It may be of interest to you to read my review of the previous book, Conrad’s Quest for Rubber
This most recent entry in Leo Frankowski’s Adventures of Conrad Stargard series is the only one I have previously covered in the lifetime of this literary meme here at A Modest Construct. My opinion has not changed much this time around.
If anything, this manuscript (that’s essentially what it is) struck me as being of even poorer quality this time around. It’s not just the spelling errors, either, or using “too” when he means “to,” or even occasionally missing quotation marks and running conversations together into a single, undifferentiated paragraph. No, what really gets me is the remarkable lack of consistency: Frankowski had heretofore used “From the diary of [character]” and used a uniform first-person voice when telling the story. Lord Conrad’s Crusade jumps between at least four narratives, only one of which (Conrad’s) is supposed to be a first-person point of view. Except then Frankowski begins to narrate one Captain Wladyclaw as “we,” and then ascribes anachronistic thoughts to him1, and after some point begins to narrate the chapter in a consistently third-person way.
If you read the review from last year, you might notice that Jim Baen, Frankowski’s former publisher, called this book “bad writing.” Personally, I’m not so sure about that: I can only assume that the raw manuscripts from the rest of the series were remarkably similar to this “published” book. Frankowski just needs a editor like I need oxygen or coffee, not simply to correct his plentiful mechanical errors, but also to reign in his various excesses, which have become noticeably exacerbated of late2.
Though we may have all thought Frankowski was having Conrad hang up his sword belt, the last book being what it was, this one brings Conrad back in a big way: the author apparently learned from the poor critical and commercial reception of Conrad’s Quest for Rubber. This book, in fact, hearkens back to the very first installment in the series, finding Conrad a stranger in a strange land, destitute, and requiring razor sharp wits (and his razor sharp sword) to survive. This, at least, I found remarkably entertaining. The taking of Timbuktu was just like old times.
Oh sure, Frankowski glosses over a lot of showstopper details (such as the assumption that Conrad can become conversational in Arabic3, in only eight months, based only on the company of another slave named Omar), and indulges a little too much in his own, somewhat perverse, inclinations; and sure, he fudges probably quite a few historical details under the guise of science fiction; and sure, he’s beginning to rely to heavily on the deus ex machina of his time-traveling Uncle Tom; but for all that, I find myself enjoying the book anyway. I think perhaps I’m too attached to the series to really be brutal about it. Were it a different author with a new line of books, I’d probably write it off as nonsensical overindulgence.
But bad spelling and all, you need to read this book if you like the series, period.