Although this book is the sequel to The Sixth Discipline it also stands up in its own right, both as an engaging story and as a description of a varied fantasy world.
The story continues the life of Ran-Del Jahanpur. However, this is an older and calmer Ran-Del, happily married with two children and a third on the way. While he still sees the value of Sansoussy culture he also accepts that the culture of the City has value. In contrast to the dismissal of different cultures that threatened his happiness as a young man, it is his son’s desire to truly experience tribal life as well as the rarefied life of the major houses that created conflict with Francesca. In contrast with Ran-Del’s quest to maintain the life he has, the story also charts the struggle of Freddie Leong, surviving son of a rival house, to break free of the life forced upon him by Ran-Del’s execution of his brother.
The first section of the book contains a number of recaps of key points from The Sixth Discipline, which serve to introduce new readers or refresh the memory. Unlike some recaps, which result in characters saying variations of “As you know….” or reading large sections of historical documents, the introduction of Ran-Del’s children as proxies for the reader combined with the new points of view from House Leong make the exposition fit seamlessly into the narrative.
As with its prequel, the character development is sound. Existing characters are recognisable but have matured over the intervening years, and new or expanded characters share the same flawed yet sympathetic viewpoint.
The further expansion of the world is also skilled. In addition to a series of fine grain details of City and Sansoussy life, this book shows the reader the society of the Horde, the child-stealing anarchist bogeymen of the first book. Just as with the comparison of the two cultures in The Sixth Discipline, Webster Buxton portrays the Horde as a real society; threatening to outsiders, but a tradition-bound descendant of compromise decisions when viewed from within. In contrast with some novels set among the faceless enemy of earlier books the narrative adds depth not contradictions or excuses.
The only part of the novel that did not work for me was the conflict in Freddie Leong’s romance; while the rest of the plots flowed naturally from the conflict of three societies and the variations within them, the romance descended into the comedy business of Elizabethan drama or French farce.
Overall I enjoyed this novel greatly, and would again recommend the world to those seeking a story set in a believably complex fantasy world.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair review.