Watcher of the Dead is the fourth book of the Sword of Shadow series by J.V. Jones and the last of the books she has published in this series. The fifth book is not out yet and there has been no news of any deadline whatsoever. So it’s pretty much waiting for some news these days. I bought this book about a year, a year and a half ago, and there still hasn’t been any information forthcoming. So fingers crossed.
Raif has gotten his hands on the sword called Loss, but as the Sull get their hands on him, he starts to understand what ownership of the sword really entails. As the Sull taunt and hurt him, he begins to lose himself and become another self. The Watcher. And when he finally breaks, the world will know it.
Ash has finally made her way to the Heart Fires of the Sull and has taken a new name: Ash Mountain Born. Still a Reach and therefore still a threat to a people so alien, so different that she can never understand them. Even though she is now a daughter of the Sull. In her heart she knows that she isn’t safe with the Sull and that the Sull aren’t safe when they are around her, but she cares not. She has to take care of herself and the unborn child she is carrying.
The clans are warring and chiefdom is changing. Vaylo Bludd sees his clan slowly dying without his leadership and under the leadership – if that is the right word for it – of his eldest son. But he is loath to set Bludd against Bludd; after losing many sons and friends to the wars already and having to leave his half Sull foster son to make his stand alone, he had no stomach for losing any more of his clan. But he gets help, from those with whom Bludd share their borders.
Raina Blackhail is finally chief, but has to deal with Yelma Scarpe, chief of the Scarpe clan. She has her eye on the Blackhail hold and is determined to take it from its new chief and clan. Bram Cormac, once half-brother to Robbie Dun Dhoone himself, is now on his way to become a ranger of the Phage and learns how events are started and how information can make – or break – a king. Angus Lok is out for blood as he searches for the assassin who killed his family and if that means he has to kill his way through the Phage, so be it. They will not stop him from taking his revenge.
Effie Sevrance is now living at Clan Gray and learns that they are not cursed, but doomed. That doom is tied to the end of the world; the Unmade and The Endlords. And she will not have it.
There is a lot of action in this book, as opposed to the book before this one, though it’s different now. Much of the action takes place either through the eyes of the unhinged and slightly disturbed – Raif and Angus – or clan chiefs – Vaylo and Raina. It makes for a very different way of reading and experiencing this book.
I for one felt quite desperate as I could feel Raif slipping into the realm of crazy by the hands of the (renegade) Sull. He was trying to fight it, but in the end it got him. And he got them. That was a very satisfying moment but also a very sad one, because one of my beloved characters had to die for it. Well, make that two, because in truth Raif too died that day. He then became The Watcher and there is no turning back for him. I felt for him then, because his fate was so undeserved and so cruel. J.V. Jones really knows how to hurt her darlings. I dread what will happen to Raif in the next book, because one thing is for sure: it’s not going to be pretty.
I will say that Ash’s story didn’t interest me that much, though that is mostly because I’ve stopped caring about her as a character. As a stout Raif supporter, there is nothing she can do that will redeem her in my eyes. It is interesting to see the Sull up close and personal, but the whole ‘pregnant’ thing was just….blegh. Because of her stupid actions, she’s not only endangering her own life now, but her child’s as well. I think that she puts me off so much because I perceive her as a damsel in distress and I’ve always disliked such characters.
Raina’s development as she struggles with the duties of being chief is very interesting. I’m really hoping to see Mace Blackhail return from war and to see how that confrontation will play out. So here’s me praying for that one awesome part of the story! Vaylo Bludd being saved by the Sull and then enlisting their help makes me wonder if clan Bludd and the Sull weren’t always supposed to fight the Unmade and the Endlords together. That would definitely be a beautiful thing – if you take Cluff Drybannock into the equation. Half Bludd, half Sull. An interesting mix.
I didn’t really get a feel about where Effie’s and Bram’s stories were going, though it broke my heart when Chedd died. Because Effie was now all alone and she had no lore. So the twist at the ending of her story certainly made things even more mysterious. I wonder how the rest of the Sevrance family will play into the whole let’s-stop-the-Endlords-before-they-kill-us-all thing. And the Lok family too, of course. I hope Angus will find Cassie safe and sound, so that his descend into madness finally stops. Both Raif and Angus are my favourite male characters of the series and I hate to see them both so…crazy.