The Philosopher's War

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

Like the preceding book, this one's got great characters, impressively complex gender dynamics, and a well thought out [don't call it magic!] system fully enmeshed in a refreshing Alternate History -- but this time very specifically of WWI. Where The Philosopher's Flight was largely a novel of college life, this one is a capital W War novel, and the intensity of the war rarely lets up.

The experience of the main POV character, Robert A. Canderelli Weekes, is vividly depicted. He is now a rookie officer in "Rescue and Evac," tasked with flying the wounded out of the field in Europe. He's the only male flier, surrounded by some extremely colorful, amazing women. I wish every single one of them had been real, but at least this book brings them to life! As they're all put through the trauma of the war, and put into place as pawns in more shadowy battles, the reader knows a bit of what's going to happen -- both immediately and well into the decades after WWI -- but is still surprised by the details.

I love these books, and look forward to whatever Tom Miller decides to write next.
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-- DISCLAIMER: I received a free eARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher for this opportunity. --

Tom Miller's Philosopher's series is highly imaginative and continuously plays with history, magic, and gendered expectations. In his alternate early 20th century history, there is a kind of magic, largely limited to women, allowing things like flying or transporting supplies and people, used both in war and peace. Young Robert A. Weekes, very unusually for a man, has his heart set on becoming a rescue and evacuation flyer in what is the equivalent to World War I, and this second volume starts with him beating all odds and being sent to the front in France. It follows his experiences proving his worth as a man (a refreshing perspective), trying to juggle career and relationship, and his experiences of war and loss. Miller manages to write all this in a well nuanced, gripping tale with many twists and turns, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this series!
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Just as interesting as the first book, the world building and character development are completely on point. The author has taken the time to suss out and give us a greater understanding of the protagonist and I really enjoyed reading this book.
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I enjoyed the first book in this series, The Philosopher's Flight, and this second book was much the same. In The Philosopher's War, the characters from the first book return, this time actively participating in the War (World War II). I like this alternative history, and find it both fantastical and realistic. The gifts and talents of the characters are well thought out, and the stakes are much higher in this book. 4 solid stars.
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The Philosopher's War is a wonderful follow-up to The Philosopher's Flight, and there aren't any second-book issues like you sometimes see with debut authors.

A bit of time has passed, and Robert is off to serve as flight support in the alternate history version of World War I. He's the first man, again, and continues to face discrimination about it. The gender politics are even more interesting in this book than in the first, as the gender binary is still very much a thing, with "men's work" and "women's work" and so how Robert moves in this world is definitely a good exploration. 

The regular politics are also much more in evidence, and Robert is very obviously a mostly clueless pawn. But he seems to like it that way, and the way the larger picture unravels, it makes sense that this would be the case. How it affects his romantic relationships is also skillfully handled. 

I continue to love the magic/philosophy in these novels. It's well crafted without being overly explained, and it's impacts are definitely explored well in the context of history. 

The other thing this book handles superbly is PTSD. The depictions of the front could well be triggering, but overall I think Miller handled both the soldiers and evacuators responses to trauma deftly. 

I highly recommend the book, and its predecessor (I suppose you could read this one first but you'll definitely be a bit confused on some of the intrigue-y bits). Good for folks who love alternate history, those who want an exploration of war that isn't from the warrior's POV, people eager to read about gender norms upended, and anyone who likes great worldbuilding.
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Just as interesting as the first book, the world building and character development are completely on point. The author has taken the time to suss out and give us a greater understanding of the protagonist and I really enjoyed reading this book.
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I enjoyed The Philosopher’s Flight immensely. Everything about was fun, from the characters to the story, to the amazing world building and alternate history. Tom Miller is one talented guy. So of course, I had to read this installment of Robert A’s story. It’s even better than the first. I absolutely loved it. It’s incredibly original and I can’t wait for the next one!
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I loved the first book in the series but just couldn’t get into this second installment. There was definitely plenty of excitement and solid fantasy elements, but I had a lot of trouble connecting again with the characters and the overarching conflict of the series.
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There are a lot of pitfalls when it comes to choosing to dig into a literary series. The truth is that a lot of these series, while perfectly OK, are just that – OK. And if you’re OK with OK, well … OK. But if you’re someone who wants something more, someone who is looking for a much richer experience than you can get from the standard-issue sci-fi or fantasy series, taking the plunge can be tough.

Tom Miller’s latest is “The Philosopher’s War.” It’s the second installment in a series begun last year with “The Philosopher’s Flight.” It is also a book that strives for that richness of experience, one replete with interesting ideas, compelling characters and an ambitious world. And while it might not quite reach the heights to which it ultimately aspires, it still soars plenty high indeed.

In this world, magic – known as empirical philosophy – is real, dictated by a complex system of sigils and runes. Different people share affinity with different symbols – and each symbol generates its own sort of power. The sigils can be used to create fire and shape smoke. They can be used to teleport over great distances and to fly. They can be used to heal … and to kill.

It wasn’t long ago that Robert Canderelli Weekes was a college student at Radcliffe, one of the few male philosophers out there – and the only one able to fly. In the midst of the Great War, circumstances have led him to enlist in the armed forces, the first-ever man to join the Rescue & Evacuation service of the U.S. Sigilry Corps. He’s the first male Sigilwoman.

Past atrocities have led the world to agree to a defense-and-rescue-only policy on the battlefield – weaponized empirical philosophy resulted in the most horrific moments in some horrifying wars. But as Robert joins his new division in France, it soon becomes clear that there are some who would end that prohibition so that they might win the war – and damned be the consequences.

Without fully realizing it, Robert is swept up into the roiling swirl of danger and intrigue. He is being pulled from all sides – a mother with a wartime history she’d rather forget, a girlfriend with political sway who’d rather remove him from the field altogether, a commanding officer who demands more of him and a division of comrades who gradually, begrudgingly come to trust him. All of these people with their own goals and their own motivations, all seeking Robert’s help.

But what does HE want? He has to choose – and his choices will have wide-ranging consequences, up to and including ending the war … or escalating it.

The best part of “The Philosopher’s War” – and the best part of the series as a whole – is the world that Tom Miller has created. There’s a real sense of historicity here, a veracity to the manner in which the whole thing has been constructed. The degree of close consideration given to the particulars of empirical philosophy is apparent throughout, lending a depth to the proceedings that contributes mightily to the story’s immersive nature.

One of Miller’s most ingenious choices – carried forward from the first book – is opting to headline each chapter with a quote pulled from the history of this world. These quotes range some way into the future at times, giving the grander arc a historical foundation even as the story itself plays out very much in the present.

There are some issues, however, the main one being a general flatness to many of the characters. It’s understandable – Miller has put together a large cast, and with this many featured players, it can sometimes be tough to give everyone a shot at real development. The end result is that while Robert and a handful of others are fleshed out nicely, there are some characters that feel more or less interchangeable. There’s a generic vibe to them that doesn’t fully click with the complexity of the deeper dramatis personae or the of the world itself.

Please note that this is a relatively minor flaw; the central journey – Robert’s journey – is clearly, cleanly characterized. The pros definitely outweigh the cons as far as the overall experience is concerned.

“The Philosopher’s War” is not without flaws, but it’s an undeniably enjoyable read. The world that Tom Miller has created is as detailed and compelling as anything you’ll find in contemporary fantasy, packed with meticulously-constructed elements that are well worth exploring.
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In the Philosopher's War, the follow up to the Philosopher's Flight, Robert heads off to war and accomplishes his goal in serving as an Rescue and Evacuation soldier. Then it's off to fight in World War 1. Robert has developed in this book, and is finally accepted by his R&E peers. The Philosopher's Flight took me awhile to get into, but I loved the Philosopher's War. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read the second book of Tom Miller’s Philosophers series, The Philosopher’s War in which Robert Weekes, after having proven many doubters wrong by showing the female-dominated world of Philosophy that males could, in fact, fly fast and well has joined R&E and is sent to Europe to rescue the injured on the battlefields of World War I.
I had some issues with the first novel, The Philosopher’s Flight pertaining to the characterization of the female philosophers and, I’ll admit, I had the same issues with this book but that has more to do with my personal experience than with the writing. Despite this being the second of the series, a lot of explanation is still required of the rules of this world especially of the missions and the special equipment that the flyers and other branches of philosophy use and those passages tended to get tedious to me. Also, I’m not much of a war story fan and, as it is set in France at the end of WWI, there are several passages with detailed descriptions of casualties and dangerous missions. However, the action sequences did read more quickly than most of the rest of the book. What Miller does especially well is to delve into Robert’s evolution from excited/nervous young man ready to prove himself in the war to the battle-tested and battle-scarred man torn between two loyalties.
The Philosopher’s War is yet another book with an interesting and unique concept that explores pertinent ideas it just wasn’t necessarily for me.
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Loved The Philosopher’s Flight, but I’ve been struggling to get through this one. Putting it down at 40% for now.
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The Philosopher's War is the second book in Tom Miller's alt-history WW1 timeline novel. Released 16th July by Simon & Schuster, it's 416 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

I reviewed the first installment last year and admit to some trepidation on reading this, the second. I was afraid it couldn't possibly live up to my remembered opinions about the quality and depth of the writing. I worried needlessly; this book is quite wonderful in its own right and felt to me like a worthy successor to the previous book. I did not re-read the first book in preparation for the second. I had no trouble following the plot or remembering returning characters, so I do think this book could work as a standalone without necessitating a reading of the previous content. I would certainly recommend hunting down the 1st book, it's a wonderful read, but it's not absolutely necessary.

The story follows the further adventures of Robert Canderelli Weekes, son of a very famous family of female fliers in a magical air corps fighting in WW1. In fact, his family are so famous for their sigilry (magic use) that he adopts his father's name as a surname to avoid politicization of his joining the flying corps (elite troops who have hitherto been female only).

This book could so easily have simply devolved into a morality play about patriarchy and sexism and crossing gender boundaries, and the author resisted that, and the book is stronger for it, in my opinion. There's very little stridency or preachiness in this book. It's a solid, entertaining, good read and I would recommend it heartily to lovers of speculative fiction, adventure fiction, historical fiction, and the like. It would also make a good book club selection or buddy-read.

The author weaves real history with fantasy so skillfully, it's very difficult to winnow out what's real and what isn't; I stopped trying. He's a wonderfully talented author and the fact that his other day job is as a physician in emergency services gives a lot of the book an unusually vivid verisimilitude. Also included in the back of the book are 'excerpts' from other fictive history books which include illustrations (by Michael Gellatly) and back story.

Really well written and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Five stars. I am looking forward to future installments.
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I didn't realize this was the second in a series when I read The Philosopher's War. The author did a great job of giving all the background information needed. It was a great spin on history.
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I absolutely loved the first book of this series and could not wait to read this one. It is a refreshing take on war where women have a unique ability to do "philosophy" or you might say magic. Through the mastery of sigils they can flight, teleport, grow plants, freeze a body in time, etc. The main character of this series is Robert Weekes/Candarelli. He is a unique man in the fact that he can use philosophy and fly. The first book introduces you to Robert and gets you through his first year at Radcliffe where he learns to become even better. 

These books take place during the Great War and Robert has to give a year of service in the sigil corps for his free year of schooling. The Philosopher's War is just that, the story of the corps part in the war. Robert is the lone man in Rescue and Evacuation with a group of all women. While there is a lot of joking Robert becomes a vital member of the division.

I liked this book enough stayed up until 1am reading the last 200 pages. If you are looking for a fantasy take on war and strength definitely read this series. The characters are all intriguing and will make you want to read more.
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Tom Miller’s debut The Philosopher’s Flight was one of the best gems I found in 2018 and in my opinion it’s still tragically under-rated and under-read. Somehow it flew under a lot of radars, but after the brilliance that was this sequel, you can bet I’ll be jumping up and down, telling everyone about this series every chance I get. My God, this book! I can’t remember the last time I read something that affected my emotions so strongly and unraveled them to such a deep level. Needless to say, not only did The Philosopher’s War live up to every expectation set by the first book, it surpassed them in many ways as well. It’s now at the top for my favorite novel of the year.

But because having a good understanding of the main character’s background and being familiar with the world-building is so important, I definitely wouldn’t advise tackling this book without having read the previous one first. To recap, the series takes place during World War I, following protagonist Robert Weekes AKA Robert Canderelli, the first man to be allowed to join the US Sigilry Corps’s Rescue and Evacuation service, an all-women elite team of flying medics. In this world, there exists a magic system termed “philosophy”, which gifted individuals use with sigil drawing to perform all kinds of amazing feats like teleportation, flight, and crafting a myriad of incredible objects from smoke. For reasons unknown, however, women tend to have a much stronger affinity for philosophy, beating out their male counterparts by far. Not surprisingly, this means philosophical fields are dominated by women, and in the face of this bizarre twist on gender roles, men like Robert had to work twice as hard to prove himself and fight the discrimination against him in order to pursue his dreams of flying for R&E.

Now he is about to meet an even greater challenge, as he prepares to be shipped off to France to help in the Great War. Because its effects would be so powerful and devastating, use of philosophy in war is strictly regulated by international conventions. No army is allowed to use it in the field, except in disaster relief and in rescuing and evacuating the wounded, which suits Robert just fine. Ever since he was a child, he has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his heroines to become a Sigilwoman, serving his country and saving lives. But once in the Corps, all his romantic notions of heroism and bravery are dispelled as Robert finds himself in way over his head, surrounded by the danger, chaos, and death on the front lines. The only comfort he finds is in the rare messages he is able to receive from his girlfriend, the legendary transporter Danielle Hardin, or in the company of his sister flyers, who support him as much as they rag on him. However, as the weeks wear on and the Germans become more desperate, fears arise that the enemy will break with international law by using sigilry and smokecarving to develop a deadly chemical weapon. Fortunately, Robert’s commander, the unflappable General Blandings has a plan in place, and she’s hoping to recruit him for a key role in her group of spies, rebels, and misfits.

Much like its predecessor, few things in The Philospher’s War will unfold the way you’d expect. For the most part too, it takes on a completely different tone than the first book and focuses on a new conflict. Still, there are some familiar themes, mostly surrounding Robert’s struggles of trying to prove he can do the job just as well as any woman, though very quickly he realizes that things on the front lines are very different than they were at Radcliffe College. For one thing, the women of Second Division could care less about his pride or private hang ups, as long as they can count on him when it really matters. Because no matter what, you always stand with the women next to you.

And this is why I loved this book. It’s a fascinating mix of history and fantasy, but it reads like WWI fiction. The narrative style reminds me very much of the epicness of the WWII drama Band of Brothers, except with all female characters, but told from the perspective of a man, who is also “one of the girls.” Again, the situation makes for interesting dynamics. Robert’s history books are filled with stories of female heroes and their achievements, but despite having almost all the philosophical power in their world, women still have to fight for their place in a society where men have a lot of authority. Still, within the female spheres of influence, it’s as cutthroat as it can get with ruthless politics and powerplays. Robert is caught in the middle, a symbol of change for some women who see his acceptance into R&E as a step in the right direction, while others would like nothing more than to see him fail as proof that “men just can’t cut it.”

But away from the politicians and generals, down in the lower ranks with Robert and his friends, it’s an easy camaraderie between the women from all walks of life and their fierce loyalty to each other. My hat’s off to Tom Miller for writing the most awesome, realistic and genuine group of women I’ve had the pleasure to read about. They were all written so well, and I loved every one of them: Lt. Drale, Andrada, Punnett, Kiyo, Millen, and all the other women of Second Division. I laughed along with their jokes and antics, commiserated with them over defeats and challenges. It wasn’t difficult to sympathize with Robert’s dilemma, as he gradually grew in solidarity with his sisters in the Corps while feeling more and more unanchored from his life from before. And then, there were the deaths. Obviously, death is a huge theme of this book, being a war story and all, and R&E suffers a lot of casualties while trying to fly the injured out of warzones. Still, I just didn’t expect to hurt so much over the loss of some of these key characters. It was like having my guts ripped out, and yes, there were plenty of tears involved as well.

All told, I loved loved loved The Philosopher’s War. Although the story may take some time to get started, once it does, it becomes this formidable and emotionally powerful novel that will grip your attention and plunge itself into your heart. It’s one of the most poignant and harrowing books I’ve ever read, vividly evoking the terror and tragedies of battle but also the unshakeable bonds that are forged in times of hardship. War is hell for everyone involved, including the rescuers who ferry the gravely wounded men from the frontlines, even though the work is dangerous and fine brave women are being lost every step of the way. But they fly in spite of that, because lives need saving. As the reader, you get to experience those extraordinary friendships that form between Robert and his squad mates, as well as the crushing loss when the war claims them. But amidst the battles and bloodshed, there is also plenty of action, adventure, and even some humor. And of course, the world-building and the magic of philosophy was crazy unique and fantastic. As I’d hoped, this sequel has managed to reach new heights and has even surpassed the original, and I am just absolutely in awe. Whether you’re a war fiction buff, a lover of history, or a sci-fi and fantasy fan, there’s something for everyone, and I can’t recommend this series enough.
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I enjoyed Tom Miller's The Philosopher's War even more than I liked the first book in the series! The sequel to book #1 was centered around the war, and I think the change in context made the military parallels so much more obvious and the subversion that much more interesting. The idea of referring to superiors as ma'am, the idea of Robert being forced to use the "ma'am" address because he was in a female unit, all of these things just hit home harder in the second book. I also liked how this one seemed to be more of a book in a series than the first; I can see how a third book (if there's going to be a third book) will fit, and am excited to read book #3 if it happens! If you haven't checked out Tom Miller's books, I definitely recommend giving them a chance.
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"Show some respect. We are the things that go bump in the night. The whole world's praying for deliverance from us. Form up and launch." 

When I read the first book in this series, I enjoyed it but was skeptical about how some of the world building turned out. However, the concept of the world Miller created was so interesting and full of potential that when I saw the second book in the duology was due for release, I eagerly asked for a copy. And boy, I wasn't disappointed. Miller takes all the best parts of book one and throws them into a situation where they truly shine: war. 

This second book is darker with more action and more development for young Robert and his fellow flight troops in WWI. The book truly grasps the essence of war: how quickly horrible things happen, how monotonous even the craziest situations become, and how discombobulating it is to reenter the real, peaceful world. I enjoyed the subtle changes to military life from the point of view of a female brigade, along with their one male. As before Robert encounters more than his fair share of skepticism but, as it is in war, he's accepted quickly by proving himself on the field. 

But this is war. Not everyone comes out of it. To my own surprise, I actually cried at one point in the book where Robert has to read the Form 41 (a will) for one of his fallen friends. It was touching and written so well; it felt so unfair, just as it is in war today when the young die. I appreciated that Miller wrote war for what it is, both heart wrenching and glorious and full of loss. 

Watching Robert throughout this story is a fascinating look at how war changes a person. He undergoes incredible change from the boy he was in book one and while it hurt to watch him lose parts of himself, he gained such strength and purpose that it was exhilarating as well. I enjoyed the secondary characters immensely with Millen being my absolute favorite of the whole series. I also enjoyed getting to dive deeper into the magic system, particularly cartography. It was fascinating as a huge fantasy fan. The pacing is gripping; I could not put it down the whole way through. And the ending is just as it should be for such a hard story. I have never closed a book thinking that a character deserved a happy ending more, not that this was happy, I just hope those still alive in the end found it in that fictional world. 

I would absolutely recommend this book to any fantasy fan, or a historical fiction fan who enjoys alternative narratives. 


Note: I received a free Kindle edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review above. I would like to thank Netgalley, the publisher  Simon & Schuster and the author Tom Miller for the opportunity to do so.
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I loved Tom Miller's debut novel, "The Philosopher's Flight," an alternate history book about a world not unlike our own but with magic, so I was very excited to read this sequel. I'm sorry to say this book wasn't quite as fun or interesting as the first book in the series. Part of it is because the world is already established, and I think part of it is because it's set in Europe during World War I, and WWI, even with magic, is just a bit of a depressing slog. All that being said, I did still enjoy the book, wanted to keep reading, and would definitely still read further book(s) in the series should there be any. 3.5 stars.
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A satisfying sequel to an already thrilling read. Miller does it again in giving readers a plot to sink your teeth into and characters you can't help but love despite all their flaws.
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