Lawrence Watt-Evans’ Relics of War is the latest of his Ethshar books. It’s been three years since I wrote up a book in this series and even then, it was just a quick blurb as I cleared out my backlog, so let me give a bit more context.
The Ethshar novels are all individual standalone novels that tell a complete story, but which take place at various places and times within the same world—a very traditional kind of swords-and-sorcery world where a great war of demons and wizards ravaged the landscape, and city-states and small kingdoms replaced the grand empires of old in the ruins of that war. The first book actually takes place during that war, and I think that at least one volume takes place in the distant past, but most of them are well past that time.
This one is a few decades past the war, and it’s set in a rural farm where children playing in the wood find a magic artifact that might be a leftover from the war. Local nobles are notified, and events spiral upward as new wrinkles emerge.
I really like the Ethshar series—it manages to be charming and fun and clever in almost every installment—and I did like this installment, too. But I will say that it’s definitely on the slight side. Whereas something like The Unwelcome Warlock, the book before this one, got at one of the core mysteries of the setting and dealt with grand magics, this is just a small story about some farmers and a thing that happened to them. But that’s okay; the ability of the series to jump from grand tales of war and magic to little stories about farmers and apprentices is one of its charms. You wouldn’t want to start reading the series here, but I tore through it quickly enough.