Using one of my favorite authors, David Weber, I’ve recently compared his earlier works to his current writing. As time went on, Weber started writing much more about politics and the political climate of the setting in his world. While that played a vital importance in Honor Harrington, due to the impact politics tends to have on the results of the war for both sides, it’s getting to the point where the political sections are becoming info dumbs that take away from the verisimilitude of the story and characters themselves. Many authors, such as Eric Flint, will eventually fall into a pattern and write the same kind of sentence or paragraph multiple times, across multiple books, even across multiple publishing timelines. If you know how to analyze texts to determine the individual style of its writer, it’s relatively easy to tell, especially since authors write so much volume that it is easy to analyze their flaws and detect repetitions. This kind of habit isn’t necessary bad. It is just easily detected. But what often makes it bad is that it breaks the 4th wall. It allows me, the reader, to see that this story, no matter how unique or different from Weber’s other stories, is still written by Weber and his inclination to structure the plot and the info dump story telling in his own personal fashion. That might not be so strange if it wasn’t all too predictable. The way the villains are written is exactly how Weber wrote the villains for Corisande, in his Safehold series. Surely even authors run out of fresh ideas, but recycling characters in this nature isn’t a really good idea in the long term.
As I read back on Oath of Swords and War God’s Own and compare it to Maid’s Choice, I am much more satisfied with Oath of Swords and “War God’s Own“‘s pacing and character perspectives. I would have recommended that Vaijon had his own arc in War Maid’s Choice, instead of the narrator telling us what he felt or thought with a short narrative exposition at the end. Instead, this should have been rendered quite clear just by seeing his thoughts or behavior over the entire course of the novel, but I didn’t see it utilized in that specific book.
As time goes by, I continue to raise my expectations for Brandon Sanderson’s work, because his ability to pace the plot, world build magical systems based upon logic not wishing, and connect separate people’s narratives into a single unified whole, is quite refreshing. And I don’t get the sense that it is a pattern that I can predict by reading his earlier works. Everyone, even every book in a series, is new, unique, and often surprising in terms of plot and ending. If Weber wished to do a political arc and make that attain great importance, then he should have had a character like Sanderson’s Prince in Way of Kings. Have a person that is solely invested in the political setup and tell the story from his point of view, don’t confuse the reader by dumping a lot of info without tying it into some context. Then when you switch characters to the main character, the scenery actually change, rather than it feeling like the same view, just from a different direction. However, do not use the main villain as the info dumper, because there’s no surprise or suspense then. Villains are supposed to only talk about their plans at the end, right before they get killed, not at the beginning of the book. Creating that kind of suspense is very un-fun.
Strangely enough, Weber’s early novels such as Apocalypse Troll and Mutineer’s Moon, are my favorites. I reread them many many times over. And the first 3 Honor Harrington novels were fresh and new and exciting, even after I had started from the 6th book onwards and then went back to the first ones later. Because Weber back then had new and fresh ideas and he wasn’t really writing about politics, per say, except to juxtapose them as problems getting in the way of the main characters. Like Oath of Swords, political problems were just things to be avoided by the characters, because the characters were traveling the Hero’s Epic Journey of Adventure, and leaving evil doers dead in the process from town to town, nation to nation. I don’t mind overly complicated political setups, but often times this devolves into a situation where the main characters do nothing but wait passively, and the only active things we hear about is the villain’s viewpoint. I’m not interested in the villain’s viewpoint or what he thinks of his own plans or flaws in his allies. Telling me the villain’s viewpoint gives me, the reader, special knowledge that the main characters do not have. How is this supposed to make me feel sympathetic to the ignorance of the main characters, and how is this supposed to make the main characters plight more interesting if I know exactly what is going on but cannot do anything to change things? It’s just entirely unnecessary. Sanderson does politics and mysteries, but he just doesn’t come out and put you in the villain’s mental mind scape so that you hear everything important that they are planning. It’s not as convenient as that. And it spoils the mystery and the suspicions that go on in a good mystery novel, if you are told the ending, before the characters even get to the ending.
You can read Oath of Swords here. And make a judgment yourself.