Book Review: The Left-Hand Way

The Left-Hand Way by Tom Doyle, American Craftsmen #2

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets ancient magic, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance

Poe’s Red Death returns, more powerful than ever. Can anyone stop him before he summons an apocalyptic nightmare even worse than himself?

In this second book of Tom Doyle’s contemporary fantasy series, the American craftsmen are scattered like bait overseas. What starts as an ordinary liaison mission to London for Major Michael Endicott becomes a desperate chase across Europe, where Endicott is both hunted and hunter. Reluctantly joining him is his minder from MI13, Commander Grace Marlowe, one of Her Majesty’s most lethal magician soldiers, whose family has centuries of justified hostility to the Endicotts.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul and Tokyo, Endicott’s comrades, Scherie Rezvani and Dale Morton, are caught in their own battles for survival against hired assassins and a ghost-powered doomsday machine. And in Kiev, Roderick Morton, the spider at the center of a global web, plots their destruction and his ultimate apotheosis. After centuries of imprisonment, nothing less than godlike power will satisfy Roderick, whatever the dreadful cost.

Last year Tom Doyle surprised me with his debut American Craftsmen a lot. I read this book in the wake of some other military fantasy books and amongst those it really stood out. From the action packed beginning with Dale Morton right down to the whole history of the craftsmen and the betrayals and fights in the end. At the core it was military fantasy with a magical twist but at the periphery there was so much more going on, that made this story a very cool experience. As I said there were some betrayals at the end and this is where The Left-Hand Way picks up. 

After the events in American Craftsmen, things should have been settling down. Well they are far from back to ordinary. Tom Doyle kicks off his The Left-Hand Way in a way that it directly sets the right theme for the rest of the book. Because, guess whose back! Yes once again Roderick has managed to survive and come stronger as ever and with a definite taste for vengeance. Dale Morten, a craftsmen from the Morton bloodline is currently abroad, separated from Scherie Rezvani, the Persian craftswomen he met in the first book. Michael Endicott, the puritant from the Endicott bloodline and also a highly accomplished craftsmen is currently en route to the United Kingdom to find a possible mole in their organization. So the "team" is split up and this is precisely the weakness that Roderick need to strike once more. Endicott being on his own in Britian finds this out as first. his pick up from the airport isn't one that really goes that smoothly... He is the first craftsmen that feel the full force of Roderick's stronger powers  once again. Luckily for Endicott he isn't on his own, Grace Marlowe a craftswomen currently serving the British arm of the craft enforcement MI13 is caught in between and start to help out Endicott soon enough. But this acceptance isn't without a few hassles as well. With the power that Roderick has and the threat that he forms, there is only one option left and that is to reunite the team of the first book: Dale Morton, Michael Endicott, Scherie Rezvani and the new addition Grace Marlowe. Even though they as a team are much stronger than individual, with Roderick reaching god-like powers, will it be enough to stop him? Well there is only one way to find out...

The story that Tom Doyle tells in The Left-Hand Way, is once again a very clever and detailed one, though the promise of the story might sound not that complicated, it is far from simple, trust me when I say that. As with the first book in the series, Tom Doyle once again tells a intricate story that is linked on many fronts. Even though we have gotten to learn a lot already about craft and the lineages and more, there is still plenty to learn. Not only does Tom Doyle continue to elaborate about craft he also build on the foundation that he has laid down in the first book. In this I mean to say building on the characters. There is nice exposure for every character here. 

So for the characters. In the first book, the focus was mostly on Dale Morton as he was the person accused of going left handed and Endicott was chasing him to root out the evil, being the puritan he is. In The Left-Hand Way, the focus this time around is on Michael Endicott. I mentioned in my review of American Craftsmen that by the interaction with Dale I had gotten to see Endicott quite in-depth, however I guess I was wrong. Shifting the narration towards the point of view of Endicott gave a very interesting view on the world. Dale gave a personal touch, and now Endicott does so as well. In the first book you had gotten to learn Endicott as a stiff guy living by the rules, he greatly upholds this in the first half or so of the book, but he is far from that stiff guy. He has been brought up by his parents to be so strict and follow the rules. He can't break a rule even to save some one good. Well all this is about to change for Endicott. There is a very nice transformation of his character from the strict hardass Endicott to the less strict and more free hardass Endicott. All this by the influence of Roderick and partly the interaction that Endicatott has with Grace. Yes the British MI13 agent with which he has joined up forces. Being a Puritan means also not doing other things... This turn of the tables didn't come without a personal "fight" and this is precisely what makes Michael Endicott's change of character a really nice and structured one. Next to Michael Endicott the narration also shift towards Dale, Scherie and the new team member Grace. It does fall to note that the narration this time around is stronger on the main protagonist of the story. In the build up of the momentum of the plot, there are visitations to the other three characters but they don;t feature that strongly as that of Endicott and here I didn't see that great a transformation in their characters. But once they are again reunited they do leave a lasting impression with their action in the storyline. 

Just quickly: Roderick also gets some focus, seeing the bad guy think and plot and act. Well with the potential and the power that he holds was awesome. Rodericks is really one of the coolest bad guys I have read about so far. 

Where Tom Doyle really hits the right spot in the story is by setting up a storyline full of surprises. Just as with the build up of the story in the first book, The Left-Hand Way is full of surprises and every time you get to meet something new you have to think it over hard whether you can or can't trust them as Roderick's influence is vast. The ending is also once again filled with tight action, guns blazing, swords swinging and magic! I said in the beginning that Roderick is reaching god-like potential and the finale in The Left-Hand Way reflects this very nicely. It's not over in a heartbeat and even though our team of four craftsmen if very powerful, they have their work cut out for them once again. 

The Left-Hand Way does true justice to it's predecessor American Craftsmen, Tom Doyle further explores the world of the craftsmen and introduces a whole lot more. With shifting the narration to Michael Endicott, the once enemy of Dale Morton. Gave a very refreshing approach to the story and you really got to see how he thinks and acts. The story can be roughly describes as a big action-reaction story full of vengeance. Roderick is back and planning to change the world once again. It all remains to be seen whether Roderick is completely annihilated once and for all. A great story. There is also a big plus as before ad after Tom Doyle gives a clear explanation of how the story came to be and some extra material.  


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