Unlike the first two installments of this series, which I grabbed as soon as I could, I put off reading this -- mostly it's because it was a .5. On the whole, I've not really found much to get excited about in the point-whatevers. But I had an opening in my schedule and needed something I could read on my phone.
Man, I should've read this sooner.
It's a typical Saturday night at Grognard's Grog and Games -- "<i>V: TES</i> tournament, half-priced Jaeger, and Grognard getting morose." Ree's got her hands full serving the crowd, which happens to include our friends Eastwood and Drake. This is pretty handy because while things are still going strong, the bar falls under a pretty serious attack. They're able to hold it off for a bit, but before long, it becomes a night-long siege. It was only missing a few Uruk-Hai (or a reference to them) to be a veritable Helm's Deep. There's a bit more than just the siege, but I've gotta leave a little to you to find out for yourself.
On the one hand this is pretty much just one long-knockdown fight. But there's more going on -- and not just because it's really a series of fights with strategic retreats to regroup, refresh, heal and strategize. But there's more than that -- Ree seems a lot more certain in her abilities, confident and capable (although she should really have learned to carry spare batteries for her phone by now). There is a little character development, a little push toward the next novel, but mostly this is action. Which does make the small character moments shine a bit brighter -- you expect them in a full-fledged novel, and while Underwood usually does these moments right, here they stand out more. Most importantly, the voice is there -- Underwood's eye for action, Ree's snark, and the 17 pop culture references per inch of text are fully present.
Because the action is limited to the events of one night, a lot of the things that would be minuses for me, actually work. For example, Ree hits the same note of lament over her romantic situation too often for a book that takes place over a couple of weeks -- but over a night? Yeah, we've all been there. A couple of Grognard's patrons don't act in ways that would work/wouldn't be suspicious over the long hall -- but in the midst of a battle? Sure, absolutely.
Unlike a lot of .5 works, I don't know if this one can be skipped in your voyage from Ree Reyes #2 to Ree Reyes #3. Even if it turns out that you can (won't know until #3 releases -- which I won't wait to read), you shouldn't. Grab something to drink and/or snack on and watch Ree and the gang open up a few cans of whoop-ass.