The Chaos Knight trilogy by Erin Hoffman © 2011 – 2013, Pyr trade paper, fantasy – 3 novels:
Book 1. Sword of Fire and Sea Book 2. Lance of Earth and Sky Book 3. Shield of Sea and Space.
I guess it started with the cover of the first book in Erin Hoffman’s Chaos Knight trilogy, Sword of Fire and Sea. I’m sometimes swayed by cover art and this is a great cover. Then the review on the Fantasy Book Critic blog intrigued me enough to buy the book. After a time on the shelf I read it and then bought the next two of the trilogy, Lance of Earth and Sky and Shield of Sea and Space and read them. They both had great covers too, as you can see.
In the first novel, Hoffman sets up the major characters, the world building gets done, the magic system is mostly worked out. I say mostly because there is a little too much that is left out by way of the major characters not knowing what to do or how to do it. They don’t ask questions and no one volunteers much. Oh well, the reader is left to think, I guess they’ll figure it out later. Naturally, that not knowing gets a lot of people in trouble and is frustrating for everyone. The other problem with the first book is the large number of characters, some with similar sounding or spelled names, that are encountered, especially in the first half.
This book – in fact all three of them – really, really needs an appendix with a list of characters and who / what they are!
There is a quest nature to the first book, and that quest is completed with, for me, a slightly unexpected result. That’s fine, but my response wasn’t oh wow, that’s cool. it was huh?
So on to the second novel, Lance of Earth and Sky. The cast of characters expands significantly, (again, a character appendix is needed!) as does the range of setting, across seas and continents, where we encounter a major war. Also, the result of events at the end of the first book bring about changes throughout the lands as “wild magic” has been loosed and various creatures, even whole races of magic using shape shifters, wake and become active. That complicates things a lot, as does the activities of a merchant trading company which controls much of the finances of the continent, and perhaps more than that.
The problem is that things get confusing as the author focuses one place and another while not explaining what’s going on elsewhere. Is the reader expected to believe that everything stops except where our trusty heroes are braving dangers? Loose ends begin to pile up. One can only hope they will be woven back into the story at some point, hopefully sooner than later.
So we come to the third book, Shield of Sea and Space. Surely this is the volume that will bring everything together, and clearly Hoffman makes that effort. The focus narrows to the conflict between the good guys and the bad ones, in a battle that starts on one continent and moves to the capital city of another, where the penultimate showdown takes place. That battle is won but there is one last Big Confrontation. This is where, I’m sorry to say, Hoffman goes off the rails a bit.
After reading two and four-fifths books, I saw several ways this could end, most of them good ways. They’d take a little work by the author to wind things up, tie all those loose ends together and give the reader a satisfying close. Instead, Hoffman found another way to close the trilogy. I won’t tell you what, but I will say I was disappointed. You might not be, and if you read these and come to that last paragraph and are happy with it, then good for you! Maybe I missed something, or maybe the author’s ending was swell and I just had an unrealistic expectation.
I’m not sorry I read these books, far from it. There are many memorable characters and interesting events. I just kinda wish the author had worked a little harder on the ending, especially since she concedes, in the afterword, that it was a difficult task for her.