Wielding a Red Sword (Incarnations of Immortality #4)

Wielding a Red Sword - Piers Anthony

The fourth book in this series focuses around the Incarnation of War. War, like Death that we met in On a Pale Horse, is a difficult subject with many facets to explore. All of the books thus far have a similar structure: The first part introduces the mortal character and shows how he or she becomes the Incarnation, the second shows us the office of the Incarnation, how it works, what it does, and illustrates the different facets of the office by giving the Incarnation minor trials to overcome, and the third gives us the reason for that specific story, the battle with Satan, and the furthering of the overall plot of the series. In that manner, the series often feels repetitive and cookie cutter-ish.

I have mixed feelings about this installment. The main character, Mym, is an Indian prince, which is a bit of a problem. The assumption is made in this series that is designed around established Christian and Greek/Roman mythology. The fact that the main character in this story is Hindi brings up a number of concerns about how Mym will interact with this world. However, there are only a couple half-hearted attempts to reconcile the two belief systems, and so instead we have this awkward situation where Mym just kind of has to deal with it. It comes across like the author didn’t research the religion well and let it flop there.

Mym also comes off as a bit unlikable. He's elitist, sexist, and imperialistic, but he doesn’t overcome this, it’s just kind of brushed off as "Oh, well, he's an Indian prince, and that's just the way they are." Mym falls in love three times during the course of the story, which takes place over the course of maybe a year or two, and each time he loses one of his "loves," he seems to forget about her the minute the next woman is in the picture.

In this book, there is a series of scenes showing War, or Mars, at work, supervising battles and violence. But Mars' role in these battles is never made terribly clear, and the character reflects this a bit. The war scenes were basically devices to have War interact with the other four Incarnations, and doesn't really give any sort of insight on the idea of war or conflict itself, why it exists, how it can be used or misused, whether it's right or wrong. Toward the end of the book, it becomes entirely plot-driven, with an engaging plot, and it held my interest reasonably well. It also did a much better of job of expanding upon the idea and nature of war, as we see Mars use the tools of war in a very compelling way. I liked the use of the book The Five Rings, and the role the strategic planning takes, and I just really wish these elements could have been used more in the earlier parts of the novel. All in all, it’s a bridge book that connects Fate’s book to Nature’s, and comes across like that in a very obvious way.