What I gleaned about the story: The invincible Chassan Army is about to crush another pitiful rebellion. This is known. It is certain. In fact, it is crowed by so many over-confident generals that I can’t help wondering if it might be proven untrue very soon now. Just as soon as we get through all the pre-battle poli-sci lectures.
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Note: It’s odd for a book to not have the author’s name on the cover.
Analysis: On the first page, we are presented with an internal reminiscence, as the mighty general contemplates his “Commander.” I’ll set aside the fact that the narration makes it unclear whether this boy is somehow in command over the general, or if “Commander” is simply his rank. The problem that threw me comes in the internal exposition: Borego had been aware of that fact when he had accepted his charge, many years ago. It had upset him then but now he knew he was too old to face real combat anyway. He no longer minded the solitude, and he had come to find several aspects of Chassan culture comfortable. Who is “he”? General Borego, the POV character? Or the young Commander Rivis? There’s enough here for me to make a guess, but it’s never a good thing when the reader has to deduce who it is you’re talking about. Such mysteries completely intrude into the smooth uptake of the narrative.
Analysis: We opened on a promising note, with the general overlooking the field on which battle is about to commence, but then it stalled. We get dragged through a series of conversations and personal confrontations between the leaders of the professional army. Grievances, political backstory… minutiae about organizations and people that mean nothing to me yet. I’ve been promised a battle and several pages in, I’m still waiting. Unfortunately, I found myself wondering about other things: When I’ll break for lunch, what chores I have stacked up waiting to be done, etc. Once I realized that, it was clear I was no longer immersed.
Analysis: Two pages later and the generals are still talking about stuff that’s completely meaningless to me. When the Commander finally asks, “What are your thoughts on the Treaty of Bryston then, General?” I rolled my eyes and pulled the plug. This is the first we’ve heard of the treaty, and of Bryston, and it’s simply too much exposition before I’ve been given any reason to give a damn.