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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.
Review by Travis Starnes
While I am still enjoying this series I was a little let down by this installment. Not that it was bad but it felt essentially less than the previous book. By Schism Rent Asunder picks up from the massive battle at the with a new king of Charis, the Church of God Awakening moving more directly against the kingdom, and Charis picking up the pieces left over from its victory.
If anything this book feels more like Weber is working to advance the world building and setting up for bigger conflicts. It is clear that Weber has a long term goal for the series but all the setup in this issue comes off as a little unsatisfactory when put next to the epic battles that closed out the previous installment. On the bright side for readers who like political maneuvering and Machiavellian schemes this book will hit the right notes and by the end there is a fairly complex web set up. A lot of time is devoted to looking in on the “great game” of politics on Safehold and the various factions attempts to prepare for the conflict that is just on the horizon. Unfortunately by the end of the book that conflict is still just on the horizon.
We get the same basic cast of characters as in the first book with the exception of a handful of new players. This helps some because instead of whole sections devoted to introduction of a character Weber can now focus on developing and fleshing those characters out. While the main cast was pretty robust by the end of Armageddon’s Reef the supporting cast still felt a bit flimsy and much of that is resolved here. In particular you get really good development in Calyeb, the new king of Charis. He really comes into his own as the strong ruler of men Weber seemed to be gunning for and feels more like the Henry VIII analogue that Weber wanted. And more importantly we get Prince Nahrman as a major player. In a book focused on scheming and plotting this is the character to watch. He comes off as pure id and is simply a pleasure to follow, every moment the story is with him you can’t help but enjoy the man’s guile.
There is one issue in the characterization that bumps against all this good development. Weber chose to write in a romance between Cayleb and Queen Charleyan and has the same weakness that hurts most sci-fi writers I have read, he simply cannot write believable romance. The two characters fall in love at the drop of a hat and their coupling comes off as entirely forced. While I do enjoy them together once there are paired off, and probably would have had no problems with their relationship had they been initially presented as a couple, I just do not buy the love story. This is a pretty big problem since a large portion of the book is dedicated to their falling in love.
As I said earlier this is a much slower book then the previous installment. While it holds its pace pretty steadily throughout the book, that pace is not a quick one. Baring some points with Narhman most of the book trudges along at a snail’s pace to allow for reader to keep up with the complex schemes and plots Weber is setting up. . If you are looking for his normal brand of military fiction with epic action pieces then you will be disappointed. If you enjoy dense world building, political thrillers, and a complex set up then this will definitely work for you.
To be clear this isn’t a bad book, it’s just a deviation from Off Armageddon Reef and really Weber’s normal style in general. For fans of Weber or the first book I would say stick with this series, he is clearly building to something massive that you will not want to miss.