Ross (The Midnight Sea, 2016, etc.) continues the epic tale of a young woman determined to find justice amid the chaos of an empire beset by undead dangers and corruption.
In the first novel of the Fourth Element series, Nazafareen, a brave, young woman who’s a member of the empire’s elite fighting force called the Water Dogs, and Darius, her powerful daeva (a bound demon who kills the undead), were accused of treason and imprisoned. With help, they managed to escape. In this second installment, they now seek the Prophet Zarathustra, long believed to be dead. If they can find him in time, they just might save the city of Persepolae and, with it, Darius’ mother, long held captive by its king. If they are very lucky, the prophet might also reveal the meaning behind the strange power growing within Nazafareen. It will be no easy task, however. The necromancer Balthazar also seeks the prophet, at the behest of his Undead Queen, Neblis. Meanwhile, King Alexander marches across the lands, waging war. The fates of both humans and Immortals are at stake, but if Nazafareen and Darius can’t convince them to unite—in spite of centuries of slavery, abuse, and resentment—then they all might die at the hands of Neblis and her armies of undead Druj. The stakes have risen in this sequel, but personal connections are still the heart of the story, from Darius’ relationship with his mother to the tragic tale of spurned lovers that set dark events in motion ages ago. Ironically, although the events in this book are more epic than those in the previous one, the personal moments shine through more clearly, perhaps because the links between these world-shaking occurrences and the individual grudges that started them are brought more into the light. It’s always refreshing to enjoy a story where well-drawn characters are so central to the events of the plot rather than feeling tacked on. The one disappointing note is that the villains of the piece are not getting as much attention in terms of motivation, which makes them less convincing and less interesting.
The personal touches—the relationships between characters—make this fantasy stand out and give a shade more meaning to monumental events than is usually found in the genre.