The Death of Nnanji – Dave Duncan

The_Death_of_Nnanji_-_Dave_Duncan_cover
Seventh Sword #4

Wallie Smith, reincarnated as Shonsu of the Seventh Sword, is now the deputy head of a widespread Tryst of peace. When his principal Nnanji is attacked and badly injured, the entire Tryst risks coming apart unless Wallie can find a clever solution.

The Seventh Sword was Dave Duncan’s first fantasy trilogy, and not a particularly good one. With The Death of Nnanji, he revisits the world with a great deal more authorial experience. Unfortunately, little of it shows.

I’m a fan of Dave Duncan, but the original Seventh Sword trilogy was badly flawed and unsatisfying. I had hopes that this fourth, additional volume would see Duncan bringing his wealth of experience to bear in a way that would resurrect the series. In practice, the book went the other way – drowning Duncan’s experience in all the flaws of the original trilogy.

As always, the story is light and quick to read. Wallie/Shonsu tries to bring his engineering experience to bear on World problems, but fails to take the culture fully into account. The result is disappointing and formulaic – setback, solution, setback, solution, with no great effort at credibility. To complicate matters, by this last book I’ve given up on understanding the geography of the World and its river, never well explained. Though travel is important to the plot, I just ignored the parts where Wallie talks about how you can get from here to there, but not there to here. None of it really made sense.

This was a book that didn’t need to be written. Duncan resurrects some backstory, and the plot ties in reasonably well, but there’s really not much new presented here. There’s some nice wrap-up that the original trilogy was missing, but it wasn’t really vital to have.

Substantively, the book is a modest continuation of the story, but it feels a bit tacked on. Duncan appears to lose track of some of his own world’s rules (a king ordering a swordsman reeve to do something), and the treatment of women hasn’t improved much (though this is a pretty male-focused story).

I had hoped for more – particularly, more evidence of Duncan’s skill and maturity as a writer, but it doesn’t show up. If you liked the original trilogy, you’ll like this. For anyone else, there’s not strong reason to buy the book.

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This is one of Open Road’s apparently un-proofread books – there are frequent typos.


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