Rating: 3 out of 5
We’re back in the City… I was, quite frankly, astonished by the audacity of this book. It’s not often that an author decides to repeat the entirety of their first book in the second one, but that’s exactly what happens here—though actually, in this book, we go beyond merely the first one.
This gimmick allowed Ms Gemmell to continuously use her favoured device of tell the reader what is coming (don’t foreshadow, tell), and then introduce the event slowly across numerous chapters, always revealing just a little bit more. The device was a bit old by now, and of course the reader knows what’s happening for half of this volume, but the story still worked—and the reader was able to finally figure out how exactly many events came to pass.
I liked the story, in general. I liked the characters as well. These were a more varied bunch than in the first installment, especially with people like Hayden and Stern now participating in the story. Ms Gemmell’s pen seemed more certain in writing these guys than it had been with the Elijah & Emly centered first book. Nevertheless, Emly featured heavily in this story as well, but the character didn’t quite jive: something was off though the author really wanted us to like her.
There are also numerous history lessons present in the book, with the reader finally getting a more elaborate understanding of the City, its authors, and who Marcellus & Co. really are. This was both interesting as well as disappointing: I wasn’t expecting exactly that kind of a backstory, but I also could have got by without the angelic references that come by the dozen (not that they were entirely absent previously).
However, what annoys me most about this is the author’s complete inability to understand numbers. At one point, Marcellus claimed that an army of five hundred thousand would have been only one amongst many in the city’s glory days, a vanguard for the rest of the forces, leading us to estimate the population of the city at least as highly as 25 million which is ridiculous. Even in its final days, we are dealing with City and hostile armies of tens of thousands that get wiped out without a trace (not to mention that some hostile armies are without any sort of logistical base and yet comprise upwards of forty thousand men). The final enemy hordes that participate in the story are hundreds of thousands of men from a barren mountainous wasteland. Of course, these hundreds of thousands of undisciplined savage warriors don’t face any logistical problems except for knowing how to cross a river.
These contradictions took away quite a bit from enjoying this book despite it solving many problems that the previous volume left up in the air. This is also despite many of the characters here (especially Stalker & Valla who I didn’t mention above) making for very enjoyable storylines.