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Review: The Left Hand Way by Tom Doyle

By / August 15, 2015 / no comments

You would want to read the first book in the series (American Craftsmen) before moving on to The Left Hand Way (the plot picks up where the last one left off, and most of the major characters return).  But, if you enjoyed the first book, you will probably also enjoy this one.

This is a very quick read; I was probably through it in 3 sessions.  There were multiple POV characters and I thought all of them were interesting.  The action is pretty much nonstop, which is what I was looking for when I picked this up.

Although this is an action fantasy novel, this book is also peppered with allusions to literary works and historical events/figures.  Some of them are a bit hokey (and those even get called out in the book by one of the characters), but it’s fun to try to spot them.  I’m sure a lot of them passed me by.  (Knowing a lot about American history helps.)

leftReturning from the previous book are Dale Morton, his wife Scherie, and Michael Endicott, as well as bad-guy Roderick (distant branch on Dale’s family tree) and Roman, a Ukrainian operative who initially helped Roderick.  Morton, Scherie, and Endicott are in the US craft service, which is a branch of the military and/or intelligence service where the members have magical abilities.

New this time are Grace, who is a UK craftswoman, and Lara (not a major character, but she has an important role, nonetheless), a Ukrainian woman on the autism spectrum who also has craft abilities.  Based on some of Endicott’s thoughts early on and some description of Grace, you will be able to see one element of the ending coming from a mile away.  (For what it’s worth, this is basically Endicott’s book, whereas the last one was Dale’s.)

Character development was decent for a second book in a series.  It helped that we had some new people introduced, and that Endicott got the first person scenes in this book.  Other characters don’t grow so much, but I think a decent balance is struck for this book.  And I think we’ll learn more about the others in future installments (I feel like Scherie has a lot more to come, for example).

The villain (Roderick) is one-dimensional — murders, is a sexual deviant, seeks to extend his life by unnatural means, exerts control over others (and seeks more), etc.  He does slip up a few times so he’s not all-powerful (yet).  He’s easy to hate, of course, but one interesting aspect to him is that a handful of nations are indecisive as to what to do about him.  Roderick offers them access to his “Left Hand” life-extension technologies (for a price); some reject it outright but the decision is not so easy for others.  So an intriguing international dynamic is introduced.

This book is basically our heroes’ attempts to stop Roderick, as well as their responses to his manipulation.  It seems like he’s always a step ahead.  As it happens, there are apparently also moles high up in various nations’ craft services.  I never necessarily felt like our characters were in danger of dying, but there are some fates worse than death possible in this universe, so there was still some worry and a sense of urgency.

The writing did the job of telling the story without getting in the way.  There was maybe a little more description than I would have liked, but I never felt shorted on action.

World-building was appropriate.  The characters are off American soil for a large part of the book (truly globetrotting — Ukraine, Russia briefly, Japan, Greece, Turkey, the UK, bits of France and Germany), so you get to learn more about craft services and traditions in other countries.  Although I haven’t been to most of these places, the level of detail was enough for believability (to me).  Either the author did a respectable amount of research, or he has actually visited.

Minor spoiler ahead. I’ve tried to keep it vague. One criticism: it seems like everyone was gaining all kinds of superpowers in this book. One character (not the magically-enhanced villain) survives what absolutely should have been a mortal wound.  The villain has powered up, as well.  I’m not sure how much farther this powering-up can be taken, but the author has definitely left several story threads open so I suppose we will see.

In the end, my gut feeling is to rate based on my enjoyment during the process of reading rather than by the post-read analysis.  In the end, I had a lot of fun reading The Left Hand Way and I am looking forward to the next volume of the series.

 

By Sneaky Burrito

 

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About the author

Jon Snow

Believe it or not, Jon Snow really got into reading only after reading A Game of Thrones back in 2002. Previously the only fantasy he had read were Lord of the Rings and many Magic: The Gathering books.While juggling teaching life, he tries to keep up with recently published books.

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