I enjoyed the first novella in this series enough to read on. (Here’s my review.) I’m glad I did. This book is a satisfying extrapolation of the themes of the first book, ‘Breach of Peace.’ This is novel, as compared to the first book being a novella. I’m keeping this review short because I don’t have much to say.
Spoilers Below! You’ve been warned. Also, all reviews are subjective. My opinions are my own. I’m writing this review as an author critiquing another author’s book, in an attempt to improve my own writing and editing skills.
To put this review/study in proper context, you must know my starting point.
I read the first book/novella and enjoyed it. I occasionally watch the author’s youtube videos.
WHAT IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?
- Alternate World Urban Fantasy
- Flintlock Fantasy
- Body Horror
READER’S EMOTIONAL RESPONSE/ FUN FACTOR
I enjoyed this book, but I have to say that I didn’t fall head-over-heels in love with it. This was a pleasant, popcorn read, involving intrigue and combat.
Overall, I give the story’s Emotional Resonance: (3/5 Stars)
(3 stars is why I default to for most books.)
(5 Stars= Perfect, 4=Great, 3=Good/Average, 2=Fun but Flawed, 1=Not Recommended)
CONCEPT AND EXECUTION
This book’s concept is a bit muddled. Part of it is a flashback to before book 1 in the series, reflecting on the motivations and actions of the character Chapman. The rest of the book occurs after book 1, featuring Khlid and some rebels trying to rebel against the government.
Execution wise, this book works well. The flashback sequences are used to explain the rebellion, so the two plotlines feed into one another very well. I was left satisfied having read this.
CHARACTERS AND CHARACTERIZATION:
Pretty good. The author pulled back and did two things: first, doing flashbacks to explore the character of Chapman. Second, the author explored the aftermath of book 1, continuing Khlid’s story and also introducing a few new characters. I felt the characters were well written. I had a clear sense of their personalities and perspectives, and was never confused with what the author wanted me to think about them.
THAT SAID, I wanted more from the demigod’s perspective. Why is the demigod so cruel? I want to know why people follow the Almighty so blindly. Who is the Almighty? Where did the Almighty come from? Why is the Almighty so cruel? What are the motives for the antagonists? Are they just evil for evil’s sake?
PACING, STRUCTURE, PLOT, STAKES AND TENSION
The plot was good, but there was a LOT of it for such a small book.
On one hand, I liked how the Chapman flashback sequence meshed well with the ‘modern day’ story surrounding Khlid. It worked well structurally. The story critic in me must admit ‘this was well done.’
On the other hand, I didn’t like the Chapman flashback sequence on general principle. By the beginning of this book Chapman is dead; why are we talking about him?
Don’t get me wrong, his segments were the best written sequences in this book. But having flashback sequences to describe the motives of a now-dead character feels irrelevant to me. As a result, my sense of tension in that segment of the story failed. We already know Chapman is going to die, so I was never worried about him.
I already got my emotional catharsis about Chapman when his story resolved with his death; going back to tell more of his story is like telling the joke after telling the punchline.
(Now that said, I’ll take this complaint back if Chapman returns in book 3. It is possible that this flashback is foreshadowing to his return.)
AUTHORIAL VOICE (TONE, PROSE AND THEME)
Does this author have a thing for beginning books with horror sequences? Talk about gross.
(This is actually a good thing done by the author; he establishes a tone instantly for his story, so the reader can anticipate the tone and genre of the book.)
Besides that, I have no complaints. This book reminds me of McClellan/Powdermage series, featuring clear and easy to understand prose with body horror and magic and flintlock and despicable gods. Definitely grimdark.
SETTING, WORLDBUILDING AND ORIGINALITY
This series has multiple ‘magic systems.’ (I hesitate to even call them systems.) There are gods and demigods, who are basically superhumanly strong. There are strange, body-horror monsters made by mutant science, and repressed ‘traditional’ sciences and medicines.
Credit where it’s due, the author never infodumped anything. Instead of wasting time explaining the history and background of the magic, he instead focused on the characters and plot. This is good; I wish more authors pulled back on the infodumping.
…That said, I want answers. Where did the body-horror science come from? Is it somehow related to the traditional medicine? How does it relate to the gods and demigods?
As always, Kramer and Reading do an excellent job.
- Know when to hold ’em, and know when to show ’em… about worldbuilding. Not infodumping is great! But a certain amount of infodumping can help flesh out the setting.
- Don’t write defensively. Going back to give motivation to a character who died in a prior book doesn’t flesh out the characterization of this book, or make this book more compelling. I already got my emotional catharsis about Chapman when his story resolved with his death; going back to tell more of his story is like telling the joke after telling the punchline.
A good followup to a good book. This felt like a very good ‘middle book,’ resolving plotlines from a prior story but also setting up the next story. My biggest complaint for this series is that I still don’t know very much about the setting. Who is the Almighty and what is their motive? Why is any of this story going on? What was the world like before the war in which the god took over the world?
Did you like this critique/review? Here are some more:
- P. Djeli Clark Quad Review
- A Critique of ‘The Lost War’ by Justin Lee Anderson
- A Critique of ‘Vespertine’ by Margaret Rogerson
- A Critique of ‘The Burning God’ and ‘The Poppy War’ Trilogy by R. F. Kuang
- A Critique of ‘Gunmetal Gods’ by Zamil Akhtar