War and Craft is the third book in the American Craft trilogy by American author Tom Doyle, and definitely lives up to its role as a final book. Joining Morton, Endicott, Rezvani and Marlow in the aftermath of the earthshaking events of the previous novel The Left-hand Way, it doesn’t take long at all before they are pulled back into even more world-sweeping craft disaster. With a bona fide apocalypse in the offing, and even stronger more dangerous powers able to be called upon if the situation becomes dire enough, the stage is set for a stunning conclusion and far-reaching consequences for both our heroes and the world at large.
America, land of the Free…and home of the warlocks.
The Founding Fathers were never ones to pass up a good weapon. America’s first line of defense has been shrouded in secrecy, magical families who have sworn to use their power to protect our republic.
But there are those who reject America’s dream and have chosen the Left Hand Path. In this triumphant conclusion to Tom Doyle’s imaginative alternate historical America, we start with a bloody wedding-night brawl with assassins in Tokyo. Our American magical shock troops go to India, where a descendant of legendary heroes has the occult mission they’ve been waiting for.
It all comes to a head in a valley hidden high in the mountains of Kashmir. Our craftspeople will battle against their fellow countrymen, some of the vilest monsters of the Left Hand Path. It’s Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.
I shall start at the start and issue a kudos to Doyle for putting together one of the best ‘here’s what happened in the last couple books in case you forgot’ sections I’ve read in a long time. Covering most of the major characters and significant events in the form of government briefing documents allowed for a lot of efficiency in communication while feeling more nuanced than a literal out-of-world exposition dump. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Left-hand Way as well, so it had been nearly two years since I visited with this setting, and just as I was dreading trying to remember all the details, I was met by a great synopsis. Thank you!
Speaking of beginnings, I’d also like to call out Doyle’s absolutely phenomenal use of quotes at the start of sections. From sources such a Yeats, The Bible, Longfellow, Conan Doyle (Any relation I wonder?) Spinoza and Austen, they all felt very carefully researched and selected. Going back over them now as I write the review, I’m picking up on even more significance than I picked up on going into each section rather than looking back with the benefit of hindsight. Often I find such quote usage to be ‘neat’ at best and seemingly random at worst, so to see them utilized with care and skill was a treat.
On to the actual meat of the story. Obviously being a third and final book, I’ll have to be at least a little vague in the name of preserving spoilers, but my goodness does a lot happen in this book. And to me, some of the best things that happen have little to nothing to do with the plot itself. It is very common and must be very tempting, when writing the final installment of a piece, to concentrate on the epic story and making it suitably awesome for what might be the last time we see these characters and this world, and make no mistake, Doyle tells a great story and the final few chapters are just brilliant that way. But throughout, he doesn’t neglect the characters. They still have a lot of growing and changing and learning to do even after two previous books setting up this grand confrontation.
Dale Morton especially, already a great character, embodies the role of doing good through basically constant temptation not to, and so many people around him assuming anything bad that happens near him must be a guaranteed sign that he’s gone evil. Holding onto his morals and his duty while coming to better understand the history of his left-hand clan and maybe even make some small peace with it was really great to read.
Most of the novel was told from Scherie Rezvani’s point of view, and she was also a character I came to like a great deal in the previous novel. A great craft power herself, but still in many ways still learning what exactly that means made her feel very real. The degree to which she gets shit done and is perfectly capable of handling herself made her frigging awesome. One of the better handlings of characters who are commonly in danger while also pregnant completed the picture of Scherie as a fantastic character throughout this novel.
So much of what was great about this novel was embedded in the story though, and I really don’t want to spoil it even a little bit. There are reveals, and outcomes that truly do make this a fantastic way to end a trilogy and series. The ending was done very well, in a way that I wish I could see more often. SFF in the last 10 years feels like it has become slightly polarized between “Good guys win, and go home happy” on the one side and “We’re so grim and dark and gritty and man, your favourite characters are all going to die by book one, and heck, -nobody- wins” on the other, that it is a rare and appreciated treat for a series to land anywhere in the middle.
War and Craft is a fantastic ending to a fantastic series. Killer plot, great pacing, with characters you can really get to know and love who grow and change. I don’t know if we’re going to see any more of Morton, Rezvani, Marlow or Endicott, but I sure hope we do. I also don’t know if we’re going to see any more of this world, this great and fresh take on magic in the contemporary world, but I sure hope so!
If you enjoy contemporary fantasy, you owe it to yourself to read The American Craft trilogy. For those interested, it starts with American Craftsmen published in 2014 through Tor Books. You won’t regret it.
Dan received an advanced review copy of this book from the author.