Two protagonists struggle against power-hungry tyrants and their own cursed natures in this sequel.
The Graylands is a constellation of lawless towns, strewn between the Two Empires, which are waging war with each other. Katrina Lamont, an alcoholic and former Chosen One, drifts from one dismal watering hole to the next, hoping to smother memories of losing her kingdom, Vigor, 10 years ago. But the specter of Jagger Ryggs, thief and love of her life, persists. Pirate Krutch Leeroy, meanwhile, is a mild-mannered drifter cursed as a youth by a sorceress who mistook him for a great warrior. Thanks to her spellwork, the pirate’s name is whispered throughout the Graylands with fear and respect. After sleeping off yet another night of trouble that only a pirate lord can find, he awakes at a mission and meets the vivacious, adventure-starved Audra Fay. Elsewhere in the Graylands are the wealthy Synclaire siblings, Deck, Lock, and Cassie. They left Vigor when the savage Armand Tyrell took power. Can any of these personalities resist the pull of Seba, a city crawling with human—and goblin—filth run by war profiteer Sebastian Clock, who hunts for a gauntlet enchanted with dark magic? In this second trip through the Graylands, Walsh (The Ghost Princess, 2015) takes readers on the scenic route through a hellish fusion of Tolkien and HBO’s Deadwood. And despite the potential for overwrought battles among orcs, wizards, and succubi (Lily Blackthorn makes a welcome return), the author proves that character is king. Katrina’s desire to find Vigorian survivors—or any kindred spirit—is heartbreaking. Likewise, Krutch’s epiphany that “maybe it was time he stopped running and made his curse his power” is as thrilling as most sword fights. That said, the action is superb (“the fat man was split open where his neck met his right shoulder. His head curved to the side with a baffled look on his face”). Fans of the first novel should expect a more leisurely plot that widens the physical and emotional scopes of Walsh’s dusty realm.
An action-packed, phantasmagoric tavern crawl.