This is the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy - but it doesn't follow the main characters from book one. They appear, here and there, pressing onThis is the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy - but it doesn't follow the main characters from book one. They appear, here and there, pressing on the edges of this story, shaping it, whispering at the world, as it were. But they are not the story. Some readers might be put off by this, but it works for me. I like this gap, seeing how the momentous changes of book one influenced the rest of the world. And that's exactly what we get here. Ten years have passed since the momentous events at the end of book one - ten years for the world to try and understand what happened that day, to try and redefine their place in a suddenly very different world. After all, the Arameri have lost the source of their power, and the one religion of Itempas seems to be crumbling under the disappearance of their god - not to mention the sudden presence of hundreds of godlings.
This book begins with Oree Shoth, a blind woman who is drawn to Shadow (the city of Sky, now existing in the shade and between the roots of Yeine's tree - did I mention that I enjoy the world building?) by the new god-magic existing in the world. Godlings are allowed to walk the mortal realm once more, but only in Shadow - and though blind, Oree can see magic.
This seems like a good moment to pause and address the issue of Oree. She's blind. She sees magic. She paints. When I say it like this, bald and withdrawn from the story, it sounds awful. It sounds like a very large fail. I heard Nora speak briefly about this book while at Wiscon. She mentioned that she'd received some deserved flack for the main character, for writing a Magical Blind Person. And I get that. I understand why this character might hit some people the wrong way, particularly given the dearth of blind characters out there in the genre - or in literature at large. We tend to write what we know - hell, we're outright TOLD to write what we know. But doing so silences too many voices, and makes characters like Oree problematic. That being said, it is a common trope, and I'd certainly like to see characters who have a magic that isn't directly related to - or doesn't somehow mitigate - their disability, the way Oree's magic does (though it's mostly rather limited - there isn't *that* much magic, even in Shadow).
Now. All that being said, after reading the book... I very much enjoyed Oree and how she perceives magic. For me, the way in which she sees magic would not have been as impactful on the reader had the same ability been given to a seeing person. I also appreciated the way her ability could also overload or confuse her in some circumstances. Overall, Nora's portrayal of Oree as a blind woman was well done. It felt real. And I will also say that I loved Oree, far more than I loved the main character in book one. For starters, she has more agency. Yes, she does stupid things now and then. Yes, the plot often pulls her along instead of her driving the plot. Yes, she was in over her head just as much as Yeine. Yet somehow she felt more in control, more driven to create change. Perhaps this was a side effect of the fact that HER end in the story wasn't such a foregone conclusion as Yeine's in book one. It felt like she had options, like even with the dangers and uncertainty, she had the ability to DO that Yeine did not. Still. I wish she'd found a different way to harness her magic, a way that wasn't painting. Because that's still sticking in my head.
On to the rest of the review. I said in my review of the first book that it read at times like a murder mystery. This holds true here as well, interestingly enough, as the book opens (okay, 'opens' might be too strong a word - as with book 1, Nora takes her time wending around to the story, the plot. She lays the groundwork first, and though some people I know bristled at this leisurely pace, I reveled in it. I grow a bit tired of books that open with short sentences and quick fight scenes as a way to introduce to us their intrepid [plucky] heroine... where was I? Right. Opens) on the mysterious death of one of the city's many godlings. But somehow this feels almost tangential to the plot at times. Yes, it's what launches the story, but it isn't what really drives Oree through the pages. She's driven by her relationships - by Madding, my Shiny, by her dead father. These are the themes that weave their way into the reader's head. These are the things that matter.
On to the romance. Pretty much this whole section is marked 'spoiler'. Sorry. (view spoiler)[So there are two romances in this book - one that's established at the start, and one that comes toward the very end of the book. The beginning romance, between Manning and Oree, worked for me. They felt like a couple struggling through their relationship, with real issues and real love trying to tape it all together. I understood it, I felt it. Their relationship breathed, had texture, had life. I broke a bit when Oree did a Really Stupid Thing. I grieved with her, even though I wanted to shake her out of her funk and might have skipped a bit right there. Oree's second relationship... Here's the thing. I was still too invested in Madding and Oree to let the Shiny-Oree relationship feel real and natural. I know time passed, but even so - we didn't get to see the evolution of feelings, the growing warmth, the idea of romance between them. And because of that, it didn't quite work for me. It felt forced, even though I could see how Nora got from A to B (even though it felt more like she had to draw a parallel to distant past events for Shiny to highlight his own healing). And the sex... this is the second book which has featured a woman of very limited agency, a woman who felt entirely helpless through much of the plot, and then shown her fall into a sexual relationship with a very powerful god. There are some serious power dynamics here, and I feel as though that issue is left out of the equation. After two books of this, I'd like to see a different dynamic than powerless mortal woman and powerful(ish) male god explored. (hide spoiler)]
I think my main complaints about this book might actually be (1) the fact that two of the book's big reveals I'd predicted well before their actual reveals. And somehow that complaint feels small to me - which is odd, because I'd normally be more upset by this required suspension of disbelief; (2) the plot and flow occasionally felt slow. While I liked this book, it also seemed to take a bit longer for me to get through; and (3) the repeated powerlessness of Nora's female main characters. But somehow I still loved this book. I *might* have liked it more than the first, though I haven't quite chewed it over enough to be sure. I do think Nora's writing style and description evolved a bit between the two, and that went a long way in making me a happy reader. ...more