Mar 10, 2015

[Books] Battletech: Bloodname (Legend of the Jade Phoenix - Book 2)

Despite my efforts to challenge myself and read new books by diverse authors thanks to different review programs, I still go back to old staples as well. And one of my major projects is to read all of the Classic Battletech novels out there in order to give a sense of fulfillment to my inner MechWarrior from back in the day.

Bloodname is the continuation of that journey of (re)exploration of the distinctly different worlds of Battletech. You'd think that a bunch of books mostly about giant piloted robots fighting one another could get tiring and redundant sooner rather than later. Instead, I've remained hooked on these books since my elementary school days and I'm just glad that I have access to a good number of them now on top of the much older books that I painstakingly collected over the years.

And this book is particularly interesting since it represents some of the earliest explorations of Clan culture outside the context of the eventual invasion of the Inner Sphere. And while not as polished as I'd like, there's still a lot of good stuff here.

Synopsis: Batttletech: Bloodname is the second novel in the Legend of the Jade Phoenix trilogy of novels. It was written by Robert Thurston and it continues the story of Aidan, now a Warrior of Clan Jade Falcon.

Aidan now poses as the freebirth Jorge and is now recognized as a warrior of Clan Jade Falcon. He has attained the rank of Star Commander and his current assignment is part of the garrison of the remote world of Glory. Here he serves under Star Colonel Kael Pershaw, but of course his freebirth identity means that his freebirth fellows are typically tasked with the worst possible duties on this mostly swamp-riddled world. He constantly gets into fights with the trueborn warriors of his unit and only his freebirth friend Horse from his Trial of Position knows the truth of his identity, and thus knows the extent of his frustrations.

But things change when a Clan Wolf raiding party arrives in-system and challenges Star Colonel Kael Pershaw for a trial of possession. But what is most surprising is that he's not attempting to take the planet but some other treasure of value to Clan Wolf. The Jade Falcon forces are doomed to be outnumbered, save for an inbound transport with forces meant to supplement the garrison, which are currently inbound via dropship. The defense of Glory was going to be a challenge even with these additional forces, but things seem worse when the ship gets shot down while attempting to land. Thus Aidan and his unit are sent into the swamps to find any survivors, one of them being a former colleague from his training days.

The situation that Aidan is in is quite the unique one - a trueborn warrior posing as a freebirth. It's an unthinkable concept in Clan society given their low opinion of anyone born outside the controlled breeding program of the Clans. But of course given the questionable circumstances under which Aidan had been allowed to even get a second shot at testing as a Warrior prevents him from revealing his true identity. Thus for the most part he endures the same hardships that freebirths experience on a day-to-day basis and is largely helpless to do anything about that. He's not a totally likable character given his motivations, but then this situation does help humble him to some extent.

But the later twists and turns in this novel do make for quite the fascinating turn of events. Just looking at the title of the book, Bloodname, it should not be a surprise to anyone that things will somehow culminate with Aidan's hopes of securing a Bloodname for himself. But given this is an honor that is limited to trueborn warriors of the Clan, you know it's going to be one heck of a challenge to find a way for Aidan to reveal his true identity as a trueborn without risking further dishonor given the plot that allowed him to escape his fate as a member of the Tech caste.

There are a lot of interesting combat moments here given the fact that it involves a major planetary defense situation and different trials related to resolving Aidan's case and the eventual Bloodname Rite. Thurston seems a lot more comfortable with what he wants out of his characters here and thus we get excellent confrontations and challenges both in the cockpit and even just among characters. After all, we get to see Clan Jade Falcon at its best given the need to defend against Clan Wolf in the beginning then followed by the contrast of the internal fighting that comes with Aidan's controversial case for redemption.

Battletech: Bloodname is quite the interesting look at other aspects of Clan life and how just about anything can be decided on with finality with trial by combat. The books do help humanize the clans to some extent, but on the whole they're still a very alien society and there's a lot more to explore about how they work. Thus this book gets a good 4 moments of tactical brilliance on Aidan's first out of a possible 5.

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