Title: Point of Knives: A Novella of Astreiant
Author: Melissa Scott
Cover artist: Ben Baldwin
Publisher: Lethe Press
Amazon Buy Link: Point of Knives: A Novella of Astreiant (The Novels of Astreiant)
Length: 122 pages, 45000 words
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Interesting mystery and understated but appealing romance set in pseudo medieval like society.
A welcome return to the vividly realized city of Astreiant with its intricate magics and deadly politics, Point of Knives takes place in the interval between the widely praised earlier novels Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams. A fantastical mystery and a rousing adventure, Point of Knives also reveals for the first time the beginning of the romance between Adjunct Point Nicolas Rathe and the Leaguer Philip Eslingen.
The events of Midsummer have not been forgotten by the Fall Balance, and Nicolas Rathe can hardly complain that they’ve done any harm to his reputation, or to the reputation of the Points in general. However, newfound fame has meant that he’s more in demand as an investigator, and the increased recognition and workload make it difficult to pursue friendship, or anything more, with the handsome former soldier Philip Eslingen, his comrade in the rescue of the stolen children. Eslingen’s employer Hanselin Caiazzo is still deeply involved in any number of questionably legal ventures. Any association between Rathe, a representative of Astreiant’s queen, and Caiazzo’s bodyguard Eslingen is regarded with suspicion from both sides of the law.
When a father and son rumored to be “summer-sailors,” or pirates, are murdered on the same night and Rathe finds Eslingen standing over the son’s body, Eslingen proves his innocence easily enough, despite loyally refusing to say exactly what errand he’s running for Caiazzo at that untimely hour of the morning. But when the old man’s grandson and the son’s self-proclaimed wife quarrel over the son’s meager belongings, and Caiazzo dispatches Eslingen to represent his interests in the investigation, Rathe begins to wonder if their friendship is going to survive. Or whether he and Eslingen will survive at all.
As you can see this story has a *very* detailed blurb, so I do not think I need to give more details about the set up and plot of the story. I will just say that if I understand correctly “Point of Hopes” was written in 1995 and ‘Point of Dreams” in 2001 (I believe this one will be republished by Lethe in a few months) and timeline wise this story as the blurb tells you set in between.
I wanted to review this book because I recently purchased a “Point of Hopes” based on the recommendation of a friend whose tastes are extremely close to mine. I was all set to read it before reading this book but then I changed my mind – I decided I will do it after I review this book. I thought that since the first two books were written with the coauthor who I believe is not with us anymore , it will not be fair to the book for me to start comparing in my head whether I like the writing in this one better or not, simply because it is just bound to be different IMO.
So I have read this one and while of course it is set up in already established world, and we are expected to know some world building details , overall I thought it was easy to understand. At first I stumbled a little bit about certain administrative structures in this society. – I was simply not sure what they do; - but soon I easily figured it out from the context (I think). And if I have not, I am planning to find out from the first book very soon.
Same thing with the main characters – they do not instantly fall in love in this book, they apparently already know each other very well and they investigated mystery a in Point of Hopes. I am just not sure whether they admitted their love already in that book. I read somewhere that they are already in love in the third book and that this one was written partially to show how they actually started dating. At the same time they make several references to at least casually sleeping together before this book started, so I am not sure and it does not really matter for anything except my own curiosity.
I really enjoyed this story and I just thought it was so intelligently written. At first I thought the mystery was a little obvious and the investigative work lacked spark and glamour, but then I realized that this investigative story is off the type I liked the most – both guys actually investigate. They do not just investigate - the author manages to show certain meticulousness and hard work they do in finding witness, the dangers which certain witnesses may pose and how our characters still go out and still work hard. I suppose I would characterize this mystery as not flashy? If those do not appeal to you, you should probably stay away. It is basically almost clear from the beginning who is at least partially involved in the murder, what they are looking for is evidence and motivations and of course there is some twist at the end.
I really liked the development of the romantic storyline too. Both men are intelligent and interesting, they may have some conflicting loyalties, they may not realize yet that their attachment to each other is as strong as it really is, but their actions do show how strong their loyalty to each other and I cannot wait to read about them being absolutely permanently together in “Point of Dreams”. This book does not end in any sort of cliffhanger or break up, please do not worry about that, it is just they have lots of room to go forward, lets put it that way.