This one started off slow for me. Really quite slow, and I’ve been trying to make sense of the reason behind that. The reason behind this boils down to the fact that Presley uses a greater degree of “Telling” versus “Showing”, especially in the narrative that tells of Luca’s past; that is, until he gets the ball rolling, at the point of which I read the later two thirds of The Imbued Lockblade in two days. A bit of a sluggish start but well worth the time investment.
Where the story of Maria in The Woven Ring humanized our main protagonist, the accent on Luca in this novel actually made him…more unlikable. Whenever it seemed like he learned something from his time spent as a bieta -- some sort of a sworn-in servant, helper, and confidant to the matron of the Dobra clan – a secondary event would drag him right where he was. Great writing, it’s just that Luca is dense beyond compare and it takes a lot of time for him to finally open his eyes to certain patterns of behaviour on the part of his clansmen that can only be described as…worrisome to the greatest of degrees.
While I disliked the beginning of Luca’s story, I did get attached to, or at the very least interested in, the history of his people and the supporting characters. Luca is a Dobra, which is an ethnic group of people that seems inspired by Romani travellers. Musicians, tricksters, grubbers, the Dobra make for a fascinating backdrop to young, ambitious Luca’s misadventures. They’re governed by their own set of rules, distrusted by outsiders and connected by a network of kinship throughout. Theirs is a community that’s also held together by common religious beginnings, which puts the Dobra at odds with everyone else twice over.
As for supporting characters…Bo was a favourite of mine. At first something of an adversary and later a friend, this Dobra bieta spoke little, smoked a lot, and was a fine mentor to Luca. Janelle and Simsa are also fascinating characters and I wonder what will come next for them, what with the thunderous conclusion to their arc in Lockblade.
How Luca and Isabelle are such tightly knit partners in crime is at long last revealed towards the latter half of the novel, and it’s a deeply bittersweet story that is perhaps a big part of the reason as to the contempt I now hold for Luca. I will say, he does make an admirable and difficult decision that costs him…a lot, and I respect him for that.
How about our beloved, scarred Main Character™? Marta Childress can’t catch a bloody break! For those who need a reminder or those who have not read The Woven Ring, Marta is a Shaper, using her fourth Breath to construct a spiritual armour from a number of ‘schematics’ that allow her to reconfigure said armour in order to accomplish a wide array of different things with it. No matter how high she hops with those rabbit legs of hers (one of her Shaper configurations), Marta can’t outpace the betrayals, enemies, and horrible revelations that pile up one after the other. I hope she catches a break at the start of The Glass Dagger, I really, really do.
Marta’s relationship with Isabelle is ever a treat; the mute girl is deadly and clever beyond measure, and to see the friendship and trust building up between them is a true pleasure. I wish Isabelle got some PoV moments of her own but learning her backstory from Luca’s viewpoint isn’t something I’ll complain about too much. I also, for some reason, had a very different image of Isabelle, imagining her as this large barbarian woman built like Ashley Johnson’s character Yasha on Critical Role, when she is, in fact, rather a young, lean woman. Suppose some wires must’ve crossed during my read of The Woven Ring but that’s the beauty of books! You read ‘em, and you rediscover and reimagine characters time and again!
A small complaint I have is that several typos popped up here and there; not too many but enough to notice. Presley’s prose, I really enjoyed, except during that early part. The action is kinetic, the conversations are snappy and occasionally downright brilliant, nailing the core of different characters in just the right way.
The Imbued Lockblade was a better book than its predecessor, building up the world and characters in all the right ways, and throwing one curveball after another! With the basics out of the way, Presley has created some truly outstanding work that is well worth your time. A quick glance at the scores of my fellow reviewers over at Goodreads also tells me that none of them had the problems I stumbled on with the beginning, so I can recommend you check this sequel out, as well as The Woven Ring, if you haven’t yet got your hands on it. My score for The Imbued Lockblade is 4 out of 5 stars, or an 8/10.
You should read this if:
- You enjoy a dark, post-civil war world defined by conflict and religious schism;
- You like your characters slightly unlikable but with plenty of heart, once you look. You might need to look deep. Pretty deep. Really, really deep;
- You are looking for cautionary tales about why you shouldn’t sign up for basic slavery for years on end over a childhood love;
- You’re looking for a guide on how to be a better parent/guardian to a shell-shocked girl that might hold the fate of the world in her wee child hands;
- and more! Prob’ly.
Thank you, dear reader, for your time!
Disclaimer: This book was given me by the author in exchange for an honest review!