Skirmish, by Michelle West

caitlinxmartin's review

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I'm tough on fantasy series - so many of them start well and then sort of peter out and become uninteresting. For whatever reason I don't typically read a single fantasy novel (with some exceptions) because I like series, but it's hard to find series, and on and on in an endless self-imposed do loop. I do adore two series, however: George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and all of Michelle Sagara West's Averalaan books. I like them equally and continually recommend them every time I get a chance.

West's books are different than Martin's - more magic, for one thing, but just as many varied characters making lots of choices and trying to survive in preparation for the final onslaught of demons. Yes, demons.

Skirmish is the latest in House Wars series and I do not recommend starting here if you haven't read these books. I'll give you a list later on so you can start at the beginning. I swear you won't regret it.

I loved Skirmish even though it actually only takes place across about 3 days. There's plenty going on in that 3 days and there are very, very many difficult choices to be made by many people - especially Jay (Jewel) the protagonist. At some points I wanted to yell at her to grow a spine, but the decision to go to war for leadership of an important House with everyone you love backing you and in danger is not a light one. It's the only one, though - it just takes awhile for Jay to come around to it.

This book begins to have a lot more intrigue and behind-the-scenes double-dealing than the others and I like that, too. A House War is logically different than a more typical war and the English proved long ago that having good intelligence is crucial to maintaining power. Honestly, this just feels like the preview to the next book where the action will really start rolling, but it was also intensely pleasing.

Ms. West is able to develop in the reader a true sense of emotional connection to the characters. These are people who've been in my life since the late '90's and, like George R.R. Martin's characters, they feel like family. I'm much closer to Sagara's characters, but that's not surprising since that emotional attachment and the growth and development of the characters is central to the story of struggle. It's harder to get attached to Martin's characters - he's just so brutal with them it makes you want to keep a safe distance (even though I often can't).

There's a lot of beauty in the this book and the thick sense of grief that hangs over it all due to the death of the former House leader - much loved by the entire house. Jay clings to the idea that a funeral will somehow bring closure and this delays much of her necessary decision-making. Anyone who's been through a great loss knows that closure is a great word and that the living matter more, but it's hard to accept - you just have to walk the path and see where it leads.

I loved this book, as I've loved all of her books. If you're new to this kind of writing and have read George R.R. Martin's series and enjoyed it, I highly recommend these books. If you've read neither - what are waiting for?!

Averalaan Universe Books:

The Sacred Hunt

(as Michelle West, DAW Books)

The Kingdom of Breodanir is facing a threat unlike any seen for centuries. An orphan boy and his adopted brother struggle against the ties that bind them together (and to their land) as they complete an impossible journey to save the world - at the risk of their own destruction. These are the first books set in the Essalieyan universe to be published.

Hunter's Oath (October 1995)
Hunter's Death (June 1996)

The Sun Sword
(as Michelle West, DAW Books)

Sixteen years after the events of The Sacred Hunt, the Empire of Essalieyan and the Dominion of Annagar are at war due to machinations of the Kialli. The resulting struggle for power will define the lives of those who would bring an end to the Kialli threat. Events laid out in The Sacred Hunt are referenced, but are not necessary to follow the story.

The Broken Crown (July 1997)
The Uncrowned King (September 1998)
The Shining Court (August 1999)
Sea of Sorrows (May 2001)
The Riven Shield (July 2003)
The Sun Sword (January 2004)

The House War
(as Michelle West, DAW Books)

Set in the Essalieyan universe, The House War chronicles the story of Jewel and her rise in House Terafin. The first three novels return to the origin of Jewel and the discovery of her den. They also revisit some of the narrative from Hunter's Death, though told from different (and complementary) character perspectives. The concluding two volumes, beginning with Skirmish, take place after events of The Sun Sword. Because of this timeline juxtaposition, the author recommends reading The Sun Sword series before Skirmish to maintain character consistency.

The Hidden City: A Novel of the House War, Book 1 (March 2008)
City of Night: A Novel of the House War, Book 2 (February 2010)
House Name: A Novel of the House War, Book 3 (January 2011)
Skirmish: A Novel of the House War, Book 4 (January 2012)
War: A Novel of the House War, Book 5 (tentative title)

sagali's review against another edition

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Finally finished with the Sun Sword books and back with Jewel ATerafin!

laurla's review against another edition

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"it is what the young forget: one failure does not render all past success - or future success - meaningless. it is only if we surrender to despair that we fail in perpetuity, because we cease to try at all."

"the past is part, always, of the present. we cannot leave it behind in its entirety because it is the foundation of who and what we are now."

"there were some angers that slept without dying. when she touched them, they woke, and they burned as if they were still new."

"she said nothing. ellerson said nothing as well - his was just louder."

"she wondered if this was the danger the gods presented to mortals: the sense that someone, somewhere, knew it all, and knew it well enough that there was no point and no need to struggle to reach a decision; one could leave it, for eternity, in their hands. if the Mother were here, jewel would have gratefully handed the whole of the war into her keeping. what did you become, in the end, if you never had to make those decisions and those mistakes?"

"what we appear to be to others is never what we look like to ourselves."

"i had forgotten, how hard it was not to strangle you."

"idiots. they think they'll rule small parts of the world if they can only learn the art of summoning creatures that are older, smarter, and more powerful than they are."

"you are ready."
"i dont feel like it."
"no. that is the sad truth of power: when facing the unknown, you will never feel ready. but you are."

"life doesnt have time for your tears girl. you shed them, fine. you're still a child. but you keep moving while you cry. if you dont move, the vultures will think you're carrion."

marktimmony's review against another edition

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Soooooooo good!

Continuing the House War series this book also picks up the timeline and events left at the conclusion of The Sun Sword.

Can't wait for the next book - War. This series just gets better and better.

Of course now I have to try and find something/anything that compares... and that's always a hard task when finish a novel by Michelle Sagara West.

amcgeewrites's review against another edition

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I sort of wished the author had gone more into the intervening years between the third and fourth books. However, it is as usual a fascinating read.

kurenai's review against another edition

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Wow, ok, I think I missed a lot. There was a lot of back story and undercurrents that went right over my head because I didn't read her main series. Hrm, I think I'm going to need to go back and start her Sun Sword series as well so I get a bit more of what is going on within this story.

With that said, I did enjoy this book but sadly not as much as the earlier ones. I'm still giving this a 4 because I liked the writing style and it was a lot of fun dipping back into Jay's world and the new power struggles she has to go through now that The Terafin is dead. This book really brings Jay into her power compared to the prior book and she is doing some amazing feats of talent and magic here. Jay is really growing into herself as a strong individual who is gearing up towards taking on the reigns to be the next Terafin. I look forward to the next book because I still want to know where this is going!