Review copy provided by the publisher. Also Django and I have taught workshops together and generally hung out at cons etc. I have his and his wife’s Christmas card right here.
This is the sequel to Ship of Smoke and Steel, and while I think it would stand alone fairly well practically, a lot of what’s missing here that was there in the previous volume is…the monsters and the magic. A lot of those things are in this book by implication, brought in by their more extensive presence in the previous book, so this one can focus more on character relationships and further development of the worldbuilding.
I would hope it would go without saying that this is no bad thing? But what it is, to my way of thinking, is a reason to read the first book first, to not attempt to pick up mid-series and hope to have the relationships and stakes handed to you on the fly, when the first book actually takes the time to lay them out for you and give you that arc.
Some of the late-book twist is…a known trope, which is not inappropriately deployed here, which remains nevertheless not my favorite trope, but I know some people love it. It’s a genre-crossing fave for a great many people, and I don’t want to be too spoilerific about it, but if there’s a particular SF/fantasy bender that bugs you more than spoilers bug you, message me and I’ll talk about it. I don’t think Django does it badly, I hasten to add, it’s just a thing that doesn’t excite me nearly as much as the character relationships do. I’m really glad that this is a book with the strong motivations it has, the focus on how and why these people care about each other turned up to basically eleven on every page. That’s worth far more to me than more giant crab fights. Even if I missed the giant crab fights a little.