- Series: The Alchemy Wars (Book 2)
- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (December 1, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316248010
- ISBN-13: 978-0316248013
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 60 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Rising (The Alchemy Wars) Paperback – December 1, 2015
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We have three viewpoint characters in this book: Jax, a mechanical man or Clakker (who later takes the name Daniel), Berenice, a disgraced spymaster who still seems to have a sense of loyalty to her country or at least an interest in self-preservation, and Longchamp, a French soldier charged with leading the defense of the French capital in the New World (the French having been chased to what is now Canada by the Dutch and their Clakkers many years prior) when the city faces a Dutch attack. We do also see Father Visser, a POV character from the last book, but he doesn't get much page time here, and there is a good reason for that. (I won't spoil it, except to say his storyline doesn't get a lot of time until near the end of the book.)
I think the characters are quite well done. I feel like Jax is the protagonist and also the one who is easiest to relate to. He remains true to himself to the very end, feels guilt when appropriate (and sometimes even when things that happen are not his fault), he learns and reevaluates his goals and desires and plans when new information comes his way. In a way, Berenice also remains true to herself. Her excessive pride led her to make some brash and disastrous decisions in the first book (hence her disgrace/exile). It is interesting reading her here, because you start having sympathy for her, and then she will do or say something that makes you remember who she really is. But, her activities are essential to the plot and ultimate outcome here and she does do some good along the way. And Longchamp is great as a POV character. He has access to the whole city of Marseilles-in-the-West and to people from the meanest to the most elevated segments of society, so he's a wonderful proxy for the reader. I never felt like there was infodumping in his sections, even though it would have been very easy for the author to slip into that trap. He's thrust into a heroic role and I wouldn't say he relishes it, but he is up to the task. I also like the little details dropped about his life (that he knits, that he has a thing for one of the ladies who takes care of messenger pigeons); they make him more complex but they are worked into the story in an artful way.
So anyway, the POV characters are three-dimensional and mostly "good guys" (Berenice is a bit more gray than the others). They are definitely a strength of this book. Another strength is the way philosophy about free will is incorporated. That is about the last thing I thought I would've liked to read about in a novel, but it really works here (as well as in the first novel). It is seen throughout society -- in the attitude of the Dutch, who think there is nothing wrong with programming (so to speak) the Clakkers to do whatever they (the Dutch) want, in the attitude of the French, who believe in Free Will, which is tied to their Catholic faith (in the novel, anyway -- I am ignorant of religious philosophy in real life), but who also have the very real fear that their way of life will be wiped out, in the attitudes of the various "rogue" (i.e., free thinking, non-programmed) Clakkers, etc. Of course the philosophical considerations sometimes take a backseat to more mundane concerns (this is most clearly seen in Berenice's sections). But again, they are artfully worked into the story. I actually wanted to read these sections, whereas they are something I would likely skip in a different book.
Worldbuilding is also top-notch. This is sort of an alternate history with real, working alchemy in it, and Mr. Trigellis has carefully thought through what might've happened if Christian Huygens had developed a clockwork man way back when. Details like the level of technology available, the pitting of French chemical innovations against Clakkers, etc. -- these are fantastic and yet I never once felt beaten over the head with them.
The writing is wonderful. Everything goes together well. The characters, the incorporation of philosophy, the world-building, all of these things just flow. The writing sits back and does its job. Action scenes (Longchamp has a LOT of those, particularly later in the book) are easy to understand and convey a sense of excitement. (Same with Jax's/Daniel's chase scenes.)
There is a bit of foul language, though not as much as in the past book. (Berenice has a potty mouth, and some of that rubbed off on Jax.) There is a LOT of violence, and it is graphic. So just be prepared for that. (There is a war going on, so the violence is fitting.)
Anyway, this novel hits all the right notes for me and is one of the best I've read in awhile. Definitely recommended.
I especially enjoyed the evolution of the main non-human intelligence character and the moral and cognitive issues explored it experiences. My frustration is waiting another year to see how the author continues the story (wonder if it will go further than three books?). I have personally recommended the book to everyone I know who loves reading intelligent writing.
An action fantasy that also struggles with philosophies like what is free will, who has a soul, and the pragmatic nature of evil. Set in the 1800's in an alternative history where the Dutch have discovered how to make thinking machines that obey only the Crown and whoever the crown allows. That obedience comes at a terrible cost to their mechanical servants and soldiers... and eventually humanity.
The author has created a very original world and some interesting characters, in particular two brilliant and ruthless women who are on opposite sides of the war but are really two sides of the same amoral coin, and a mechanical servitor that finds his freedom and a moral code.
The first and second books are very good. The third drags a bit but picks up for the thoughtful finale.
Most recent customer reviews
Philosophy, theology, fantasy, sci-fi, and excessively creative and colorful language.
Really enjoyed this book.