Foreign Devils (The Incorruptibles series book 2) by John Hornor Jacobs (book review)

March 25, 2016 | By | Reply More

Fisk and Shoe are hunting the rogue engineer Beleth, trying to catch him before he can sell the nation’s secrets and give the Medierans an advantage in the developing war. Along the way, they attract travelling companions and together they must face demons, figure out the odd behaviour of the Stretchers and somehow keep the politics to a minimum. Hundreds of miles away in Kithai, Livia, Secundus and Carnelia have been dispatched by the Emperor to form an alliance with the Tchinee. As they go to meet the mysterious leaders of the Tchinee, they will discover the true price of the alliance. As both groups struggle, the fate of the empire hangs in the balance as war comes ever closer.


‘Foreign Devils’ by John Hornor Jacobs is the second book in ‘The Incorruptibles’ series and picks up straight after the events of book one,‘The Incorruptibles’. I found it a little harder to get into than the previous book, perhaps because it had been a while since I’d read it and because of the split nature of the storyline. This is very much a two-part narrative, with two very distinct strands following the separate groups on their adventures. This did make it a little trickier to keep up with but, once I had reminded myself of the events in book one, it wasn’t too much of a problem.

However, I think this dual storyline did result in me enjoying it less. There weren’t the same kind of opportunities for the characters to interact and it was a shame that we didn’t get to see how Fisk and Livia’s relationship developed, particularly with Livia expecting their first child. A lot of Livia’s story was told through letters to Fisk and this just didn’t have the same depth to it as Fisk and Shoe’s side of things. It seemed almost an add-on to the main story, even though the events there were perhaps some of the most important in the whole book, particularly towards the end. There is still a great story in here, though, and the twist at the end is one that I thought I’d figured out early on, but really hadn’t, so it was brilliant to be surprised.

Even though the book may have its flaws, the world that Jacobs has built is fascinating. I enjoyed finding out more about the non-human races in ‘Foreign Devils’ and the magic/technology blend is continually intriguing. It’s a bit like a demon-powered steampunk system, which isn’t something I’ve come across anywhere else. I’m not sure if this is a trilogy or a longer series but there’s certainly plenty of scope left to take things in a number of different directions and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pans out. There are certainly many questions I’d like to see answered in the next book(s)!

Before I finish up, I’ve got to mention the fantastic cover art. In a similar style to the first book, the simple etched style of illustration from Patrick Knowles is stunning. It’s a cover that is sure to entice readers in and I’d certainly encourage them to pick ‘Foreign Devils’ up and try it, but make sure you’ve read ‘The Incorruptibles’ first or I think you’ll be pretty lost.

Vinca Russell

March 2016

(pub: Gollancz, 2015. 480 page paperback. Price: 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-57512-377-9)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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