Sequel to Thunderer (2008), Gilman’s sprawling, impressive fantasy debut.
The vast, ancient city of Ararat, a bewildering maze of pollution, poverty, decay and ignorance, cowers in the shadow of the mysterious Mountain. The protagonist wakes to find himself with no memory, imprisoned with a dangerous half-human, half-lizard. After the creature, under the guise of prophesy, bites off two of his fingers, Arjun remembers his name and something of his past. Arjun came to Ararat in search of his music god, but instead encountered a malevolent wizard called Shay who showed him how he and others travel through enigmatic passageways in time, space and probability. Somehow, cruel, ambitious St. Loup persuaded Arjun to assault the Mountain, under the assumption that whoever controls it controls reality itself. But the Mountain, a machine constructed by vanished Builders, has powerful defenses, and Arjun lost his memory, returning to Ararat as a ghost. Rescued by two sisters, Ruth and Marta Low, from the mindlessly destructive Know-Nothings, Arjun volunteers to retrieve their estranged third sister, Ivy, from another ghost, Brace-Bel, whom Arjun had once known. Brace-Bel, defended by weapons given him by Shay, has his own theories about reality and the Mountain. But Ivy refuses to leave Brace-Bel, and slowly, a far greater struggle takes shape as Shay, and what prove to be innumerable copies of him, fight with Ivy, an engineering and geometry genius, for control of the Mountain.
Spectacular existential meltdown; what's missing is direction and urgency.