Mad Water by Nicholas C. Rossis

Mad Water by Nicholas C. RossisSet against a world where the remnants of successive civilisations co-exist and technology has mostly been lost, Rossis weaves a tale of ordinary people struggling to choose the least worst option.

This book is the second in the Pearseus series. As such, this review might contain some spoilers for Rise of the Prince.

The shadowy Whisperers have guided Cyrus to rulership of the Capital; however, their continued influence has all but broken his sanity. Some are happy to participate in his war against his “enemies”, either for their own ends or for the pure enjoyment of war; others seek to mitigate his excess without becoming “enemies” themselves. Meanwhile, the First, original inhabitants of the planet, discover that their gods might see them only as fodder for an ancient conflict.

The events of this book follow on almost immediately from those of the previous book; so – while the prose displays Rossis’ distinctive style – there is less exposition or explanation than in the previous volumes. As such, the book has a faster, more fluid feel.

However, it maintains the ethical and social dimension of the first two books. Weaving together two ostensibly very different escalating conflicts, Rossis reveals the fundamental similarities that underlie any decision to attack another large group, however unique the apparent causes of the choice.

Within this frame of war as a blunt and horrible instrument, Rossis explores questions of personal morality: how my support for a cruel regime is excusable to reach a position where one might influence behaviour from within? Is it moral to sacrifice your own people to save strangers? Is all conflict actually a failure to understand the other?

Rossis maintains the same large number of viewpoint characters as in the previous volume. However, as with the world itself, they display less tendency to expound on personal history, allowing the reader to sink deeper into the events they currently face. This focus on revelation-through-action is also evident in the new characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers seeking fantasy action that raises serious questions without losing pace.

I received a free copy from the author with no obligation to review.

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