The second installment of Turner’s projected fantasy trilogy (Red Tide, 2016, etc.), wherein, disconcertingly, perhaps even disappointingly, none of the previous characters or locales reappear.
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. This time, a power struggle among the ruling water-mages of the Storm Isles, backed by another swarming if less engaging supporting cast, develops complications in a dazzling new setting. Imerle Polivar, emira (leader) of the Storm Council, must retire from her position. She’s already plotting, however, to destroy the other Storm Lords and rule forever. Rapidly approaching is the annual sea dragon hunt—a bizarre and horrifyingly dangerous ritual that Imerle intends to twist to her own ends, blind to the fact that her most powerful rival, Mazana Creed, is plotting a coup. Another Guardian, Senar Sol, has been sent into exile via a magical gateway by an emperor who seemingly wants the Guardians destroyed altogether. Not one but two assassins show up to kill Imerle, one a curiously bright-eyed woman, the other a man with skin that resembles granite and powerful water-magic—but did Mazana really send them both? And who, or what, is the stone-skinned stranger? The whole thing culminates in a titanic brouhaha involving ships, a ruinous battle whose setting is a subaqueous palace maintained by Storm Lord magic, sharks, dragons, and what-all. Not the tightly focused, relentless all-actioner that the previous book was, it takes a few hundred pages to get going, has persistent flabby patches, and the power struggle’s on a personal rather than a desperately existential level. But there are still plenty of surprises, stunningly inventive magics, witty dialogue, and flashes of bleak humor amid the carnage.
A yarn that, with its second novel woes, trips, staggers, and recovers, ultimately to delight and enthrall.