My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Second novels are tough, but Richard K. Morgan definitely improves on The Steel Remains.
The writing was already good, but it only gets better in the sequel. Not just the craft itself, but the themes and ideas it explores.
There’s that pervasive and foreboding sense of loss and grief throughout which I weirdly enjoy in my novels. A world-weariness that makes you feel decades older just for having read it.
Fans of Steven Erikson, try this out for a similar style if not scope.
Now, a few complaints that kept it from being a five-star read:
Scenes will often get weird, ephemeral, and disengage from reality in a fashion similar to N.K. Jemisin. I see what he’s trying to do, but it really didn’t work for me and often broke my engagement with the story.
The middle is also unfortunately a slow, swampy, sludgy, synonyms endeavour. Lucky that is it (literally) book-ended by a strong start and a strong finish. Is in unfortunate though because we’re not as invested in the final payoff as we should be.
The characters are really what save this book. They are distinct and organic, and the relationships between them have that easy confidence that is difficult to write based on how seldom we see it.
Go read my review of the first in this series to get a sense of what kind of brutal fantasy this is. If you liked The Steel Remains, I encourage you to continue.
This is definitely my kind of fantasy, so if you’ve read something similar, let me know!