The fantasy saga that Bradley P. Beaulieu started with Twelve Kings in Sharakhai continues in A Veil of Spears, the third book in the series. As the conflict between the Kings and the Moonless Host heats up, the united façade of the Kings begins to crack, and Ҫeda seeks a way to free the enslaved asirim.
As in the previous novels, Beaulieu deftly provides the reader with a mix of action and intrigue. There’s also a hefty dose of magic, as the gods play a more active role than they did in the previous books. Sometimes, the middle books in a series have a tendency to slump, but that’s not a problem here.
In addition to giving Davud a larger role, A Veil of Spears introduces a new viewpoint character: Brama, a former thief who now treats those addicted to an opium-like substance. He gets drawn into the battle for Sharakhai when Meryam and Ramahd plot to steal the magical gem he’s been using in his treatments. The expanded cast does force Beaulieu to give some of them shorter shrift than I would have liked—Davud’s plotline gets dropped about two-thirds of the way through the novel—but overall, I enjoyed the new dimension Brama’s involvement brought to the story.
Brama’s introduction is related to a larger development: the incorporation of material from the Shattered Sands novellas. Brama and “his” ehrekh Rümayesh featured in The Tattered Prince and the Demon Veiled and Of Sand and Malice Made, while Leorah’s backstory was given in The Doors at Dusk and Dawn. The narrative summarizes the major events of those stories, so reading them isn’t necessary to understand A Veil of Spears, but familiarity with those works will make the main story richer. Weaving those elements into the main plot creates the impression that the tale is becoming grander, drawing everyone in Sharakhai and the desert into its orbit, whether they want to be there or not.
I pre-ordered A Veil of Spears as soon as it was available, and it has me eagerly looking forward to the next installment. The one minor disappointment I had involves a major revelation at the end of the book, so beware spoilers below:
I was happy to see Sümeya joining Ҫeda, because I liked her in the earlier books. I especially liked that she and Ҫeda had feelings for each other and was hoping that this relationship might be rekindled now that they’re on the same side. Love triangles are a dime a dozen in literature, but they almost always assume heterosexuality on the part of all participants. Such a triangle between Emre, Ҫeda, and Sümeya would have been a refreshing change. (And there was also a possibility of Sümeya feeling torn between two women she loves when she inevitably discovers that Nayyan’s still alive.) But with Ҫeda’s discovery that they’re half-sisters, that seems unlikely to happen. Though I do wonder whether Ihsan was being truthful about Ҫeda’s parentage…