Jo Fletcher Books, h/b, 592pp, Â£20
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Two years before the Siege of Rasenna, a young boy, Torbidda, passes his exam and surprises his tutors by progressing farther with the paper than anyone else. He is inducted, numbered, marked as an engineer, and his life before this point becomes only a memory. Torbidda has a new life now and new friends. But new friends come with new enemies and it is hard to tell whether they are all the same now that all the cadets are competing for the same thing â€“ apprenticeship.
Flaccus the tutor pushes the cadets hard and fierce competition among the cadets progresses quickly from childish pranks to violent attacks. Torbidda and his friends have an honour code and their bond seems strong, but soon enough self-survival will become more important. Torbidda may have shed his name when he took his cadet number, but it is his real name that will reveal all.
In the aftermath of the fighting and death that tore Rasenna apart once again, keenly feeling the absence of Giovanni, Sofia has to reassess her priorities. Now she must accept what her choices led her to and leave her home to follow prophecy into a foreign land. But politics and the machinations of others do not stay behind in Rasenna and Sofia once again finds herself amid the threat of war.
The Warring States follows on from Irenicon and traces Sofiaâ€™s journey away from Rasenna in the present, as well as stepping back in time and introducing a new point of view character in the form of Torbidda. A great deal of the action takes place in Concord with him at the centre, and reveals much more about the engineerâ€™s guild and the Bernoulli legacy. The addition of Torbidda injects something new into the story that makes up for Giovanniâ€™s absence.
The connection between the characters and the reader is more immediate in this sequel and the level of tension is much more present throughout the book. Where Irenicon spent a great deal of time introducing settings, politics and characters, to the detriment of pace, book two gets straight into the action, making it a much faster and more exciting read. It will be interesting to see how book three will end the trilogy.