I was happy with the ending of Soldier of Arete, the second book in the Latro series. Latro wasn’t healed, but he had a modicum of control, certainly more than enough to be the master of his own fate. I got to the end, smiled for him, and closed the book. I certainly looked forward to rereading the two books, but I didn’t feel a need for more. Wolfe had written a proper eschatalogical ending; I had no issue with ending the story where it was.
Apparently Wolfe disagreed? ‘Cause Soldier of Sidon exists.
Did it need to?
Spoiler: kinda? It’s mixed for me. I’ll definitely reread it (see below), but at the moment I feel more puzzled, in a constructive way, than anything else.
Game-wise, the first two books are a huge influence on the design of Crescendo. While I later found that The Wizard Knight is essentially a prose form of Crescedo game notes, Latro is where I intuited the mechanics in the first place. And it works here too! I’m still shocked that I got the rhythm of these stories correct, as that’s not something you just do, if that makes any sense. But yes, you could totally play out a very relaxed game of Crescendo and have it feel kinda like this book. So mission accomplished there.
Latro had won at the end of the last book, and his story felt done. As I read the story I felt a comfortable nostalgia. Latro is noble, kind, and almost impossibly badass. That doesn’t change here. The nature of Latro’s affliction is put into greater perspective, but I didn’t feel the need for that perspective. The fact that Latro couldn’t remember and there was a way to reverse that was enough as it was.
Now, that being said, the book has this really interesting thematic arc about marriage. It’s not really until the end that it becomes clear that this is really what Wolfe is trying to get at. Why get married? What constitutes it? How honest should you (or can you) be? And what role do love, sex, and general fleshy delights have to do with it? I took great interest in this part of the book, as Wolfe has a very particular point to make, and like all Wolfe things it’s not necessarily a comfortable one. But as I sit with it the book becomes more and more favorable to me. It leaves me with enough questions to where I want to reread it, to peel it back a little bit more.
I’m still scratching my head as to the existence of this book. I’ve never read something something so pleasant, and yet unasked for. I’m not sure it’s an actual sequel to the first two books or just a standalone story featuring the character. The ending of Soldier of Sidon feels like a quaint little campfire: it lights up the dark, but its’ not out there proclaiming itself. Come, huddle round, find warmth, and wait. Oh, and play with clay straws.
Cause apparently that’s a thing.