Black Blades is the third installment of ten of the Rifter series. As with previous novellas be sure you’re reading this series in order or you’re likely to be even more confused than normal. For those fans that have been following along and are ready for part three – it’s exciting and intriguing. Hale ramps up the action and drama with an intense yet fascinating addition to the series. John’s time at the monastery is revealed in a lengthy flashback covering the second half of the book while the first goes into much more detail about Kyle aka Kahlil’s current time as he attempts to stop John’s (future) assassination.
The story of course sounds convoluted and twisted but this episode is the most straight forward of the group. The beginning starts out as usual with a recap of events past before delving back into Kahlil’s current life. Kahlil is a runner if you remember but he’s recently stumbled into a plot to kill John aka Jath’ibaye. Yet Kahlil realizes that Jath’ibaye knows him. The first part of the novella is told from Kahlil’s perspective as he tries to understand who Jath’ibaye is and how they know each other. More details emerge about Jath’ibaye’s current position and how he’s connected to the political powers. At the same time Kahlil discovers what this means to him and his broken memory.
The first part of the novella is action packed and pretty intense. Kahlil and Jath’ibaye have obvious chemistry and their scenes together are dynamic. These are easily my favorite parts of the story no matter how brief. The added details help to create a fuller emerging picture of the landscape and political climate after the Rifter has changed the course of history and the world. Kahlil feels more real and solid as the series continues, becoming a worthy lead character opposite the often scene stealing Jath’ibaye.
The second half of the installment then flashes back to when John first enters the holy palace at the top of the thousand stairs. John is still John, before he becomes Jath’ibaye and presumably the narrative will continue in this vein up until the current time. While the information is absolutely essential – especially in seeing what John did and how he came to be what he is in the future – the flash back feels disjointed. It’s as if the story turns completely on a dime halfway through to start almost an entirely new story.
On the one hand I didn’t mind this since both narratives are compelling and interesting. John’s time at the palace is fascinating as he learns what will obviously be essential information. This also helps the reader with the various intricacies of the complicated world building. Each part of the series offers more and more world building and this novella balances that information with meaty plot and a hefty dose of character development. The pace is so quick the pages fly by almost too fast, but that’s almost because I was so absorbed I didn’t want it to end.
Of the books in the series so far this is the most satisfying and it feels as though the story has started to hit its stride. The heavy but necessary information dumps are almost over – though no doubt more to come – and the complex plot can start to weave John and Kahlil together more. Of course with seven more books to come I fully anticipate that small pleasure not to last but you won’t want to miss this.