Author: Matthew Hughes
Henghis Hapthorn is troubled by the imminent death of the rational universe and its replacement by the forces of sympathetic association (also known as magic). But, being unable to do anything about the issue, and having just started a feud between one of Olkney’s richest aristocrats and a rising criminal in the underworld, now seems like a good time for a long trip offworld. Hespira offers the perfect excuse. A woman who has lost her memories, a chance for Henghis to be the gallant detective, a case that is more than it first appears . . . well, that’s business as usual.
It’s been several years since I read The Spiral Labyrinth, but the pertinent plot details are provided as needed, and the rest of the book is a fine romp through a mostly stand-alone mystery. Set in the ten thousand worlds of The Spray, this sci-fi/fantasy is told by the decidedly anti-fantasy Henghis himself, which leads to any number of amusements (not the least of which is that he can hardly bring himself to say the word “magic”, and every time he runs into another example he’s distressed). The logical Henghis is a bit crippled for this adventure, though: his intuition has split off from him as its own person (events related in The Spiral Labyrinth), so he’s relying on logic alone to get him through this case. And he’s well aware that logic will only go so far.
I enjoy the dry humor, particularly the exchanges between Henghis and his integrator, who hasn’t quite lost all the personality it gained when it was in a living body. Or watching the ship’s integrator and his integrator squabbling for supremacy. I also enjoyed the fact that Henghis and Hespira do not have any kind of romantic relationship–he himself is puzzled why he feels so strongly to help her, but their relationship remains friendly and within professional bounds. Too many stories simply go for the romance option when such a situation presents itself, so it was nice to see something different. I was also incredibly amused by the mess poor Osk has made of himself when Henghis meets him again at the end; it seems losing his logical facilities has left Osk as bereft as Henghis, in his own way, and Henghis’s horror is beautifully understated. As is the delightful moment when Osk wakes up from his nap. . .
I did miss the interaction between Henghis and Osk from back when Osk was still inside Henghis’s head. This mystery still has pieces of a bigger story being told, but by and large most of that is simply Henghis wondering what he’s going to do with himself once the regime changes over and logic gets steamrolled by magic. And the ending is inconclusive (or at the least ambiguous) about his decision in that regard.
Still, this was an enjoyable read, and would be a decent cap on the story if it ended here, though it certainly leaves enough room not to rule out a sequel. I rate this book Recommended.