the Dread Empire series is unfinished, I know I won’t get any here. Overall a decent read.