Of Limited Loyalty: Sluggish

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Michael A. Stackpole Of Limited LoyaltyOf Limited Loyalty  by Michael A. Stackpole

Of Limited Loyalty is Michael Stackpole’s second book in the CROWN COLONIES series, set in an alternate version of our world where magic exists and dragons and other creatures are real, but politics and other social conditions evolved much as they did in reality.

In the previous installment, At the Queen’s Command, we were introduced to Owen Strake, a young Officer sent to Mystria and serving the Crown Governor Prince Vladimir. Owen is so noble at times that it almost hurts. While I greatly admire that about him, his unwillingness to open his eyes to reality becomes such a constant problem that one begins to feel like he deserves the pain he suffers. Sometimes being an honorable person can be carried to a painful extreme…

In Of Limited Loyalty our main characters, Prince Vlad and Owen Strake, are tasked to support a mission to investigate settlements that lie outside the chartered areas of the Crown Colonies. Colonel Ian Rathfield, a recent hero in the war with Tharyngaria, has been sent personally by the Queen to look into the area known as Pottsylvania and possible rogue magic that has been used there.

One of the truly interesting themes in Of Limited Loyalty is Prince Vlad’s exploration of magic. Stackpole has given us a strong picture of Vlad as a researcher with a strong curiosity about pretty much everything. As the story evolves, Vlad studies aspects of magic and discovers that limitations he has been taught are not actually real. This in turn leads to a whole line of questioning about the nature of who can be trusted if his own instructors in magic have misled him.

Love of the land of Mystria continues to draw people to question and challenge both governmental authorities and other ideologies that have been passed down from Norisle to the settlers. The interactions between the settlers and the native inhabitants of the continent also present ideas and prominent changes between commonly held beliefs and alternative thinking. It is a profound picture of how things we often assume are true may not necessarily remain so.

Politics is also a central theme in Of Limited Loyalty. There is competition between political appointees coming from the home country and existing leaders in Mystria, and between the power of the local clergy and secular authorities. Stackpole continues to present the low, base motivations of people who are motivated purely by a drive for personal aggrandizement and control. It would be humorous were it not also all too believable.

All these themes converge with the open conflict between our heroes and a race of beings whose magic and motivations lie completely outside human understanding. The very real threat that evolves from initial contact to open fighting keeps the tension in the story growing. It also opens up connections between different people that only combat, and the intense stress it creates, can do.

There were a lot of things that I really liked about Of Limited Loyalty, but I became frustrated with Owen’s deliberate ignorance and the way he nobly blamed himself for everything. Also, the pace was sluggish. Some books take time to process, or move slowly enough that it’s difficult to just sit and read. I found Of Limited Loyalty to be that way even though it was seldom dry. Stackpole left things open for another book in the series and there are many storylines that could grow greatly in the next book. I hope the pace picks up and Owen gets a clue.


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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

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