It’s a sign of the strength of the story that I recognized all of the main players of the first book when they resurfaced in this one (those that did) without ever looking at the first book again. As with the first, there is a large cast and multiple things happening in different places all at the same time, but each is a layer on the main story. Even when I didn’t recognize the connection at first, I could tell they were going to cross paths at some point just based on where and what they were doing. This created a good tension, and sometimes a terrifying one when the actions of one group would directly affect the other.
It’s also worth noting the cast was full of distinct people who I enjoyed spending time with (sometimes as the enemy), both from before and newly introduced. Everyone has a goal they’re working toward, sometimes complementary, but often in a conflict they’re unaware of. While the series tackles some big questions in exploring what counts as personhood, the questions alone would not be enough to engage me. It’s the strength of the characters that manages to keep me involved. For example, one of the characters embodies everything I dislike about people in power, but at the same time, he has a deeper, more complicated story we learn as the tale unfolds. The realism is such, though, that his deeper story does nothing to inform his actions and the reasons I dislike him.
It did take me a bit to ground myself in the exact place they were, but all my questions were answered early on, at least the ones necessary to ground me. This is clearly a middle book, with more to discover, but has its own crises to face. The greater story is still present in the relationship of Maia and Kaylan with his ship, which is also a consequence of what happened in book 1. There’s a lovely bit about being forced by circumstances to do the one thing you don’t want to do and are terrified of the consequences of same. The different reactions to the event I’m obscurely referring to also reveal more of what drives each of them, and what they fear.
I don’t know if this book was shorter, or if it just read quickly, but looking back, I’m stunned by how much has happened and the multilayered events that I understand better than the characters do because I can see more of the pieces. The only part I struggled with involves Marsen and the Aya because we have no voice in that camp. I can’t tell how legitimate or underhanded their stated motivations were, but I can tell you they believe in the ends justify the means to a degree I cannot agree with. The other addition to this series is Michael, who serves an important role yet feels as though there’s more to discover about him, especially given his almost shared history with Lynn, so I suspect he’ll play a part in the next book as well.
Once again, the complexities of a culture built on unchangeable rules that constrict the ability to recognize what’s right in front of them, particularly where the question of sapience is concerned, are beautifully constructed and revealed. The question may remain the same, but the information available to the reader expands like a flower in many directions all at once. I have some theories, but there are still many directions this series could go to provide a satisfying conclusion.
P.S. I received this novel from the author for my pure enjoyment…and chose to review it anyway.