Jun. 6th, 2017

Book Review

Jun. 6th, 2017 08:28 pm
kenjari: (illumination)
Two Serpents Rise
by Max Gladstone

This engrossing fantasy novel is something of a sequel to Three Parts Dead in that it takes place in the same world. This time we are in the desert city of Dresediel Lex, where powerful Craftsmen and followers of the old gods and religion vie for control of the city and especially of its waterworks. When the water supply is attacked, risk manager Caleb Altemoc becomes even more involved in the struggle between the Craft concerns and the old religion than his position as both an employee of Red King consolidated and the son of the outlawed and disgraced former high priest. Adding further complication is Caleb's emerging yet difficult relationship with the mysterious cliff-runner Mal.
The plot of Two Serpents Rise was complicated and fast-paced, but never got in the way of itself. I particularly liked the way the romance part of the story spun out - it was a realistic and gritty portrayal of two people attempting to pursue a relationship in the midst of a complex crisis.
The setting is marvelous. Dresediel Lex very much resembles the kind of modern city we'd recognize. It's densely populated, contains both squalor and luxury, has a diverse population, and has conveniences like public transportation. However, the culture, people, architecture, and especially the old gods and religion are based on the Aztecs. This is a city that was formerly built and sustained through human sacrifice to implacable gods and is now run through the magic of the Craft. One of the best parts of the book is the way Gladstone uses this setting and its opposition between the old religion and the new Craft-based regime as an exploration of what is sacrificed for a comfortable modern existence, how those sacrifices are negotiated, and what they mean.


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