The third book in Dave Duncan’s A Man of his Word series continues to build on the momentum of the prior two books in the series, but it moves with new energy and a faster pace than those previous novels. Our two main characters are still progressing with their own stories, but it seems as if they’re—finally!—each navigating a course which will draw them back together and therefore bring the story to its final climax. ‘Seems’ is probably the key word here. With a fourth book still coming after this one, I knew going in that the story was not yet coming to an end. Nevertheless, we see the most character growth to date for both Rap and Inos, though as usual it seems Rap’s story contains greater depth and progresses further that that of Inos.
Though I noticed some of the same confusing prose and skipping about that caused me some consternation in the previous books, I won’t harp on that anymore here. I will say that the writing is about the same, and not as superb as I have generally found with Duncan’s later novels. Even here, though, Duncan has a knack for subtle horror, I’ll call it, where the reader is seemingly transported to a wondrous land reminiscent of a fairy tale, where even if something bad does happen it won’t have permanent ramifications. But with Duncan this is often only a façade; the world is harmless enough, right up until a jotunn raiding party slaughters, rapes, and burns to the ground an entire village. It’s a subtle technique which I’ve seen Duncan use in many of his novels and it’s always a bit of a slap in the face and a reminder that the stakes are real.
Thinking back, Perilous Seas is slightly better than the first two books in the series, but it still doesn’t rise to the level I was hoping given the good things I’ve heard about this series. Granted, the books are going on thirty years old now, so I’m willing to cut them some slack and look at it through the lens of a series written in the 1990’s (that’s why I’ve given each of the books, including this one, three rockets and not anything lower). A Man of His Word is entertaining, but it continues to move too slowly with too little character development. While the pace does pick up relative to the other novels, it’s taken a lot of page turning to get here and I fear a lot more before I’ll reach the end of book four. Still, I can see the many threads of the story just beginning to come together, and so I’m moving on to the final book in the series with high hopes that Duncan brings it all together in a satisfying way.