January 28, 2008
Book Review: Bound by Iron by Edward Bolme
* Genre: Fantasy, Shared World Fiction
* ISBN: 0786942649
* ISBN-13: 9780786942640
* Format: Mass Market Paperback, 310pp
* Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
* Pub. Date: April 2007
* Series: Inquisitives Series
In Bound by Iron, Edward Bolme has written some unique characters in a plot with a surprising ending for this stand alone novel. In a story reminiscent of a John Grisham thriller, Bound by Iron begins with a murder and leads the heroes into a web of lies, deceit, and greed. Bound by Iron is the first novel in Eberron’s Inquisitives series.
Bolme’s inquisitives are three characters, acquaintances, who are working together to solve the murder of Torval Ellinger. Torval was a former Karnnathi soldier and member of the elite Iron Band company whose body washed up at the Korth docks. The story takes place two years after the end of the Last War. The primary character, Cimozjen is a former Iron Band leader who has the unfortunate luck of discovering the murder. Initially thought to be the culprit, he is exonerated and teams up with Minrah, an elven free lance journalist and extremely observant person. Finally, there is Four, a warforged that the two of them pick up during the search for the murderer of Torval.
Bolme explores the themes of justice, honor and righteousness in this novel. Cimozjen is a paladin, a warrior of the Sovereign Host whose sense of right and wrong is strong. Minrah the journalist, on the other hand, is what is often called a “chaotic good” character. She does not do evil things, but will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, especially in pursuit of a story, even to the point of putting her companions in harm’s way. Four, the warforged, provides a tabula rasa that the other two characters are trying to imprint with their own values. Each character walks away from the story being changed, for better or worse by their contact with each other.
At several points in the novel, Minrah and Cimozjen argue about truth and what is right. Cimozjen is a paladin, but he believes that his faith is freeing, not constraining. Minrah on the other hand, is a free woman, willing to sleep around, lie, and connive to get her story. The two have several debates about pragmatism versus doing the right thing, especially after Minrah tries to seduce Cimozjen, who is a married man. This was an element of the story I thought moved it beyond simple entertainment into the philosophical. Four would often cut in with a humorous comment at the end of Cimozjen and Minrah’s arguments, to add a little levity to the interchanges.
In Bound by Iron Bolme uses, to great effect, flashbacks to Cimozjen and Torval’s time together in the Iron Band. This gives the reader a more heartfelt connection between Cimozjen and the murdered Torval, and provides a reasonable explanation for Cimozjen’s drive to seek justice for his murdered comrade. Bolme also chose not to enter the mind of any of the villains, but only to sequentially tell the story as the three main characters experienced it. Additionally, while Bolme continues to subscribe to the theory that sometimes, things “just happen” in a story his coincidences are better tied into the story than in The Orb of Xoriat. When a key clue is discovered simply due to the characters walking about town, this seems unlikely but plausible. What before could be dismissed as deus ex machina in Bolme’s writing is not so easily labeled as such anymore.
Some readers will find the ending disappointing, but I thought it fit neatly in with the characters Bolme had created. They followed their beliefs to the end, even if that provided for an ending that was anything but the crowning of the hero. In a way, Bolme was reflecting the reality of the situation whenever a crime is committed. The resolution or punishment is never truly satisfying, and never really ends the evil.
This novel was a more enjoyable read that Bolme’s The Orb of Xoriat. The story has better continuity and the characters are more well-developed. I readily identified with Cimozjen and his quest for righteousness and justice, and his unwillingness to always be pragmatic. On the flip side, Minrah’s pragmatism did lead to some success. Four the warforged provided some humorous moments since he had no social graces and limited language skills.
I liked this Eberron novel. Some readers may find the dialogue a little contrived, but I didn’t. The mystery aspect of it was simple, so fans looking for fantasy noir won’t like this novel. It does give a soldier’s eye view of some of the major events of the Last War on the Eberron world. Cimozjen and Torval’s comradeship was a well-written aspect of the story, and in a way reminded me of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front in the way it delved into the mind of the front-line soldier, if in a more simplified way. Even with the philosophical aspect, it was still a good adventure story with lots of sword action. Bound by Iron is a fun reading diversion. Its unique characters, unusual ending, and detailed fight scenes gave hours of reading enjoyment.