by Elizabeth Bear
Tor, $26.99, 333pp
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
This was a very interesting tale. It takes place in a landscape reminiscent of the Mongol steppes. It is not Earth; this is a fascinating world where the skies change from empire to empire, reflective of the respective gods. This is the second in a trilogy, click here to see the review of the first book, Range of Ghosts.
Temur and Samarkar continue to search for Temur’s betrothed, Edene. They know she is being held by al-Sepehr, but they don’t know why. They also don’t know that Edene has escaped or that she has a ring that allows her to command the crawling and stinging denizens of the desert. Temur and Samarkar have taken refuge in the city of Tsarepheth but the city is under siege by a demon virus. The wizards are desperately searching for the way into the city that the demon virus is using but with no success. Al-Sepehr has sent his adopted son/daughter on a mission to help enable Temur’s Uncle to keep his throne; the throne that rightly belongs to Temur. (It sort of sounds like a game of thrones…)
This is a very complex epic tale with many characters. The author takes up one character’s point of view and then another and another. Sometimes the interval is short, some quite long. I found it challenging to keep up each storyline; I think she might have been more gentle with her readers. I like the plot; it’s a pretty standard line, actually: young prince who doesn’t plan to inherit suddenly has to because the rightful heir is killed. Brave, beautiful and competent woman becomes his helpmeet and mentor on the way to the throne. Exotic warrior outcast pledges allegiance to the young prince and helps protect him. The worldbuilding is still too sparse for my taste; I’d like to know more about the world I’m visiting. She has a unique plot device in that the sky above a land is controlled(?) or illustrative of its god and each land’s sky is different. She uses it effectively as our band of heroes can tell whose realm they are in by looking at the sky. It was also an extremely effective cliffhanger at the end of this book. The main characters are well-defined. I just wish she didn’t make it so difficult for the reader to keep up with each story thread. But it has captured my imagination…~~ Catherine Book