Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota tetralogy has me gripped. I read the first two in a month at the beginning of this year and took a bit of a pause before I started this third book: I needed a bit of air – these books are dense.
To recap: I absolutely loved Too Like the Lightning – I don’t think I’ve read a better debut ever. It’s not for everybody, but do yourself a favor: read my review to check out if it could be something for you. I also liked Seven Surrenders a lot – even though I had some remarks about what Palmer tried to do philosophically: about the metaphysics of the book, its ethics & its apparent gender essentialism. I wrote a 8,600 word analysis of all that and more, if you’re interested in such a thing.
This review won’t be as long, but still a hefty 6,400 words. The conceptual questions I voiced in my analysis of Seven Surrenders are not resolved in The Will to Battle, and there isn’t that much new information on these matters to analyze. Still, there’s enough to build upon what I wrote.
In my analysis, I will limit myself to two things. First a further discussion of the epistemic nature of the text and its relation to the metaphysics of Palmer’s future world. I’ve also changed my opinion a bit on the science fantasy matter, mainly because of an essay Palmer wrote online.
The second thing I’ll look at more closely is J.E.D.D.’s motivation for his involvement in the coming war: it is linked to utilitarianism and the trolley problem – things I wrote about in my text on 7S as well. J.E.D.D.’s motivations are problematic to say the least – not wholly out of character.
Before I’ll get to the analytic part, I’ll do a quick assessment of the novel without spoilers – that could be of interest to those that have read none or one or two of the first books.
Just to be clear: I liked The Will to Battle a lot, probably a bit more even than Seven Surrenders. It was a bit less exuberant, less cartoonish, and it dwelled less on the problematic sides of 7S.
Book 4, Perhaps the Stars, has 608 pages of small print and slim margins – quite a difference with the 350 pages of normal print in The Will to Battle. I tend to avoid door stoppers, but the fact that I’m very eager to read it nonetheless attests for Palmer’s narrative powers. I’ll read one or two short books as palet cleansers, but I hope to post a review/analysis of Perhaps the Stars before the end of August. Stay tuned.
GENERAL APPRAISAL – spoiler free
I think it’s safe to say The Will to Battle is a transitional book, getting us from the more or less finished story of the first half to the series’ finale: a big battle, as in so much traditional speculative series. Continue reading