I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the first book. I didn’t like the main characters as much as I had liked Rune in the previous book. Rune had the better personality, and a common-sense attitude that made me root for her success. Robin, the main female character in this book, got on my nerves sometimes. She was less ethical and more inclined to take foolish or selfish actions without thinking things through. I liked her husband Kestrel better, but he wasn’t really a stand-out character for me.
The first 5% was a recap of Kestrel’s story from the previous book. I’d just finished that book the night before so this was not exactly riveting reading, and the recap wasn’t at all clever or subtle. The author might as well have labeled the first chapter “Recap”. Kestrel is standing in the pouring rain, cold and muddy, trying to get their wagon unstuck from a muddy pothole. Naturally he has nothing very pressing on his mind so he takes a moment to think about his entire life’s history…
The story did get more interesting after the recap and it became increasingly more interesting as the story progressed. The main premise is that there is growing prejudice against Free Bards, gypsies, and non-humans. This directly impacts our main characters because they are both members of the Free Bards and Robin is a gypsy. They also have friends who aren’t human. Robin and Kestrel therefore decide to try to find the source of these attitudes and determine how serious things are.
I downloaded this e-book years ago from the Baen Free Library. Hopefully it’s just this version, but there were a lot of OCR errors and it became quite distracting. For example, at one point our characters moved “aujay” from something. My finger had just starting to twitch in anticipation of being asked to look this strange word up in the dictionary when I realized our characters were actually moving “away”.
The book is written in a similar tone as the first book. It’s relatively light and fluffy and it’s a fast, easy read. Even though it tackles issues like prejudice, there wasn’t really anything unique or insightful about the way it was handled. It’s just a device to help tell a good story. There were some things brought up in this book that I’m hopeful we’ll learn more about in the next book. We met some interesting non-human characters but didn’t get to learn a lot about them. There were also a lot of references to a Cataclysm and the implication that the world was at a higher level of technology before that event, so I’m curious about that.
According to the Goodreads series page, there's another book set between this second book and the third book called A Cast of Corbies and numbered as “2.5” in the series. I was going to read it, but I couldn’t find the e-book for sale anywhere and my library network doesn’t have the physical book in any of its branches. I decided I didn’t care enough about it to buy a physical book, even if there are very cheap used copies out there. So, I’m moving on to the official third book.