Book Review: Enforcer

Enforcer by Matthew Farrer

Enforcer is an omnibus of books about the Adeptus Arbites (the Imperial law enforcement and judicial body). The books include Crossfire, Legacy, and Blind as well as three small dossiers of bonus material. The stories are focused on Shira Calpurnia, a recently promoted Arbites officer who arrives at her new post to begin her elevated duties. The post is situated on the capital planet in a foreign system with unfamiliar customs and traditions. Amidst the chaos of trying to find her bearings, she is subject to an assassination attempt and quickly thrown into a full-fledged investigation without time to adjust to the new environment. This is where Crossfire begins and it beautifully unfolds into an compelling portrayal of the social, political, and judicial aspects of the system’s inhabitants. Shira’s character is also unfolded into an intriguing and convincing protagonist. After completing Crossfire, I was eager to get to the dossier and onto the next book, Legacy. The dossier was very bland. It consisted of journal entries and observations by various people who were not part of the story but had a minor tie to the events that took place.

Legacy started off well but I quickly lost interest. The story involves an Emperor sanctioned rogue trader agreement that is reassigned to successor traders when the current title holder dies. Far too much of the story focuses on a complex power play amongst the rogue trader fleet on it’s return to the system. Farrer seemed to get lost in his own story, introducing too many characters with too little introduction and development. I didn’t care about any of them and half the time I couldn’t even follow who was who or why they were important. I think his intention was to build a deep portrayal of rogue trader culture and life but that focus just didn’t fit for me. I was expecting to read a book about the Adeptus Arbites and wanted to read more about Shira herself but most of her appearance involved tedious explanations of weak supporting material that often seemed mildly relevant and more so uninteresting, policy this, law abiding that… Shira went from being an intriguing lead character to a bland extra. Needless to say this put me off and it was a chore to finish the book. I think the Farrer would have been better off writing Legacy as a short story. I skipped the accompanying dossier all together.

Despite my poor reception of Legacy I was determined to give Blind a read in hopes that it would redeem the omnibus. Sadly I did not finish it. Blind is about the investigation of a mysterious murder on a telepathica station located on the outer rim of the system. Again the idea has a ton of potential and I was initially intrigued but it just doesn’t hold my attention enough. I made it about 1/3 of the way through before giving up and putting it back on my shelf.

It seemed like Farrer was really interested in the idea of Shira Calpurnia in the first book and had signed off on writing a trilogy only to get side tracked when starting the second book. I think he decided he wanted to write about rogue traders and astropaths but was obligated to tie in the Arbites somehow. Quite sad and disappointing really. I would highly recommend reading Crossfire and if you really enjoy it… maybe give the Legacy and Blind a go, perhaps you’ll find them more interesting than I, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

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