Originally posted 11/13/10 in my meta/review blog
The previous book had some marginal successes and victories, and the possibility of something Very Big and Very Bad happening in the Orphan’s previous homeland, and they have made allies of their counterparts from the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice. Five Odd Honors begins with the discovery of the treachery of the previous Tiger, Thundering Heaven, who has managed to trick the Monkey, Bent Bamboo. He declares that he will only allow them to talk to the Monkey to ask him to join them in going back to the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice if his daughter Pearl (the current Tiger) steps down from her position. The other Orphans are less than enthused by this option, and Pearl resolves the situation by having a duel with her father. (When they finally get into contact with Bent Bamboo, he is immediately agreeable to the plan, and is upset that Thundering Heaven had tricked him.
The Orphans and allies get ready to create the Gate to return to the Lands (the biggest problem had been gathering the people necessary for the spell, and the quest was most of the content in Nine Gates). When they create the Gate to the Lands, they discover a strange, apocalyptic, and uninhabitable landscape. It is immediately decided that they need to send out an expedition before wandering around without knowing where they are.
At that point, Brenda’s father Gaheris decides it is time for Brenda to go to college. Brenda definitely does not want to leave her new friends hanging, but Brenda goes anyway. At college, she tries to settle in, while worrying about what might be happening to the Orphans who are scouting ahead.
Shortly after she arrives at the college, she meets a strangely familiar person named Parnell. She eventually learns (and remembers) that she had met both Parnell and his aunt Leaf in dreams. These two are representatives of the sidhe, who would like to help the Orphans, because whatever is happening in the Lands is part of some larger danger, and anything that happens in the Lands will also affect things for the sidhe. Parnell and Leaf have definite plans for Brenda, as they want her to convey this message to the Orphans. (Though many are reluctant with the idea, because Brenda is at first unsure and slightly xenophobic about the sidhe).
I was not sure what to think of the introduction of the sidhe. In a lot of series, it feels like the hodgepodge of various supernatural traditions stuffed together (often with sidhe dominating) is a loose stab at cultural diversity, without any real consideration for the traditions the other beings come from.) In this case, much the way she introduced the idea of multiple and often contradictory magical traditions, Lindskold manage to keep it all together without homogenization. I liked that Brenda was not only confused with the sidhe because she had just gotten used to her version of a Chinese magical system, and now was being confronted with a completely different system-who don’t resemble or act quite the way they do in fairy folklore and legends.
The ending of Five Odd Honors was a little anti-climactic. Since it was also a very open ending, with many things not really explained, I am hoping for another sequel. (Though I am not sure how there could be, since Lindskold tied up the situation with the Orphans pretty firmly.)