Author: SurgicalSteel

Nominator: pandemonium_213

2011 Award Category: Post-Ring War and Beyond: General

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Mature Language/Themes

Summary: One of Umbar's leaders has a plan for starting peace negotiations with Gondor despite the fact that her current government may not like it. OC-centric.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

I read [Gamble] and then went back to pick up [Loyalty], from which it follows, and while doing so gave me a fuller appreciation for context, it wasn't absolutely necessary either. The situation described in [Gamble] is one that - sadly - happens all too often in war, and does not need much to persuade as to its possibility. The specifics of Niluphel's position require inference, and surely those who follow SurgicalSteel's ficverse will get more out of the story than I, but again: inference is easy enough to make and so one can read the story without the full background. Niluphel is a canny politician, but also a compassionate one, and one seeking a way to move from a terrible crisis, brought on by a commander's deliberate attack on a Gondorian hospital tent, to a situation in which peace may finally be established formally with Gondor. I love the depiction of Aragorn in this - [The Great Arsonist]. Umbar is a thorny piece of work, an act of preemptive war that would have repercussions for years to come, potentially generations given the dynastic politics of Gondor. In this case, it has delayed a peace settlement with Gondor for some time, and it is Niluphel's sharp-sighted and gutsy weighing of opportunities, risks, and her own political resources that may finally put Harad's council and Gondor's throne on speaking terms. For those who know SurgicalSteel's universe, this undoubtedly is a fine expansion of it; for those who do not, it's a brief opening onto a world that Tolkien never wrote but left as a kind of blank for future readers and writers to fill in, and SurgicalSteel brings it to life with style. Well done!

Author response: Thank you, Dwimordene, I'm really flattered that you enjoyed this!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 5

SurgicalSteel has an unerring eye for the political machinations that remain the same throughout time, because after all, people are people. In the Fourth Age one of the rulers of Umbar sets in motion a plan that very well might win peace with Gondor-- it's a clever all or nothing attempt that could end up increasing her power-- or leave her vulnerable to a charge of treason. Two clearly drawn OCs have a conversation, as she sets her plan in motion. Once more, SurgicalSteel lays out the information for the reader, and credits the reader with enough intelligence to draw all the right conclusions, something she's very adept at.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 3

A very interesting look at the flip side of the coin, as it were. I love the political intrigue the author has incorporated into the piece—it's a element not often written quite as well as this.

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 3

Surgical Steel has interesting ideas about Umbarian history and culture and what Gondor's policies look like from the Umbarian point of view. Her OFC Niluphel, who also features in other fics among Surgical Steel's series of responses to B2MeM challenges earlier this year, is both a courageous woman and a subtle politician.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 2

Politics are tricky in any system. I like the way Niluphel works within the system to come up with a plan. It is still risky, but the price is worth it.