The subversive humorous touches and surprises are very enjoyable. I highly recommend that you read this book's prequel "The House of the Stag" first. Now, I'm off to reread The House of the Stag...with a side trip into The Company The Graveyard Game first.
The Anvil of the World is not an excellent novel; the first part is too pedestrian for that. But the finale is so excellent, so poignant and well-written, that it saves the initial hundred pages from inconsequence and turns them into a necessary prelude to a fantastic climax.
The first novella ends when the caravan reaches Salesh-by-the-Sea; the next picks up several months later, as Smith, Mrs. Smith, his keymen and his runner have given up the caravan life and are now running an inn (already known for its restaurant) in Salesh-by-the-Sea. This second novella has a different structure; Lord Ermenwyr, who is now their patron, arrives to hide out during the Festival, and within hours of his arrival Smith has a dead body on his hands and a grumpy City Warden who has charged Smith with finding the killer by the end of Festival or he won't receive his Safety Certificate. I giggled the entire way, enjoyed the revelations about Mrs. Smith's and Burnbright's pasts, and absolutely adored the introduction of Lord Ermenwyr's older brother. Again Lord Ermenwyr's arrival heralds difficulties for poor Smith and his staff, but this time instead of hilarity we hear grumblings of race riots between the Children of the Sun and the Yendri and the whisper of a Key of Unmaking. But just as events are coming to a head in Salesh, Lord Ermenwyr abducts Smith for a boat trip to rescue his sister Svnae, of the short story "The Ruby Incomparable" that I loved so dearly in Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy. The trip does not go as planned, nor is Lord Ermenwyr being entirely honest with Smith; the Master of the Mountain and the Green Saint make an appearance, and even the gods (of both the Children of the Sun and the other races) get involved in what quickly ramps up to an end-of-the-world scenario. . ." Given that, Baker poses the following questions: how much can we blame these "children" for their ignorance, even when the consequences are dire?
In the first story, Smith, having left his previous employment after deciding he doesn't enjoy killing people, appeals to his cousin for a new job, and is placed as "caravan master," in charge of safely transporting a load of goods and passengers to Salesh-by-the-Sea. Unfortunately, the goods are exceedingly fragile, the passengers are difficult, and the road is plagued by bandits, demons, and more... Having overcome the difficulties of caravanning, Smith has settled down and, with the help of the caravan's cook, Mrs. Smith (no relation; it's a very common name), opened a popular hotel in Salesh. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger - but there's definitely plenty of room for more tales of Smith and his compatriots...
Near-perfect light, funny fantasy-California adventure stories. If you've liked earlier Kage Baker books, what are you waiting for?
It's easy to see the commentary when contrasted with both the demons and the Yendri, who are appalled at how the Children of the Sun treat the world as if they are its only inhabitants. Perhaps most appropriate to sum things up on how the book treats its themes is a story that one of the Yendri tells in the last of the three sections, when explaining a Yendri joke about a woman who asks a monk for wisdom. It's perhaps doesn't come across in my summary, but it's what starts to wrap up all the themes in the book as things approach the climax. And that ending, after everything that has been shown about how wasteful, violent, and destructive the Children of the Sun are, promises that they also have more to them, that they have a potential to be good, to escape the cycle. I wonder what will happen from this point, if the focus would still be on Smith or would shift, or is the story is done entirely.
The book seems to consist of three novelettes, but they are contiguous stories and they fit together smoothly. However, the last story has one of the funniest scenes in the book - when Smith wakes up in the hold of the ship.
Best thing about this book is the gorgeous cover, and why I bought it (many years ago).
Born June 10, 1952, in Hollywood, California, and grew up there and in Pismo Beach, present home. Rapier wit developed as defense mechanism to deflect rage of larger and more powerful children who took offense at abrasive, condescending and arrogant personality in a sickly eight-year-old.