Sbuchler's Reviews > A Stranger to Command

A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith
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's review
May 12, 2010

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bookshelves: read-in-2010, scifi-fantasy
Read from May 06 to 10, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

This is basically a coming of age story, featuring a younger version Vidanric the hero of Crown Duel. The novel had a lot of typographical errors, which was slightly annoying but generally ignorable. My biggest complaint is that I really don’t see how the young Vidanric portrayed here evolves into the older version portrayed in Crown Duel. In fact, if you read the extra scenes that are written from Vidanric’s perspective (available in the Crown Duel ebook) his character is even more schizophrenic and hard to believe! I think I’d be a lot happier if I didn’t have to try to reconcile the two versions.

Anyway, the story starts with a 14-year-old Vidanric who’s been shipped off to a military school (in Marloven Hess) both to get him out of the reach of King Galdran Merindar and to get military training. It is painfully obvious from the beginning that Vidanric’s dad is preparing for a coup – however Vidanric himself doesn’t twig to this until very late in the book. Mostly, this is a story about cultural relativity – Vidanric both has to decode the Marlovian way of doing things and deals with the dissonance when attempting to reconcile those mores with Remalna’s. True to reality, they don’t always reconcile very well. The fact that the story’s set in a school gives a familiar frame within which to deal with the cultural issues.

Both the themes of cultural relativity and of kingship are at good stopping points by the end of the novel; however the story feels like it has a very abruptly end. Vidanric doesn’t finish his final year of school - Marloven Hess is expecting invasion and Vidanric is very suddenly sent home. This means the book lacks a feeling of closure, and I felt cutoff from all the characters I spent most of the book with. However, it was addictive enough that it inspired me to re-read both Crown Duel and the Sasharia En Garde duology, which when all taken together are starting to build an interesting uber-plot.
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