Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Souldancer - The Roaring Twenties

Chapter 25 is one heck of chapter right there, boy.  It should be a simple loot and scoot of the Kerioth.

It’s likely no coincidence that the events of Chapter 25 landed right at the midpoint of Souldancer.  This is one of those chapters that relentlessly hammers the reader.  You get the first inkling of what full blown souldancer on souldancer combat might look like.  You get another layer of souldancer power, clairaudience, shown in explicit detail.  You are shown what a great guy Cook really is.  And to top off that layer cake you get the frosting of the first overt acknowledgement of Xander’s love for Astlin coupled with Astlin’s first hint that she might be lovable.
Souldancer is definitely a book of monsters.  Some of the monsters are ugly on the inside and the outside.  Irallel, the waterdancer, looks like a drowned woman and has the spirit to match.  Some are only ugly on the inside – in my mind Hazeroth is as pretty as he is foul.  And some of the monsters are only ugly on the outside – Cook might look like a sack of potatoes that just lost a fight against the ugly stick, but he’s solid gold inside.  This constant refrain of larger-than-life characters really helps elevate Souldancer’s game.  It serves as a constant reminder that we’re treading on ground that is unlike the standard cut-and-paste genre fiction.

Of course, Neimeier doesn’t let up the pace in Chapter 26 either.  The relatively simple stealing of the Kerioth gives way to the first real showdown with Hazeroth, and what a showdown that was.  The combined might of two souldancers backed up by Xander’s formidable talent are barely enough to scratch the guy.  It’s only the timely intervention of Sulaiman that allows them to escape certain doom and get to the Steersman Vault.
And again, the threat level is ratcheted up when it takes all four souldancers to put down one left-over security guardbot.  That little fight reveals a little something about poor Irallel, but it also highlights that this universe is in many ways a shadow of what it once was.  Or perhaps it demonstrates how formidable the Guild was at the height of its power.  One basic warbot took the souldancers combining Voltron-like to defeat?
That really puts the events of Nethereal in perspective.  We knew the Guild was tough, but this raises the bar considerably.


  1. Wow. Fantastic review, Jon. I'm flattered!

    But since the whole point isn't stroking my ego, but entertaining the readers, I'll shed a little light on the character power level dynamic that you seem to have some questions about.

    Mainly, I wanted to avoid the cliche of raw power always trumping skill. You correctly discerned that the souldancers are extremely powerful. However, Astlin in particular is not a trained combatant. She also hadn't spent much time as of the Hazeroth fight developing her fire powers. Since she'd only been dealing with weak and feeble-minded castoffs, there was no need to.

    Astlin is also no genius--probably around average intelligence--but she is highly creative. Definitely right-brained.

    Irallel is a shade less powerful than Astlin, but a) water has an edge over fire, and b) she is well-trained. Thus, Astlin can't beat her in a straight fight and has to use nexic tricks.

    Xander has basic caravan guard training--enough to keep jackals and pickpockets away from the wagons. He has great potential as a nexist but is just starting out. Higher order beings like demons and souldancers also tend to be highly resistant to Workings and nexism wielded by humans and Gen. An ant can lift 50x its own weight, but that won't do it much good against you or me.

    How can Sulaiman go toe-to-toe with Hazeroth? First, Sulaiman _is_ a martial genius who'd previously spent centuries defending a small outpost from frequent demon attacks. Second, he's the best swordsman in the series thus far, on a par with Jaren. Third, Hazeroth is his arch-nemesis, so Sulaiman is specialized in knowing exactly how to use what he's got to fight that one guy.

    The Regulator in the vault isn't an off-the-shelf model. I probably could have made this clearer, but as for the souldancers' difficulty in beating it, remember how they got in and what the big guy was guarding ;)

  2. Just to you know, having read on...A lot of that becomes clear later on - one danger in writing these in serial form.