Sherwood Smith’s Inda is such a wonderful book. To begin with, Smith has created a world full of all the details and history that many of us crave and so seldom find. Smith takes the time to do more than simply tell a story. She creates a really vibrant backdrop for the characters to act against and the result is something a cut above most of the fantasy being written today.
Inda (his actual name is Indevan-Dal) is the second son of a noble family. Sounds terribly cliché, I know. Inda’s lot in life is to be trained by his older brother as the head of defense for the family’s castle. The social rules and traditions of his Marlovan heritage demand that his role be completely subordinate to his brother’s rule. Inda’s family history intensifies this because Inda’s father’s first wife was slaughtered by a pirate raid. The culture he is growing up in is very martial and based on tradition.
The heart of the story is about societal and personal change and the plot is replete with interesting politics and strong statements about social injustice. The characters meet every sort of moral challenge that you can imagine. In fact, this emphasis on morality and ethics reminded me of Janny Wurts‘ novels, and that is high praise indeed.
Inda is a leader. He’s not a flashy, self-motivated leader, but the rarest form of leader who is loyal to those who are loyal to him and who doesn’t place personal gain ahead of team accomplishment. Smith does a brilliant job of describing how this sort of magnetic personality can be a lighting rod for both good and bad depending on whether he is recognized as an ally or a threat.
As a part of the storyline, Inda is separated from his family and home because of crimes he didn’t commit. Smith successfully creates some really loathsome characters for us to hate in the forms of the heir to the throne and his uncle, the king’s brother. Kudos to Smith who doesn’t just tell us they are “bad guys,” but who plans and draws them as well as she does the “good guys.”
I appreciated that Smith skillfully presented some volatile issues (e.g. homosexuality) in a non-advocative fashion whereas some authors prefer to hit us over the head with their views. Her way was to merely present a point of information rather than something we felt the need to take a side on — a good use of different perspectives.
The final highlight of Sherwood Smith’s Inda is her ability to realistically depict military themes in a fantasy setting. The concepts of training, practice, education, and development in a martial context are some of the best that I have encountered. I love the way that she depicts soldiers as being made — not born.
My review of The Fox, the next book in the Inda series, will be done soon. Inda was that good.
Inda — (2006-2012) Banner of the Danmed takes place 400 years after the INDA books. Publisher: Indevan Algara-Vayir is the second son of a powerful prince, destined to stay at home and defend his family’s castle. Inda is sent to the Royal Academy where he learns the art of war and finds that danger and intrigue don’t only come from outside the kingdom — and that one can find oneself on the outside, fighting the dangers that do exist there.