So you know how Baen gives away all their books for free? This strikes me as a dubious way of making money, but if they’re giving, I’m taking, so I read David Weber’s Oath of Swords, The War God’s Own, and Wind Rider’s Oath .

These were published in the ‘90s, and it’s pretty obvious that they were — because that’s the time when epic fantasy was in its bubble period, and even writers who had no interest in epic fantasy started abandoning their successful SF series to try their hand at it and cash in. The results were rarely good, and they’re not especially great here, either.

The worst of the problems are with the first book. In the first place, Weber seems to want to “subvert” epic fantasy — you really get the sense he doesn’t like the genre — by focusing on economic development and the rule of law and such-like. Which is one of those ideas that always sounds good, but in practice it leads to stilted and artificial feeling stories. The language of macroeconomics just doesn’t work in a fantasy setting. Oh, and he’s doing the “orc as hero” thing, which also sounds like a good idea but only works for Pratchett, because Pratchett is rarely obvious.

In the second place, the book is just dull. Whatever I’ve thought of Weber’s books before, this has rarely been one of their problems. Cheesy, yes; preposterous, yes; over-the-top, absolutely. But dull? Well, maybe a few of those bloated late series books, but even bloat is different from just the gray dullness of Oath of Swords.

The next two books in the series are substantially better, and actually read like Weber novels, trashy and kinda fun, but they still don’t really amount to a whole heck of a lot. If he’d never written SF, Weber would clearly have been a pretty minor fantasy writer.

As free books go, these are pretty readable; but if you’re willing to pay money, you can do better.


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