Books Beyond Bedtime

I find it appropriate that I have, at least, managed to finish reading Safehold during the month of November.  That it was both started and ended this month.  That it may end up being the only series I read this month, depending on what I choose for tomorrow.  I might have to pick something light and short because…damn.  That was…wow.  At the Sign of Triumph is 738 pages of story.  There is no cast of characters.  In fact, there is a note following the last page of the novel explaining that David Weber had a few issues and delays and that such a list will be up on his website within a month or so of the release date (election day, if you’d forgotten).  This goes along with the map at the front – only the world map is shown, followed by a page with a web address offering downloads of any and all maps a reader could desire.

Yes, I know this is a half-answer for my own personal prayer from several books ago.  However, I’d still love a nice, full color Safeholdian atlas!

The other reference pages in the back, such as the glossary and guide to religious orders among others, are still present and take up twenty-three pages.  I assume this is fairly consistent with the previous books, though I’m not going to check.  The most that would be added is vocabulary and, frankly, anyone who can’t mentally translate “land-bombs” into “landmines” probably shouldn’t be reading these books.

As far as content goes…this has not at all been a slog, even though it is one of the thickest books in the series, though that may be more of a formatting decision, given the varying sizes.  Since I should definitely be asleep, I’m not going to go snap a picture for you at this time, but at some point I will, I promise!  Definitely before I decide to get rid of my current copy of Hell’s Foundations Quiver – since some of the pages have fallen out of the binding and I had to hold them in place while I read it.

THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Okay.  So.  Let’s talk content.

This is the final book in this particular saga.  The same note explaining the lack of a character list also hints that there are more Safeholdian stories to be told.  I would guess that dealing with the bombardment platform in orbit around the planet is part of that, since it appears to be set to detect emissions of a certain energy level.  Steam power’s no threat, but electricity on a large scale would probably trigger an attack.  But that’s for the future.

Earlier this month I mentioned that Safehold is a religious war, a war for freedom, for the individual’s right to stand up and make their own decision.  We have the Charisian Empire, which means to ensure that freedom for the entire world, and we have the Church of God Awaiting, most specifically Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s Inquisition, working to suppress that freedom and rule the world.  Yes, that is the Grand Inquisitor’s goal, even if he won’t admit it aloud.

I felt a frission of excitment down my spine early on in At the Sign of Triumph when a decisive naval battle against the Royal Dohlaran Navy was referred to using the word “final.”  I suspected that there would be some fallout and setup, but that the decisive land battle would take place in the next book.  Of course, since I was expecting the last hundred pages and more to be reference material, I grossly underestimated the length of this book, particularly because I refused to spoil anything myself by looking up where it would end.

Perhaps a hundred pages from the end is where I finally realized that yes, this is the last book in this particular series.  Or at least, this era of this series, as previously noted.  Not every loose end is tied up, but my goodness did we get some surprises and satisfaction!

The biggest surprise for me personally was Major Phandys being a double-agent.  I will admit that took me completely by surprise, though it probably shouldn’t have.  He was the only Temple Guard tapped by the Inquisition whose name came up more than twice, so when the mystery person approached Arhloh, it should’ve been obvious who it was.  In my defense, I refer you to the obscene numbers of named characters in these books and the fact that I was a bit too excited to overanalyze the story I was enjoying.

My ongoing subtle amusement at Merlin and Nynian being a pair is…just that.  Though it does raise a lot of interesting questions, which Merlin himself ponders at some points, about the definitions of sexuality and gender.  After all, a PICA of a young woman named Nimue Alban opted to become the male Merlin Athrawes because her height would’ve made a woman incredibly unsual in Safeholdian society.  It would also give him a greater say in a more patriarchal group and raise fewer questions about his prowess as a warrior.  Merlin still finds men to be very attractive, but is also able to function sexually with women.  This doesn’t even cover Nimue Chwaeriau, who is a second PICA built several years after Merlin first awoke, but with the same copy of Nimue Alban’s personality that had been downloaded long before Operation Ark broke away from the Gbaba.  Needless to say, there’s some very bizarre things you can theorize with those two.

At the end of the night, I think I would say that yes, I am satisfied with this ending to the tale.  Yes, I am pleased with how it went.  Would my reading have been different if I had known ahead of time that this was the final book in this saga?  Probably.  I thought that the land war was going to have one final book of defense around the Temple Lands, and very probably around Zion itself.  But I underestimated how much our heroes had been undercutting confidence in the Church and Inquisition for the past several years/books, each book containing roughly a year’s worth of events.

I am disappointed that the cliffhanger with Thirsk didn’t go where I had hoped – I’d hoped that he’d somehow magically come over to Charis’ side and become part of the inner circle.  It wasn’t logical, but it was the payoff I wanted.  Still, he’s in a very good position after all, so I guess that’s no bad thing.

Most importantly, I don’t have a huge number of unanswered questions.  Some, like how to deal with the millenial return of the Archangeles that Scheuler foretold to his descendants or how to get rid of the bombartment platform, are likely to be answered in future stories.  Others, like whether or not Cayleb and Sharleyan were more discreet about using the coms to talk to each other as Alanah got older, are purely irrelevant and a sign that I may or may not be thinking about these books too hard.

So, that was Safehold.  For now.  Dear gods was it epic and encompassing and…I just don’t have any more words.  It may not have brought me to tears the way the Symphony of Ages’ conclusion did, but that could change in the future.  Maybe Weber will write humanity’s return to space and the continuation of the war against the Gbaba.  And maybe I’ll cry when we win.

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