This week on Down the Stacks, I owe John Ringo a bit of an apology. After slogging through There Will be Dragons, I was dubious about the rest of the series. When the I went to the library to pick out my next set of books, however, I decided to give “Council Wars”another go and checked out Emerald Sea. It is a vast improvement.
Following the climactic battle of There Will Be Dragons and its explosive fallout, the war between the United Freedom Coalition and the evil empire of New Destiny has reached a true stalemate on the super-technology level, so the real conflict has come down to the folks still stuck in unpowered, pre-industrial conditions, and that war is about to go to sea. New Destiny is developing a navy to bring its army of forcibly Changed and brainwashed orcs to the shores of America, and Edmund Talbot and his retainers decide to head down to the Caribbean to try and recruit the mer-folk as allies that can spy on New Destiny’s fleet. They also decide to use the journey to try out a new concept: a sail-powered aircraft carrier for dragons.
In the background to all this, the UFC’s lead Council member, Shaida, sends out a man named Joel Travante, whose job before the Fall was hunting down the rare and elusive criminal, to sniff out a mole on the dragon carrier. Joel sets to his job with dedication, but spends a great deal of his time between major action bemoaning the almost nonexistent state of counterintelligence in the UFC and mentally snarking over an in-universe version of There Will be Dragons.
I’ll admit, it was Ringo’s willingness to make fun of his own mistakes from the first book (and he calls out a lot of the same issues I had with it) that made me willing to give Emerald Sea a fairer shake. Still, Ringo did improve significantly. There aren’t as many characters to keep track of, and while there are sequences of the dragon riders and ship crew figuring out how to land and launch a dragon from a ship at sea the sequences don’t drag on unnecessarily and do fit into the narrative better.
The New Destiny faction continues to amaze me with their ability to perpetuate their existence and threat to the world despite being so blatantly evil that only fools would choose them over the Freedom Coalition and their willingness to actually negotiate and demonstrate the advantages they can bring to their allies. New Destiny is like a runaway train that has miraculously avoided derailing despite everything it’s run into.
DownWhile it would probably be a better idea to read There Will be Dragons first for the sake context, I think you could start with Emerald Sea and do well enough, since the prologue does a great “the story so far” summary of the setting.