The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rien, Book 2)
Martha Wells, 2005
Premise: Sequel to The Wizard Hunters, Some spoilers for Book One follow. Tremaine, Ilias and their friends from both worlds try to cement the temporary alliance between their peoples. The great passenger liner Queen Ravenna is brought between the worlds to assist in an attack on the Gardier base, only to become a floating home for the combined group of Syprian delegates and refugees from Ile-Rien. New loyalties are created and tested, and hidden dangers on the ship threaten the fragile alliance.
This is a strong follow-up to the first volume. More of everything I liked, but new dimensions to some of the characters: Tremaine growing into her new roles, Giliead struggling to make his kin believe that their new allies' magic is beneficial, not evil, when he doesn't completely trust it himself. Another strong, surprising plot twist that makes perfect sense in hindsight.
I enjoyed the slightly wider focus which allowed more characters to shine, including sorceress-in-training Florian, who was fantastic in Book One, but gets a bit wider use here. I was briefly confused by a sudden focus on a new character, in another land, and I thought it was a rather odd choice of scene to show. It did bother me quite a bit at first because it threw off the flow of the story, even though it all came together in the end.
I also really liked that all the romance, and potential romance, is dealt with in an adult way. It is important, but it doesn't overshadow the plot either for the reader or for the characters. The war is more important than dealing with either flirtation or emotional reactions. There's even a politically motivated marriage which neatly short-circuits the sexual tension and makes the story not 'will they get together', but 'will they really love each other'. I liked that a lot.
The characters in this series are constantly running up against the boundaries of what they can do with their magic, and trying to reconcile the logic of three very different systems doesn't make it easy on them.
On to Book Three!
3 Stars – A Good Book
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