Wow! Thank God. How Firm a Foundation is so much better than its predecessor, A Mighty Fortress. A huge improvement. This was a great book to read. It’s the fifth book in the Safehold series and Chiris is still fighting for its life against the evil Church of God Awakening. After the Church’s complete naval battle destruction at the hands of the Charisian Navy, the Group of Four realize they have to resort to other methods. Or at least Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn does. He’s an evil bastard, that one. He starts sending suicide bombers into Charis with horrible consequences. Thousands of people die. Merlin catches one before he can detonate, however, and they interrogate him and find out the Church’s strategy. Meanwhile, Clyntahn decides to assassinate Prince Daivyn, the child prince of Corisande, Charis’s defeated enemy that is now part of the Charisian Empire. Earl Coris, his protector, and his sister are in grave danger. They apply for asylum in Charis, are granted it, and Merlin is sent to get them out of their trap and bring them 180 miles to the river where members of the Charisian Navy and Marines will be waiting to get them out.
One of the really nasty things in the book is the torture and murders of the Charisian seamen captured in the naval battle in the last book by Earl Thirsk. He’s instructed to give them up to the Inquisition, which he’s appalled at as he knows what will happen to them, but he has no choice. What happens is gruesome. As a result, Charis announces that anyone found representing or fighting for the Inquisition will be executed on the spot. Personally, I thought they should have executed some of the 60,000 Church prisoners they had in retaliation, but Cayleb said he wasn’t interested in vengeance.
More cool weapons are introduced in the book, leading to a great naval battle (all of Weber’s naval battles are great), where Charis demolishes its opposition entirely. It’s pretty sweet to see. Also, more people, including Charis’s Inquisitor, are let in on the truth of Safehold and Merlin.
Empress Sharleyan survives an assassination attempt in Corisande, thanks to Merlin. It’s truly frightening, especially as she’s now a mother to the heir of the throne.
Clyntahn also finally goes after Siddarmark, getting his Inquisitor priests to lead massive uprisings against Charisian expatriates and the government, leading to tens of thousands of deaths and mass destabilization throughout the country. Just what Clyntahn has wanted for so long. He’s so evil. I hope that Siddarmark will join Charis in the next book as a mainland empire to go after the Temple Lands and attack the Church on their home territory. I think they will.
The positives of this book are that it reads a whole lot faster than the previous book, even the previous two books. The previous book was SO plodding, it just got boring at times. The only boring part of this book is the beginning, when you start with 40 pages of a storm at sea with a ship trying to survive it. It does nothing to advance the plot and I’m willing to bet all of the nautical terms are lost on most of the readers, including me. It’s frankly stupid. Additionally, it seems like there are fewer characters to keep track of and that’s refreshing. The last book had nearly 500 characters and that’s about 250 too many. The name spellings are still ridiculous and stupid, but I’m used to them by now, I guess, so I’m going with it. There’s a ton more action in this book than in the previous couple of books, especially the last one. That’s refreshing. The land rescue at the end of the book is especially a nice touch. Of course, this isn’t a stand alone book. You have to begin with the first one and read the series in order to know what’s happening. But it’s worth it. This series is so addictive, even with the many problems one encounters in it. My main problem is it moves at such a slow pace, overall, that I worry if it’ll ever finish before either I die or Weber dies, in which case I’ll never find out what the hell happens! Still, strongly recommended as part of the Safehold series.