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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
The Cold Commands - Richard K. Morgan Set sometime after [b:The Steel Remains|3314369|The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes, #1)|Richard K. Morgan|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348251475s/3314369.jpg|3352006], a book that basically blew my mind with how unflinching and hurtful it could be, while delivering more in characters, plot, dialog and worldbuilding than most fantasy series do. So the sequel had a lot to live up to, and mostly, it does.

In the first book, a kidnappd relative roused Ringil Eskiath, former noble scion and now cynical war veteran, from his drunken stupor and into battle. No one likes him much--for one, he's a spiteful bastard, and for two, he's gay in a world that kills people for that--but he's also a war hero with an enchanted blade, so they put up with him. After nearly single-handedly defeating an invasion of the world's most dread enemies, Ringil turned his attention back to the slavers, and didn't like what he found. Since then, he's been exiled from every empire and city due to his vociferous demands that (the very profitable trade of) slavery be outlawed. So obviously, he decided to declare war on slavery. Personally.

Ringil's a badass, but he's also the kind of guy that literally spits when a god tries to help him. He's frustrating but hilarious.

Meanwhile, his old comrade-in-arms Archeth still serves the empire her forefathers did, but her loyalty is stretched thin. To get her out of his hair, the emperor sends her to investigate the possible return of her people.

And the final member of their trio, the barbarian Egar, is mostly getting drunk and getting laid. But then he notices that a lot of numbskull fighter types (of the sort he used to be) are being recruited by a religious order, and he gets annoyed.

Morgan can write an action sequence like no one's business. The dialog and characters are natural but also almost preternaturally hard-as-nails. The plot threads didn't come together as well as in the third book, and Egar's plot dragged a bit. But I could hardly bear to put this book down, and can't wait to read the next one.