War Maid’s Choice takes place a few years after the events of Wind Rider’s Oath. It is slightly better than Wind Rider’s Oath, but that is not saying very much. We open with an introduction of the Dark Gods as characters instead of as offstage menaces. (It is the kind of “villain discussion” that is actually better suited to a science fiction setting instead of a fantasy one. De-mystified gods are generally boring gods.) The Dark Gods are apparently not very happy with the way their stooges keep failing to take over Norfressa, so they dispatch Carnadosa and her brother Krashnark to make yet another attempt at invading.
From there, we catch up with what Bahzell and his various friends and allies have been doing for the past few years. Bahzell is helping to create a trade route between the newly formed hradani “Confederacy” headed by his father and the rest of the continent. He is also playing diplomat with the Sothoii, many of whom are not happy with the idea of making peace with the hradani. Meanwhile, Leeana Hanathafressa, has at least partially settled into the warmaid lifestyle. She also has a considerable amount of leave that has managed to add up over the years, so she decides to take advantage of it, even though visits home are kind of stressful for her (due to her family’s retainers, not because of her immediate family).
When Bahzell and Leeana meet up we have the world’s shortest and most boring romance, and we discover that they have been secretly crushing on each other since forever. (If I recall correctly, this is the first time we even hear of it.) Various Gods of Light waylay the happy couple to express their congratulations while Bahzell ironically attempts xenocide against a non-human species that was also genetically engineered to be cannon fodder by the same evil over lords who genetically engineered his race to be cannon fodder.
(I am mildly peeved that none of the characters, even the hradani characters point this out. You can’t simultaneously have an argument of “Fantasy Racism is Bad” and an argument of “Fantasy Racism is Totally Justified Because of Reasons.” It does not work, even in a case where the poor monsters are eternally on the edge of a Malthusian catastrophe due to the way they were engineered. There is no such thing as “justified genocide,” which is what we are looking at here, instead of “beat the crap out of them until they stop raiding us.”)
Meanwhile, the evil wizards working for the evil gods continue to attempt killing Bahzell, his friends and allies with a remarkable lack of success. Also, Krashnark sends three devils that have very high opinions of themselves, but also ultimately fail to achieve their goals. We also learn that Kontovar was not destroyed so much as having changed hands after our buddy Wencit of Rum magically nuked it.
If you haven’t guessed from the general tone of my review, I was not very happy with this book. There is some very solid writing here, but there is also a lot of leading the reader around by the hand instead of actually going in and telling the story. The biggest problem is possibly the romance, which failed to be romantic or a romance, followed by the odd perspective shift where suddenly we have Weber’s trademark space opera villain discussions nailed onto a fantasy adventure. If you are a Weber fan, these may not be glaring problems for you. The first two books in this series were much better in my opinion than the latter two.