This is the second of the far-called trilogy, picking up shortly after In Dark Service. Father Jacob Carnehan is a priest no more. The past that he thought he’d left on the other side of the ocean has almost taken control of him. It may be good or bad for his home, his family and the world around him.
His son, Carter, has survived the Vandian mines along with Willow and both are now back in Weyland. Willow’s father, however, has taken a new wife, a young woman who has plans of her own. She’s pregnant with the new heir to the estate as Willow’s brother was left for dead in Vandia, having switched allegiance to his new mistress.
In the middle of this is a hostage, a Vandian princess. She is the only thing stopping an all out invasion force from Vandia. But for how long?
I don’t mind trilogies or book series, they can be entertaining and good reads. I do object to a series that can only be read in its entirety to finish the story. This is one of them as, unlike the first book, this one has cliffhangers that left the story unfinished. If it hadn’t been for the fact of me having the third book for review I would not have bothered with it. It’s a personal irritant and one that meant I never read more than one of Philip Pullman’s trilogy that began with Northern Lights.
That said, if you want to buy the whole set, feel free. It’s worth it.
As with all good books, the characters coma against challenges which force them to face who they are and the real motivations that drive their lives. For Jacob Carnehan, it means returning to the vile person he once was to save his family, his home and help the true king ascend the throne. To do that, he has to become, once again, a general that never lost a battle. Or shown mercy to an enemy.
For those who knew him as a priest, a man who had shown and practised nothing but kindness, it means adapting to him, being his conscience and swallowing their own scruples to let him do what must be done with the hand that the unlawful king has dealt them.
In and of itself it’s a good book, well written, with a world that’s fleshed out very well. We still don’t have a full idea of the planet and how big it is, or even if it is a planet, but what is written can easily be seen in the mind’s eye.
The plot and the characters are woven through several scenes that, in normal circumstances, would lead to a satisfying conclusion at the end, even one that you knew would carry on in a third book. In this book, however, the endings are a let down. I say endings deliberately as each character or character group has their own ending in the book that leaves each of them hanging in the air. A good marketing ploy, yes, but irritating beyond belief. Instead of leaving me wanting to know more, I felt annoyed. Doesn’t the publisher trust the writer or the reader?
Despite all this, it is a book that I’m glad to have read, and feel happy recommending to others.