In an nutshell, the setting is a steampunk / godpunk world where there are 12 Clockwork Gods – not clockwork as in gears and such, but they each control an hour of the day, along with various other aspects of life. Think the usual smattering of war, lust, drinking, theft, knowledge, and whatnot, but also tied to a section of the day. It is an interesting setup, and one that is beginning to be explored here in a bit more depth than the first book. Admittedly, the exploration is still playing second fiddle to the plot, which is good in most respects (except for the whole ‘need more background’ thing I do), and the background serves the story. In fact, everything serves the story – there is a lack of extraneous elements, which is refreshing. Nothing is shoehorned into the book, or if it is, it is done well enough that it isn’t obvious in the least.
The plot follows our crew from the first book as they continue to work to save the world. This time, in another city altogether, and without the aid of her patron, Itazura. The stakes are bigger, as one of the elder seasonal gods has Itazura captive, and may plan to kill him to disrupt the power of the pantheon. To add to the drama, Janet is changing. And not in the way one expects at her age. No, she is healing, can open locks at a touch, and seems to be having prophetic dreams as well. Almost like she has Itazura’s powers or something.
So, in order to save the pantheon, herself, and hopefully her wendigo-imprisoned friend Sylvia, it’s off to rescue Itazura – with the aid of some Clockwork Gods. Sadly, there isn’t a god of rescue missions.
The story is well done, with good pacing, new information about the conflict and world, and properly introduced new characters (properly – they are introduced in a natural way, treated realistically, and have their own stories). The expansion of the world is well-done, with elements drawn from a good array of sources, without being the exact source. Little changes are nice, and it makes the informed reader feel they saw behind the curtain, without leaving the uninformed reader wondering what they missed. There is only one real issue I had with the expanded world.
It feels too much like a post-apocalyptic Earth. Way too much. And it didn’t in the first book.
While I have nothing specific against the far-future fantasy, it always feels like the creator is thinking themselves so very clever when the inevitable reveal occurs. Dispensing with it early (Son of the Black Sword, for example) doesn’t mitigate the bad taste this leaves. In Ms. Hyndman’s defense, there has been no such reveal, and the feeling could be just an artefact of the ‘drawn from’ method of world building that has already occurred (see wendigo above…).
But that is all there is to really complain about. Like a good sequel, it is light on ‘last episode’ stuff, and heads right into the action, with some gaps in time, but they are explained in the narrative, so no long blocks of explaining how we got from there to here.
This is a good series, and worth the time to pick up and read. Well done.