This second entry in the Millennium’s Rule fantasy series (Thief’s Magic, 2014) moves nimbly and authoritatively among magical worlds and ideas.
In long, alternating narrative sections, stories unfold of two people constrained and conflicted by difficult or harrowing circumstances. Although these intersect only rarely and obliquely, we come to trust that, singly or combined, they will assume critical importance at some juncture; Canavan does not disappoint. Artist Rielle Lazuli lives in a remote world so depleted in magic that attempting to use it is forbidden. Valhan, the godlike Angel of Storms, learns that Rielle actually creates new magic by exercising her creativity and offers her a place among similar artisans—but then inexplicably abandons her on a desert world. She’s rescued by the Travelers, interworld traders who reveal that the cruel and ruthless sorcerer who rules all the worlds, the Raen, has returned after a 20-year absence, during which many of the laws he imposed have been ignored. Raen and Angel are one and the same, the Travelers say—an assertion Rielle rejects. Meanwhile, Tyen Ironsmelter became an inventor and teacher at a school for magic, having fled his home world after refusing to surrender Vella, a woman magically turned into a book a millennium ago. When the Raen returns, Tyen’s new associates abandon the school and warn that Tyen must serve the Raen or be destroyed. Desperate, Tyen strikes a bargain: the Raen agrees to investigate how to restore Vella to human form; in exchange Tyen must spy on a rebel group seeking to overthrow the Raen. Though the characters possess no great personality or depth, the pace is relentless and culminates with a jaw-dropping trial of moral strength.
A page-turning, twisty, inventive addition to an addictive series that amply fulfills the promise of the previous book.