Night Shade Books, 2012, 320 pages
Jane Carver, a hell-raising, redheaded biker chick from Coral Gables, Florida, had found a new life and love on Waar, a savage planet of fearsome creatures and swashbuckling warriors. Until the planet’s high priests sent her back to Earth against her will. But nobody keeps Jane from her man, even if he happens to be a purple-skinned alien nobleman. Against all odds, she returns to Waar, only to find herself accused of kidnapping the Emperor’s beautiful daughter. Allying herself with a band of notorious sky-pirates, Jane sets out to clear her name and rescue the princess, but that means uncovering the secret origins of the Gods of Waar and picking a fight with the Wargod himself. Good thing Jane is always up for a scrap....
Swords of Waar is the wildly entertaining sequel to Jane Carver of Waar, and continues the raucous adventures of science fiction’s newest and most bad ass space heroine.
This is a sequel to Jane Carver of Waar, which brought a six-foot redheaded foul-mouthed biker chick name Jane to a planet called Waar, a feudal world populated by purple-skinned princes and princesses, tiger-centaur warriors, airships, sky pirates, lost technology, and lots of swordfighting. It's a straight-up send-up of Barsoom, of course, with Jane upending all the classic Burroughs tropes by bringing her modern Earth sensibilities to a planet stuck in a pseudo-chivalrous past. The first book was an affectionate tribute with enough adventure to make it fun to read in its own right, and in the second book, Jane returns to Waar and her purple lover-boy Lan, just as John Carter always managed to find a way back to Mars.
Having spent all of the first book figuring out the way things work on Waar, Jane spends the second book continuing to be shocked and disgusted that Waar is so unmodern and unegalitarian. While swapping John Carter, chivalrous 19th century Southern gentleman, with a 21st century badass babe who drops f-bombs in every sentence, was funny enough in the first book that there was no need to turn it into an explicit critique of the original Barsoomian tales, in Swords of Waar Jane becomes a lot more explicitly feminist and populist, as the plot involves uncovering a conspiracy among the church that has reigned supreme over Waar for centuries, controlling the remnants of its ancient technology, and its dwindling water reserves. As Jane and her Waarian nobleman swashbuckle their way across Waar, meeting old friends and making new enemies and cutting down platoons of priests and paladins, she struggles with his sexist chivalric code and he struggles with the fact that his alien lover is bigger, stronger, and a more formidable warrior than him and not content to sit at home playing the pampered, adoring damsel.
Well enough, but at times Jane's obtuseness was grating (she is repeatedly gobsmacked that a pre-industrial society ruled by noblemen and priests has not yet gotten around to democracy and equal rights), and the climax, in which a chief villain who has been hinted at since the first book emerges, just seemed a little too on-the-nose, and less a tribute to ERB than a repudiation.
That said, I enjoyed this swords-and-sky-pirates adventure as much as I did the first one. Jane is a lusty, entertaining badass even if she does become a bit strident at times, and she stands out by very much not being much of a thinker. She just charges into trouble with her six-foot sword and her "demoness" reputation and lays about her.
Verdict: Recommended for fans of the Barsoom series, of course, who will appreciate all the references and probably not find Jane to be too terrible an antithesis of John Carter. For those who are not particularly fond of classic planetary romances, you may still enjoy Swords of Waar as a dissection of the tropes, but it works much better read as a kind of fan fiction than as critique. Should Nathan Long write more books in this series? Well, I'd probably read them, but I think they'd quickly become as repetitive as the Barsoom books did. 7/10.
Also by Nathan Long: My review of Jane Carver of Waar.
My complete list of book reviews.