Juliet E. McKenna – The Gambler’s Fortune

I had a few doubts after the use of some poor plot devices in The Swordman’s Oath by Juliet E. McKenna. As the story was still entertaining and the writing enjoyable, besides me already having the next three books in The Tales Of Einarinn at home, I quickly moved on to the third book of the series, The Gambler’s Fortune (2000). The rather straightforward fantasy series has a collection of fairly distinct and unique cultures and peoples and some nice concepts of magic usage that provides a flavor of its own. McKenna has her novels carefully planned so that each has a selfcontained story that takes place in a different environment where she can explore something new.

McKenna moves the story in a different region although the activities will ring a bell with the quests of the first novel. The first person narrator is also the same as that novel while there are again a few third person narrators although one new one provides a separate but connected storyline. As McKenna tries to provide a standalone plot for each novel this also means that she starts up somewhat slowly and again it takes quite some time before the plot really starts moving forward. While the initial phase was not that exciting in the previous novel this time it proves to be more interesting. Even so it takes quite some time before the real action kicks in. The secondary storyline does not help here as McKenna takes a slow approach to provide development towards the threat that is the real core of the novel’s plot. I did not really like the new characters and the development rather predictable. I was quite happy when the foreplay was over. On the other hand it did help make the plot more solid so that she could avoid the flaws and weaknesses in the plot of the previous book.

The slow start has been there in each of the first 3 novels of the series. Although the second half makes up a lot it does show a general weakness. It is nice that each book has an ending but it does crush all the momentum of the greater plot which has to be revived at the start of each next book. Another weakness was that the plot structure of this and the second book was quite similar in many ways. Foremostly this can be attributed to the fact that the created threat is smothered before it can be of influence in the next novel. All chance of widening the scope is gone and it allows McKenna to start freshly again in the fourth book.

The characterization is better in this novel. McKenna spent a bit more time with the new characters and most of them were fleshed out to a reasonable degree. As before the first person narrative does not really add that much although McKenna uses it mostly to allow the narrator to muse on matters more. As she had used this character before it does not provide many new insights.

Overall this novel is a great improvement to the second novel and it has allowed McKenna to move up on track again. It has at least motivated me to keep on going. Compared to the first novel it is not that good. There is never a real threat despite the attempts and the story is also hampered by some amount of predictability as McKenna follows paths threaded before in the previous novel. The execution is better but it does not really add up. The story however is entertaining although it does not veer much from the typical fantasy fare.

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