In the latest from Bell (Spireseeker, 2013), a dragon scientist and a human witch try to survive political machinations on two separate but related worlds.
In the prologue, an unnamed, four-dimensional being relates how one of its children accidentally split a three-dimensional space into two separate worlds (i.e., planes or dimensions). Now this being tries to help the creatures reconnect their worlds. These two separate worlds parallel each other—which explains why the book opens with two nearly identical maps—but are slightly different. On the human world of Teirrah, a young orphan named Cor wants to discover the mystery of her parents’ murder; her only real clue is a strange tattoo. On her search, she faces prejudice as a woman, especially in the university she sneaks into for research: “WOMEN, CATS, AND WEAPONS STRICTLY PROHIBITED,” a sign declares. On top of all that, there’s political upheaval, as the Seastate seeks some measure of freedom from the Unified Government and its oppressive rules, with some secessionists willing to commit violent revolution. On the dragon world of Arev, Emperor Zee faces a shadowy challenger wishing to unseat her—a conspiracy connected to how Zee herself claimed the throne. Meanwhile, a young dragon studying a potentially medicinal (or narcotic) plant gets forcibly recruited by the emperor and her military. Can such disparate forces heal the rift between these two worlds? There are some interesting elements and episodes in this book, such as Cor’s escaping the university library by accusing another person of being a woman, and the curious dragon society, where the emperor has analysts and biologists at her command. Bell writes clearly and presents some uncommon elements—artistic dragons, a vegetarian heroine, etc.—but the book introduces so many characters in both worlds that few engage the reader as fully as they could. Perhaps the second volume—this being the first in a planned series—will help narrow the focus and deepen reader engagement.
Ambitious but not entirely successful, with entertaining moments and promise for more.