Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy, military fantasy, military science fiction, science fiction
Published by Tordotcom on August 28, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
Brian McClellan, author of the acclaimed Powder Mage series, introduces a new universe, new armies, and new monsters in War Cry
Teado is a Changer, a shape-shifting military asset trained to win wars. His platoon has been stationed in the Bavares high plains for years, stranded. As they ration supplies and scan the airwaves for news, any news, their numbers dwindle. He's not sure how much time they have left.
Desperate and starving, armed with aging, faulting equipment, the team jumps at the chance for a risky resupply mission, even if it means not all of them might come. What they discover could change the course of the war.
I picked this up because I adored the author’s In the Shadow of Lightning and was looking for something else by him but didn’t quite have the spoons to get started on his Powder Mage series. At least not yet. Nor does the sequel to In the Shadow of Lightning seem to be on the horizon. Although I just learned there’s a prequel (Montego) and I just picked it up. And, honestly, I was looking for something short.
Leading me to War Cry.
William T. Sherman is the American Civil War general famous for the rather pithy comment that “War is Hell”. War Cry is a story deep into just that kind of hell – and it’s a gut punch of a story.
The world of War Cry exists in that nether region between science fiction and fantasy, as well as the hellish netherworld of war. Teado and his clandestine unit have a battered airplane, an equally battered pilot, an illusion mage and a shapechanger. Teado is the shapechanger.
Their tiny little unit is nearly out of everything, food, supplies, ammunition, and most especially, hope. They started out being near the front but the front has swept by them and now they are behind enemy lines and waging a guerrilla war from the shadows.
They’re listening to enemy propaganda while they are on watch, each wondering which of the others is going to be the first to break and run for the enemy-offered amnesty. Or whether they will be the first one to give up and just go.
But the powers that be haven’t forgotten them – nor have they quite let go of a hope of peace.
Which is where Teado, his unit, and this story come in. They have a crazy chance of striking a blow against the enemy’s new forward base and stealing an entire cargo plane full of desperately needed supplies.
If they are successful, there might be a chance at the peace talks to actually get a little. If they fail, at least their own war will be over.
Unless they are all just part of something much, much bigger and way, way, way above all their pay grades.
Escape Rating B: What made this work is that it isn’t about building up one side as the “good guys” and the other as the “bad guys”. We don’t really get much of a sense of what the two sides are fighting over beyond the obvious motivations of resources and territory.
It’s never all that clear that the two sides are truly all that different, or that one is all that much better or worse than the other.
This turns out to be a story that embodies, not just Sherman’s “War is Hell” quote, but more especially a less often seen quote from G.K. Chesterton that goes, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Or in the case of Teado and his company, because he loves what is beside him.
Teado is fighting, not for himself, but for his friends and comrades. And so are they. Which is what makes this story cut deep, as the powers that be only see the big picture and which pawns they need to move to change that picture.
Where Teado sees, and we experience through him, the real cost of those pawns being moved.