2016’s The Easy Expedition is the first volume in Moira J. Moore’s The Aldench Team series.
The kingdom of Amnisa—so far from the gods, so close to the mighty empire of Aldance—is uncultured, weak, undisciplined, beneath contempt. Just ask anyone from Aldance. Amnisan provocation has earned a firm response from Aldance. Given the imbalance in power, the war of just retribution should have lasted weeks.
Three years later, the war is still dragging on. Not to worry; Aldance’s High Grade Fourteen Bevlo has a cunning plan.
Aldance believes that Amnisa’s unexpected resistance is due to the dark god Phillas, who gave his favored kingdom a swathe of bokra ground, a rare soil that offers unparalleled benefits to those who eat crops grown on it. Amnisa’s bokra ground is defended by the walls of Blake Castle, in the city of Halen.
While Amnisan defences are strong enough to make a probe in force infeasible, a small hand-picked team might be able to infiltrate, steal a sample of the bokra, and poison the rest. Because the Amnisan King is in residence at Blake Castle, the same elite team can also decapitate the King and thus the Amnisan state.
The plan is bold; it poses considerable danger for the heroes who accept the assignment. Bevlo accepts the risks involved. The good of kingdom demands sacrifice. So Bevlo won’t be going in person: he is obviously too important to the war effort. Edana, Niles, Mareth, Empolo, il Havoc, and Frayne, on the other hand, have just the right combination of skill and expendability to be volun-told to accept the mission.
It’s a new team and some of the members are still strangers to each other. Which poses a certain challenge to group cohesion. Nonetheless, they bravely head north to deal with the Amnisan menace. Between them and the castle lie both wilderness and thickly settled farmland, as well as enemy soldiers with a supernatural talent for walking unseen. And there’s worse to come:
The true cause of the war.
The team has the most remarkable luck when it comes to encountering poorly defended high-ranking enemy officers. Part of their luck may be due to the fact that they are sneaking behind the front lines, which is where you would expect to find officers. It may also be that the Amnisans really do seem to be as poorly disciplined and crap at security as the Aldench think they are. But of course the main reason is plot. You wouldn’t have much of one if the entire team were taken out fifty pages into the book.
Sometimes I read a book and I wonder “is the author by chance a Canadian?” Not this time. I know she must be Canadian: the parallels between the US and Aldance on one hand and Canada and Amnisa seemed pretty obvious. I don’t think I am reading my own obsessions into the text when I see similarities between the war in this novel and the War of 1812, which was an attempted—failed—land grab by the Americans, who had hoped to take advantage of the Empire’s focus on stopping the Beast of Corsica in Europe .
The revelation that the Aldench authorities have shaded the truth about why the war began and who actually began it brings to mind a more recent American conflict, also intended to be a short victorious war. That one involved illusionary WMDs and more expendable troops than could be domiciled permanently within the bounds of Arlington cemetary.
I grokked fairly early just where the plot was headed …
… but it’s always interesting to see how a time tested plot will play out in this case, Will the disillusioned survivors of the team return home to overthrow their corrupt government? Will the Aldench soldiers simply switch sides? Could there be another option? I will have to read the rest of the books in the series to find out. So, not exactly a cliffhanger warning but definitely a series hook warning.
The Easy Expedition is available here.
1: The Amnisan ability to walk unseen is magical in nature. I suspect that that it hampers them as much as it does their enemies. The Amnisans see invisibility not as a gift, but as a curse.
2: Of course real wars often have more than one goal and so did the War of 1812: Americans were also keen on providing Canadians with that popular retort “Yeah? Well, we burned the White House.” Which is true in every sense save the merely factual.