Book Review: Foreign Devils


Foreign Devils by John Hornor Jacobs, The Incorruptibles #2

The world is on the brink of war.
Fisk and Shoe - mercenaries, very much not wanting to get caught in the middle of a political whirlwind - must deliver a very important message, and find a very dangerous man. They have caught the eye of the powerful men of the world, and now the stakes are higher than they like.
And the Emperor has decreed that Livia Cornelius, pregnant with Fisk's child, must travel to the far lands of the Autumn Lords on a diplomatic mission. It will mean crossing half the world, and facing new dangers. And in the end, she will uncover the shocking truth at the heart of the Autumn Lords' Empire.
A truth which will make the petty politics of war and peace unimportant, and will change the world.

One of the books that blew me of my seat last year was definitely The Incorruptibles. It was one of my favorite debuts of 2014.  I had never read or even heard of John Hornor Jacobs before... The strongest point of The Incorruptibles was definitely the whole world building and the two characters Fisk and Shoe at the lead. Now the wait was finally over with the release of the sequel to The Incorruptibles, Foreign Devils, which can also be read as an stand alone. This latter means that you do not necessarily need to have read book one, but why skip it?

Some time has passed between the first and second book, the precise timeframe was unclear for me. Anyway. The Vaetter are still hostile creatures but that isn't the only threat that is coming to the Ruman direction. Neighboring countries have set there eyes on invading Rume. So delegations have to be send on diplomatic missions to talk about new alliances... Here in every part of this you find one of the characters who we met in the first book. First and foremost you have Shoe and Fisk. Fisk has made some changes in his life, he has a wife Livia who he also has gotten pregnant. So a big change for him. Despite this, he and Shoe are still sent on a mission. A dangerous and very important mission there is a traitor on the loose and engineer that could cause the downfall of the Ruman Empire, it is up to Shoe and Fisk to catch this guy. With all the trouble brewing diplomatic missions are also required and because Cornelius is on the bad side of the Emperor he and his family are send to be the delegates. all this to the displeasure of Fisk of course. Because Livia is sent as well into the troubled waters, with Fisk's baby... So their roads are split.

For me Foreign Devils had a great utilization of the book in general. I liked how John Hornor Jacobs has set-up the storyline. The first part takes place with the whole party still intact, followed by the split-up. From here on the present story focuses on Fisk and Shoe and due to a clever invention, Fisk can still keep in contact with his loved one, though at a certain cost. Livia's storyline is told via the letters that Fisk receives. The somewhat alternating chapters kept a nice overall pacing in the book.

Once again the characters that really left a note were Fisk and Shoe, they are mercernaries at heart and aren't afraid to show this. Fisk is the more sensible one. Especially now that Livia is carrying his child. It was nice to see some barriers being slowly beginning to dissapear and see the more caring Fisk, who actually doesn't do the charge in guns a blazing thing anymore. Luckily there is still the counterpart of Fisk the Dvergar Shoe. Who favors that sort of action. Shoe to be honest leads the story a bit more than Fisk this time. I loved to read how well they cooperated. At some part during the story they do get separated and for a while have to rely on their own, this actually made the story that much more interesting, character learning wise.

Foreign Devils excels in the same bit that made The Incorruptibles so unique world building. Though there are similar elements that we see returning. The demons that are enslaved to do the bidding. They are in ships functioning as engines and even in guns. Yes guns. Brutal and powerful stuff I tell you.  So what new things does the sequel bring? Well that of a world that is on the brink of war and with it John Hornor Jacobs lift that much more of the veil of his imagined world. The way that he does it is cleverly integrated in the storyline with the engineer that Fisk and Shoe has to find as well as what Livia has to do. Making it not seem as an infodump but more having that natural flowing feeling, great stuff.

So the verdict? Once again another winner. John Hornor Jacobs has written a worthy predescessor with Foreign Devils. It has the feeling that The Incorruptibles gave but also a lot of new stuff. Foreign Dievils can indeed be read as a stand alone, there is enough information given to enjoy the story directly but once again, why would you? John Hornor Jacobs has build an amazingly rich world with both lovable and hateable characters that is just downright awesome. Now I haven't even talked about the plotline that John Hornor Jacobs introduced with the engineer, this is so cool and creative, it's scary. Who can you still trust? Again another winner for me. John, keep up the good stuff!

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