In this second installment of the Long Price Quartet, we once again find Maati, the failed poet, and Otah Machi, the youngest son of the Khai Machi, with their lives intertwined. It is fifteen years after the end of A Shadow in Summer and Maati is sent by the Dhai-Kvo to investigate the murder of one of the sons of the dying Khai Machi. Traditionally, when a Khai is dying, his sons battle each other for the right of succession and the last one left alive becomes the new Khai. One of the sons is already murdered, two have gone into hiding, and everyone suspects Otah, the outcast son. Maati, who has known Otah for many years, is sent to find him since he knows him well. But things are not as simple as they seem, and political, social, and personal ambitions and intrigues will all come into play before the succession is decided.
This is not standard fantasy fare. There is no strong magic system, with the controlled andat the only real magical element, and Stone-Made-Soft, the andat in this story, is not a main character, as such. The poet who controls him, Cehmai, is more an intimate part of the machinations, as is Otah’s youngest sister, Idaan, and her husband-to-be, Adrah. The story revolves around murder, politics, and social hierarchies. There is no central quest to root out evil, and no one character is completely a villain or hero. And that is where the story finds its strength- the characters are so well developed with both good and bad in each one that they become the driving force that compels the plot along. The world is just as complex, with definite East Asian influences. The society is built on formality and rank, and everyone is supposed to know their place. There are a couple twists that keep things interesting, especially when you think you know what’s about to happen. The ending is satisfying, if a bit protracted.
It was a good read, though the complexity of the world and character nuances make it a bit slower to read. It was a good second book in the set, with good characters, political and personal gain and loss, and enough action to keep the plot moving.
Need some new Summer reads? Check out my books and stories here. I have Fantasy, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, novels, novelettes, and a novella out there. All are available wherever e-books are sold. Or get an idea of the sorts of things I write with these stories that are free to read here on the site.