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Eternal Sky #2

Shattered Pillars

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The Shattered Pillars is the second book of Bear's The Eternal Sky trilogy and the sequel to Range of Ghosts. Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.

Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, "Bone and Jewel Creatures" is also set there.

334 pages, Hardcover

First published March 19, 2013

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Elizabeth Bear

308 books2,242 followers
What Goodreads really needs is a "currently WRITING" option for its default bookshelves...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 176 reviews
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
576 reviews777 followers
December 5, 2018
”To say a thing is to make it so.”

I am occasionally told that my reviews are mean and that I rarely say good things about books. In an attempt to counter this allegation, I’d like to begin with an affirmative statement:

This book has a nice cover.

Now, that was nice, wasn’t it?

As to the important things: There are two.

In the first place, do not believe in a single word of Scott Lynch’s review. Clearly, he has not been entirely objective when writing it. (I don’t hold it against you, Scott, you have paid the price).

Secondly, after a bad opening in the previous instalment I had hoped to be shattered here. I was not.

In the grand scheme of things the romance grows so does the political intrigue. Plenty of new characters are given voices and so the book stops being about Temur and Samarkar. In a sense, Temur still is the linking piece in this puzzle but there are more POVs now, and the narrative is more akin to the omniscient narrative.

Having said this, even though Temur seems to be the centrepiece, when it comes to character development, he remains a second son whose greatest ambition in life had been to serve as his older brother’s general and enjoy the life on the steppe. There is no doubt that Samarkar is his queen in this game of political chess and the victory will come only through her (even though I still think that the relationship between them is as perplexing as the whole Edana quest).

“Re Temur, I am Samarkar, and I will win you back your queen, and I will set you in a golden saddle as Temur Khan, and I will see your brother avenged and this as-Sephr of the Nameless put down in your name.”

Generally, the more feminist-minded readers will be delighted to know that the book is filled with devious and scheming women always being at least a step ahead of the men around them, who usually go around blinded by their hearts, arrogance, and ambitions.

In addition to meeting new characters, we also get to visit new places which made my head spin with hard to pronounce and remember names (even though it is fair to point out that maps are included so you don’t have to feel lost in this world where people have their teas salted and buttered).

There are some interesting ideas, like twin souls sharing one body or the concept of a true name, although there are gaps when it comes to execution (one person vanishing when convenient, or how do you exactly name somebody, do you just have to be first?). I also found it bizarre that the wizards are more like scholar doctors and magic is secondary to their learned skills of the academic kind.

It is a middle book and so, predictably, everything goes so smoothly for the evil party, while the good ones struggle and suffer losses or face near disasters at every turn. There are plenty of last-minute rescues, escapes, and chases. There are plagues, assassinations and dragons and, still, magic horses.

In other words, a decent but forgettable middle book. Read only if you have nothing better on your shelf.

Also in the series:

1. Range of Ghosts ★★☆☆☆
3. Steles of the Sky ★☆☆☆☆
Profile Image for Scott.
Author 47 books23.6k followers
November 12, 2012
It's my reluctant policy not to give star ratings to books written by the woman I am dating. ;)

With that said, Range of Ghosts was a very good book, a fine opening to this trilogy, but Shattered Pillars tops it in every particular. It moves faster but sacrifices neither detail nor characterization. It's brutal, beautiful, and nuanced, marrying the pace of classic swords-and-sorcery with the numinous, expansive worldbuilding of contemporary epic fantasy. Bear's touch is as deft and her control is tight as anything she's ever written. This sequence deserves many readers, and you deserve to treat yourself to it.
Profile Image for The Shayne-Train.
359 reviews82 followers
July 20, 2015
This book, the second in the series, did not let me down. So often the "middle child" of a trilogy is fundamentally lacking. But not so here, oh no. The characters you love return, and you're introduced to new ones that you begin to love as well. The plot moves forward, instead of spinning its wheels in a holding pattern and keeping all that good stuff for the final book.

And more Hrahima! She, if you don't already know, is a mysterious magical tiger-woman warrior. That should be enough to get you to read this series. C'mon.

I can't wait to get the next and (sob!) last one under my belt and into my brain.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,434 reviews180 followers
March 22, 2021
4.5 stars.
There’s much to love in the second book, with deeper characterizations of existing characters, and the introduction of several more, while really giving this world great texture. The action is fast, and I loved how though things are looking worse for the core characters, the complexity of the plots and peoples in this world make this a terrific read.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,103 reviews294 followers
February 7, 2019
4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. There was so much going on and the it was written with a very different kind of intensity. Shattered Pillars essentially picks up where Range of Ghosts left off and continues to develop both the characters and the evolving storylines from there. While I really enjoyed Range of Ghosts, Shattered Pillars definitely turned things up a notch in terms of its complexity.

I love Bear's use of language, which I find quite different from some of the other writers I have been reading lately. There is a certain cadence to her writing that goes well with the world that she is trying to create, which for me, really came alive in this book in particular.
Profile Image for Reed.
207 reviews31 followers
April 15, 2013
Sadly, I did not enjoy Bear's second novel set in her intriguing take on Earth's steppe nomads, as well as neighboring regions. While I adored the first book, Shattered Pillars suffered some of the the symptoms of second book syndrome:

--New characters that the reader is not connected with, because they are new.(duh)I spent most of the time thinking "Why can't I be reading about Temur,Sarmarkar, and Hrahima.

--An exploration of new places that aren't as nifty as previous ones.

--A feeling that the plot is "spinning it's wheels", waiting for the third volume to really get going.

It was the third aspect that spoiled the novel for me. I felt the characters spent most of the book, moving from place to place, getting nothing done whatsoever. Temur feels compelled to track and free Edene, but never seems to get any closer to solving his problem.

In addition, some of the events of the novel seemed a bit random, a bit odd for the sake of odd. I quite like Bear's take on fantasy, but sometimes it seemed she was trying a bit too hard.

Many readers here have rated the novel much higher than I have, so perhaps this novel just didn't click with my tastes. Bear's writing is still stellar, and I certainly intend to read the next volume with the hopes she hits that high mark once again.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,293 reviews424 followers
March 5, 2015
Just so you know, everyone in this story is pregnant.

Ok, that's not true, but there does seem to be a lot of pregnancy among main(ish) characters. I guess it's like when the one woman in your circle is gravid and then everyone gets gravid.

I enjoyed this book; the story continues to be questy-fantasy but the environments, the world, it's all just so intriguing. I do not recommend waiting years between the first one and this one, though. I had forgotten so much and now I realize that I should probably just start over from the beginning before I launch into the third.

This was easier to read, not the struggle the last one was for me. As a trade off, though, I wasn't quite as pleased to have read it once it was all said and done. I really liked it but I didn't love it like I did Range of Ghosts. And that ending! So abrupt! I kept trying to peel the page apart, certain the last two pages were stuck together and there was at least another paragraph, if not more.

I'm interested in how the whole Edene/Samarkar/Tenur thing is going to shake out because that seems like maybe it could be a mess. And when did Hrahima become a knower of every single thing ever? I admit, that bothered me at the end. I kept wanting to ask her, "How do you know?" because...how did she know?

So, GR friends, how come none of you have read these? It makes me sad. You people are making me sad. And lonely.
Profile Image for heidi.
315 reviews56 followers
March 21, 2013
Stop. If you have not read Range of Ghosts, preferably in the last year, then you're really going to be confused for the first quarter of this book. It does all sort out so that you don't have to have read the first on, but c'mon, it's great, you want to anyway.

Ok, that said: What an excellent second book. Unlike many middle books in a trilogy, this one is fast-paced, compelling, and full of character development. At no time did I feel like we were just marking time until the climax. It is just that there is too much story to fit in one or two books.

If the first book was about the formation of the Fellowship of the Oddballs, (warrior, wizard, priest, tiger), this one is about figuring out what you want to accomplish with your life besides pure survival. Temur has to decide not to be a refugee, but rather a king-in-exile. Edene becomes a ruler in her own right. Samarkar finds a direction to harness her power toward. It's a wild tapestry with a ton of threads to follow, but unlike a Tom Clancy book, everyone has their own motivations and voice, so it is much easier to keep clear what is going on. Being a middle book, of course, there is a lot of wrapping-up to be accomplished in the next book, but I will be right at the front of the virtual release line.

As usual for a book by Bear, the language is amazing and evocative. There is as description of the smell of water that made me thirsty. And the trenchant voice of the characters, such as Samarkar thinking, "She comforted herself that no matter how far she traveled, no matter how changed her role, she was still and always would be a scandal." There are worse things to aspire to than being a permanently scandalous woman. Or Hrahima saying, "I don't believe in God. She drops by once in a while and we argue about it."

Read if: You are looking for not-another-swords-and-Arthur fantasy. You like books about adults, who sometimes have to make decisions about least-bad options. You want a world-sweeping fantasy where travel is actually time-consuming and problematic.

Skip if: You can't read about plague, bugs, liches, or women in control of their sexuality.

Also read: This. Well, buy the first one, Range of Ghosts and read it. But you should buy this one now, to encourage the publisher.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews252 followers
May 4, 2014
4 Stars

Let me start by saying that I love Elizabeth Bear and can say that she is easily a five star writer. Shattered Pillar, book two in the Eternal Sky series is even better than book one. This book is filled with so much action, magic, and adventure that it was tough to put down. My only real gripe was I had a tough time remembering who was who, and who was a man or am beast. This book has many points of view that also was a bit tough to keep up with for the first third of this book. Once things got going, I loved it.

Bear has a real gift for writing and she writes with a poetic touch. Her style elevates her stories and this book is no exception. Highly recommended to fantasy readers and lovers of fairy tales.
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews216 followers
March 26, 2013
I love what Bear is doing with gender in this epic-fantasy series. There is a perfect equilibrium between men and women, between there roles and there support to one another, that is such joy to read. The thing that prevents Shattered Pillars to be the perfect novel that Range of Ghosts was, is the fact that, being the second book in a trilogy, we spend less time with Temur and Sarmarkar, and more time with some characters that are more generic epic-fantasy, but are necessary for the future conflicts and for giving life and substance to the world. Anyway, I have not doubt that the third novel will be an incredible reading experience.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book133 followers
April 12, 2018
“To say a thing is to make it so.”

Well-conceived and well-told epic fantasy. Bear’s created world breathes authenticity. Spared returning reader retelling the first book, though a new reader may not pick up the stakes and the players as quickly.

“Everything is lazy.”

Maintains the high standards of Range of Ghosts but still drifts a little sideways. Nothing requires a story stretch to three volumes if it can be told in two. Ends with the right mix of hope and despair.

“It’s easier to be shared than to share.”
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,054 reviews349 followers
April 8, 2019
Ahoy there me mateys! This here be a combined review of the last two books in the Eternal Sky trilogy. While I try to post no spoilers, ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .

I have to review these books together because I read them back to back and thus they have blended into one whole. The books follow Temur and Samarkar and friends as they try to destroy a cult and save the world. This series continues to be odd in that the plot sort of plods along. The pacing is uneven and the action is varied and doesn’t always make sense in terms of storytelling and flow.

This is one of those tales where book two is all the various players traveling about. I normally hate those. However, the imagery of 12th and 13 century Asia and the character growth kept me reading. I still absolutely love Hrahima, Temur, Samarkar, and Brother Hsiung. However I also fell in love with Saadet, Hong-la, and Tsering. I very much enjoyed the newer perspectives. Saadet was on the “bad” side and yet I sympathized with her more than I expected. And as in the first book, the pacing picked up in the second half and I liked it much better than the beginning.

In book three the sides have hunkered down to prepare for the grand battle. I was not as excited about the battle plan parts. Most of what I thought would happen during the battle did even if all the details weren’t guessed correctly. In fact the entire battle was lacklustre and there never seemed to be any urgency to it. Most of the planning happened off the page. And yet I was immersed once again in the characters and was mostly content reading along. One of the best parts about these two books was Edene. Her role was the one where there were multiple surprises in store. Actually, the females in this book win hands down.

The ending of the book was kinda weird and didn’t tie up lots of loose ends. A small sampling – Namri Songstan, Lady Dio, the dragons, Woman-King Tzitzik and the artifact, the glass demons, the blood ghosts, etc. There is no real closure. I mean I didn’t hate what happened. I just need to know what comes after the great battle has ended. I mean it was plain that women were going to set the future in motion. But how!?!

All the criticism of pacing and plot aside, I really did enjoy the story for the setting and characters. I love watching women gain and keep agency. I have no regrets. One series down! Arrr!

Side note: I think Ümmühan would make a great wizard in the future.

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Tim Martin.
690 reviews45 followers
September 12, 2013
Djinn and rukhs and ghuls oh my! What a fun fantasy book in a not often trod setting, the dusty deserts and windswept steppes – along with the teeming, opulent, decidedly non-western cities – of the Silk Road. There was a lot to like about this second installment in a rather promising series; really evocative (but not over wrought) language perfectly describing the feel of this vividly described world is the first thing that comes to mind. I don’t think I have read in recent memory anyone who has done a better job of describing arid lands, the feel of a sunset or a parched landscape, or of hard, weather beaten, sun-battered lands than her. It is not all deserts of course; there are the rich oases with jewel-like frogs hiding in the dense foliage, soaring peaks fringed with ragged clouds, cities with soaring minarets, dominating the skyline…

I digress, but easy to do with such writing. What else was there to like? A fast pace, not a middling mess like some middle books are. Lots of action scenes. Interesting monsters (no one, I mean no one, has done rukhs - rocs as they are spelled in some other fantasy settings – better than her and I love her ghuls). Real character development, particularly with Temur and Samarkar but indeed with the whole Central Asian Fellowship of the Ring (my words) as well as Edene. Excellent handling of how an evil language should REALLY be done in a fantasy setting, one of the creepiest by far elements of the book. The only thing creepier – no, horrific, creepy is not strong enough a word – than that was the magical plague we see unfold in the book (perhaps a little TOO well described, as it got a real and visceral ick factor feeling from me).

I continue to love how magic is done in this setting and Bear does fantastic work with her unique idea that the sky of a given land should reflect the rulers of that land. Not only do the sky appearances (and changes!) have real story impact, they just give a great feel to this setting. I have never seen anything like it. Most interesting to me is what is the sky like in a land ruled by non-humans? You get to find out in this book.

If you liked the first book I don’t think you will at all be disappointed.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
February 10, 2016
It's been a while since I read the first book in this trilogy, but it didn't take me long to slip back into this world, and I think I liked Shattered Pillars even more than Range of Ghosts, and I liked Range of Ghosts quite a lot. The characters have settled in, though, and the struggles they're facing are deadly and affecting.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
April 11, 2015
Solid instalment in the series - looking forward to reading the third!

The mythology continues to evolve and intrigue. There are tantalising hints that this world might be more than it seems, which again, just makes me ready for the third. Despite that, the book is certainly whole in and of itself - all the pieces are now in play!
Profile Image for Jeremy Preacher.
780 reviews39 followers
March 13, 2019
Arrgh. I really like this series so far. It's got some great worldbuilding, beautiful imagery, and characters with well-drawn relationships - plus, ponies! - and this book in particular has some fantastic action sequences. But my feeling that maybe I should have waited until all three books were published remains, because dammit, I want to know the end. That's more praise than criticism, mind you - I am too old and cynical to look forward to the conclusions of uninteresting series, even if I know I will read them. This is far from uninteresting, and the last couple chapters are just an avalanche of "Wait, what? WHAT?!" and then the teeth-gnashingly abrupt ending.

Some of the particularly good bits include the relationship between Samarkar (who is not only a great character in her own right, but hey, how about that exploration of the distinction between sexuality and reproduction!) and Temur, who is the sort of Destined Prince who, in other hands, would get right up my nose, but is actually a sweet, appealing fellow having entirely realistic reactions to the often ridiculously over-the-top circumstances in which he is placed. The assassin twins, now sharing a body, are also entertaining - I sense further plot-twisty developments to come from the female twin now placed for strategic reasons both in her brother's role and also in a new role of her own in a much more gender-egalitarian culture than she's used to. Especially given the ending.

I also very much enjoyed the entire POV of the powerless wizard Tsering. Or, perhaps, "powerless," since she gets rather a lot more done than most of the people around her, despite her lack of magic and her resultant self-doubt. Her relationship with Temur's mother Ashra in particular is lovely - I am a bit of a sucker for doomed heroism, and Tsering's perspective, watching someone die who might have been a friend and mentor, made the whole plotline much more affecting than had the poignancy rested entirely on Ashra's relationship to Temur. I do hope the mist dragon comes back in the third book and does something other than mutter encouraging platitudes, though.

In conclusion: I want the third book, a pony, and possibly a disilliusioned humanoid-tiger ex-priestess. Not necessarily in that order.
235 reviews8 followers
June 20, 2013
Book 2 of the Eternal Sky trilogy. As is typical with Bear's books, I am in love with the characters, and find the villain threatening, but understandable. It was a fair bit of cognitive dissonance to read this while, in parallel, listening to the Game of Thrones audiobook. It makes the problematic shortcuts Martin takes with the Dothraki really, really stand out.

The only story line that I'm feeling shaky about is Edene's, but I won't know how I feel about it until book 3 when I find out how it resolves.
Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,454 reviews113 followers
May 5, 2021
I am neutral on Bear's style here, consisting as it does of long sentences, intended to add more and more information to what we started with. If done in conversation it would be called boring, but the additions are at least well chosen.

The detailed descriptions are nice, but do we need so MANY of them? And there are perhaps a few too many characters. Especially when so many are Pongping and Pingpong, Tsetsefly and Tseflytse.

I am still stuck on the variable sky? How? Mass illusion? Be if ever so far-fetched, an explanation is required, especially about how the sky knows who's holding political power. And how do its boundaries work? What happens to birds flying under a sky that changes? What happens to a world's physics when it suddenly has more or fewer moons?

A large part of the book is travel, travel, travel, with occasional assassins. It's competently presented, except perhaps for the obligatory they-nearly-freeze/starve/fall/get-eaten mountain crossing, which felt like 40 other fantasies I've read.

The magic horse is getting close to being a portable deus ex machina, which you shouldn't need when you have a wizard. The rukh does a similar job on the other side, grabbing things that are ungrabbable when the plot is otherwise cornered. And Hrahima is a bit too smooth and powerful, and seems to be there just to ease the logistics of travel and fighting while outnumbered.

And isn't it lucky that, as always in fantasy, our heroes are ALL better fighters than assassins with a lifetime of training?

Toward the end, did we really plod along for 100s of pages, including that tedious mountain crossing, to break into the unbreakable-into fortress, only go have our heroes go, "bummer, nothing here" and leave? What I'm seeing here is a three-book contract and a two-book idea.

The Ashra story was good. And the "working for you doesn't mean I'm on your side" themes. And lots of capable women.

Even 2/3 through I was still ready to read #3, but now that I've reached the end I'm not so sure.
Profile Image for Fantasy Literature.
3,226 reviews159 followers
August 17, 2016
Elizabeth Bear’s entire ETERNAL SKY trilogy is now sitting in a neat row on my bookshelf. I adored the first book and consumed the second one so quickly it went by in a blur of semi-divine horses and cool but unpronounceable names. Before I read Steles of the Sky(released on April 10th), it’s worth pausing to reconsider the middle book in what might be one of my favorite fantasy series in recent years.

In Shattered Pillars, Temur and his band of loyal and enigmatic followers continue their quest. But the quest is stranger and less certain than it used to be. Temur wants to save Edene, his horse-riding lady-love, but also reclaim his grandfather’s throne and oust his rival Qori Buqa. In a vast and fractured political landscape dominated by independent city-states, this turns out to be ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...
Profile Image for Joseph.
177 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2014
Let me start off by saying that I like the plot of this book, the main characters, and I think Ms. Bear is a wonderful writer. That being said I still had issues with the book. I found the book to be rather slow, and it took me longer then usual to read because of this. Not much happens through out the book in terms of plot advancement until the last twenty pages or so after a long building process and in my option the pay off just wasn't there. It was much like the first story were the book ended with no real resolution and left it wide open for the last book in the trilogy. It also, in my option, had to many point of view characters. She switched around a lot between a quite a few characters and I believe that slowed down the plot some. All in all I did like the book it just took longer then normal to do so because of the above reasons.
Profile Image for Anya.
763 reviews168 followers
August 20, 2015
What a lovely trilogy this is! This middle book is a bit hard for me to separate from the first since the quest flows directly together, but I enjoyed my listening experience. There is more romance and a bit of sexy times, a lot of development of Temur's plot line, world-building of new and terrifying areas, and a lot of beautiful phrases. I don't love the narrator's male voices always, but audio is otherwise a great way to read these books!
Profile Image for Griffin.
60 reviews7 followers
June 2, 2015
Worthy follow-up in the Eternal Sky trilogy. Even though it suffered from some pacing problems and the unlikely relationship between Temur and Sarmarkar, it delivers on prose. I found the story in Range of Ghosts slightly better and that's why I'm giving this book a 3.5/5.
Profile Image for Jacqie.
1,574 reviews70 followers
December 13, 2017
This is a great book if you want to escape into a different world. I don't think that you should read it if you haven't read the first in the trilogy, though.

This novel further develops the political conflict begun in Range of Ghosts. Temur, Samarkar, Brother Hsiung and Hrahima try to gather political allies and support, al-Sepher consolidates his own position, Edene gains power of her own.

The start of this whole adventure began when Edene was abducted by al-Sepher to be held as leverage against Temur, lest he decide to make a claim to the Khaganate. This move backfired spectacularly, as it not only motivated Temur to be al-Sepher's enemy, but it also put him in a position where he basically has to make a play for the Khaganate or die. Really, Temur's main qualification to be Khagan seems to be that he's quite motivated! Otherwise, I'm not sure that he's anything more noteworthy than another horse warrior. It's a bit bewildering to me that he's gathered a party around him so committed to seeing him on the throne, honestly. And he gets a magic horse to boot!

The action scenes are good and the setting is astonishing. The plot I found a bit saggy. The problem is that for most of the book, our heroes are attempting to free Edene from the clutches of al-Sepher. However, if you finished the last book you know that Edene has already rescued herself, so there's not much urgency for the reader to find out what happens, and it is a bit anti-climactic. There's a bit of Dothraki-style giving of brides and the politicking that goes with that in al-Sepher's storyline.

I'm ready to see what happens next- I'm not sure ultimately that this whole book was necessary to the series, but I still want to know how it all turns out.
Profile Image for Rachel.
289 reviews12 followers
May 14, 2018
Oh- middle books. I think this book helped me really understand what ‘pacing issues’ mean. At least for me. But still - there is enough beauty and depth of character that I need to know what happens next.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
432 reviews45 followers
August 14, 2013
I was blown away by RANGE OF GHOSTS last year, and was so excited to receive SHATTERED PILLARS in the mail, the second installment of Elizabeth Bear's The Eternal Sky trilogy. But before I start the review, if you haven't read GHOSTS, stop and read it before you continue. PILLARS will not make sense if you read them out of order.

With that out of the way, the question I'm sure you're wondering about is if the second is a good as the first. The short answer is: No, but only barely. However, PILLARS is still an excellent book in its own right.

Let's start with the good stuff. All the things I loved about GHOSTS was evident in PILLARS: an imaginative setting, interesting characters, epic good vs evil story. Bear's consistency across the books is excellent, including but not limited to the tone, pacing, and continuing build-up of the story and characterization. As before, her prose is astounding in its detail and stimulation of the senses, her observations on situational irony amusing counterpoints to the usually serious tone of the story. The dialogue and character interaction is particularly well done--it is crisp, insightful, and propels the story forward.

Bear expands the world even more in PILLARS, showing us the differing sensibilities between the cultures and their traditions, as well as the wizards of Tsarepheth in their element, and how dangerous the old magics are. The same characters you grew to know and love have experienced hardship and as a result are different people. After the events of GHOSTS, they can now stop, think, and begin to make choices that will impact their future: Will Temur decide to oppose his uncle? Will Samarkar follow Temur as he attempts to save his lover? What is al-Sepehr's next move and can they stop him?

It is these things that make PILLARS an excellent book. But it unfortunately still suffers a little from middle book syndrome. While Bear does well tying up plotlines and weaving new ones, the story still feels like a continuation/build-up/act 2, making it less the cohesive story it needs to be in its own right. It doesn't help that the climax feels less like a culmination of the novel and more like another big event. It is this reality that will make newcomers to the series hard to persuade to continue reading to book three, because without having read GHOSTS, PILLARS will lack meaning to them, they won't connect with the characters, and they will be lost in the setting.

There are some inconsistencies with setting/plot that weren't clear to me, particularly Edene's storyline. Is Bear attempting a mythological feel? Will she explain more later? Also, there are much more switches back and forth between characters than in the first book, as well as more PoV characters. In a recent review of a different novel I complained about those very things, and while Bear does it with much more finesse and a better sense of timing, it did get overwhelming sometimes, making it harder for me to absorb the story as a whole.

Still, Bear is painting a beautiful story in an exotic and foreign land with the kinds of people we want to see succeed. GHOSTS and PILLARS are written in the epic fantasy tradition, but Bear tells a timeless story with a fresh perspective. I can't wait til book three.

Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Maybe one instance
Violence: There's fighting (not as much as book 1) with some gore; a plague with resulting gory descriptions of deaths and surgeries
Sex: Scenes referenced with minimal detail

***Read this and other reviews at Elitist Book Reviews.***
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews232 followers
January 7, 2016
Shattered Pillars is the second book in Bear’s Eternal Sky series, which starts with Range of Ghosts, an epic fantasy series with a setting based off Central Asia. You will need to read the first book before picking up Shattered Pillars, but there are no spoilers for the first book in this review.

Temur is the grandson of the Great Khan, who’s empire is being torn asunder in a civil war. As a potential heir, Temur’s sought by assassins sent by his uncle. Samarkar was once a princess of the Rasan Empire, before she gave up her position to become a wizard of the Citadel. When a secret cult sets out to topple empires, it is Temur and Samarkar who are caught in the middle.

There’s things I love about Shattered Pillars, but also areas where I think it’s lacking. Crucially, I could copy and paste my review of the first book for this one. I actually did do that for the above plot summary.

I noted in my review of the first book that it felt like the majority of the novel was characters moving from place to place. This remains true. Temur, Samarkar, and their allies are moving from Point A to Point B, with attacks from random assassins in a failed effort to give some urgency. The beginning was slow, although I did get more involved with it later on. I still think this series has major problems with pacing and plotting.

However… this series does have its good points, which also happen to fall onto my list of favorite things. The imagery is spectacular. The setting is imaginative and wondrous, and Bear brings it to life beautifully with her excellent prose. It’s the sort of setting that makes me want to break out my watercolors and make some illustrations.

Shattered Pillars also has a wide variety of female characters who do things. One of my particular favorites is Hrahima, who’s a member of a tiger-like species and who’s secrets are being slowly revealed. I’m also growing increasingly interested in the sister assassin, Saadet.

I do wonder if this series is just a mediocre plot and story with a fantastic paint job. Is it the literary equivalent of James Cameron’s Avatar with its all immersive visuals but ho hum story? Regardless, I’ve already bought the final book in the trilogy.

If you’re looking for vivid and beautiful world building, you should definitely check the Eternal Sky trilogy out. If you’re looking for an epic fantasy with prominent and well written female characters, it’s also worth looking into.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for Alice.
845 reviews48 followers
November 2, 2014
This is the second book in a trilogy that's turned out to be a real treat for me. I didn't know what the expect from the start, and it continues to be full of fun surprises. I have no idea what might happen next, but I'm going to enjoy finding out.

The Eternal Sky trilogy's mythology takes a departure from traditionally European fantasy worlds, and borrows from Russian, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern stories. The reason seemingly contradictory mythologies can exist is because each land's supremacy is shown by whose sky shines overhead. This isn't a matter of time zones; it's a matter of the number of moons in a sky changing by stepping over a border.

In this, Temur, whose people are nomadic horse breeders and excellent warriors, accepts his role as the future Khagan of his people. The wizard (and once-Princess) Samarkar is there to help, as is Hrahima, a sentient tiger, and the silent monk Hsiung. But there are political forces massed against Temur. His cousin also wants to claim the throne, and is being both manipulated and helped by al-Sephehr, a powerful sorcerer with ancient magic under his control. Meanwhile, Edene, the woman he set out to rescue, amasses a kind of undead army to support him.

The characters have grown from their initial beginnings. Samarkar's magic has grown in strength, while Temur's acceptance of the responsibility he must bear is central to the story. We learn a lot more about their companions, and why they're accompanying them, and we even get some back story on the terrible assassin on Temur's trail.

Every page of this story fills out this lush, multifaceted world all the more. There's a lot going on here. The politics are just as complicated as in any historical period, the magic is well-thought-out and nicely balanced, and the people are as fleshed out and thoughtful as anyone you might meet in your hometown. There are no flat, "because I'm the bad guy" villains here, nor any easy answers that would solve everything.

I'm looking forward to what the next book holds. I have no idea what to expect. I think I know where it's headed, but, knowing this series, I'll be surprised. And I'll like it that way.
Profile Image for Lydia Presley.
1,380 reviews105 followers
May 17, 2013
Picking up where Range of Ghosts left off, Elizabeth Bear dives right in with Shattered Pillars - action and strange names galore. Having just finished the first book of this series, I felt somewhat prepared and even more so, excited to see where the adventure would lead.

The development of Edene in this book is one of the most important storylines, I think. But in spite of its importance, it reminds me a lot of the storyline of a certain dragon lady in George R.R. Martin's popular series. No, Edene is not surrounded by dragons, nor is she a hot, blonde HBO actress. What I mean is that when I read GRRMs books, I knew there was something important going on in that thread of the story, but I just didn't care enough to figure it out. Then, when I started to watch the HBO series by the same name - I got it. I just needed to see it brought to life. I think the same applies to Edene. From what I understand of what is going on, there's a lot of gross stuff happening around her and it's strange and confusing and I have a hard time caring (other than how it affects Temur). But I know it's important, so be sure to pay attention to that story...I know I forced myself to.

Now...Temur, I have no problem paying attention to. I love the story there and really am enjoying the exploration of the world through the various religious practices and especially the way the world is set up. There's action, adventure, questing, and politics all happening in a setting that is the most exotic setting I have been exposed to.

Really looking forward to seeing how this series wraps up. If you are looking for a complex story to satisfy your cravings until the next "big" book comes out, I do recommend you look into this one.
Profile Image for Andrea.
518 reviews8 followers
August 31, 2013
Shattered Pillars is book #2 in the Eternal Sky series, and continues right where Range of Ghosts ended. Temur is still searching for Edene, the woman who was kidnapped by the Nameless Assassins because of him. He continues to travel with Samarkar, Hsiung and Hrahima, towards the fortress of the Assassins. But that's just one of the many PoVs in this lovely novel. We learn more about the state of things in Tsarepheth and the Citadel of Wizards, battling a demon-plague. We witness the Nameless' dealings with Qori Buqa, setting him up with a wife of al-Sepehr's choice. We learn more about Edene. All this is presented in colorful, lush writing, reminiscent of Arabian or Eastern fairy tales and sagas. If I have a niggling point, it's that the end is yet another abrupt cliffhanger that makes me want to find out more. I still have no clue about al-Sepehr's grand design, but he definitely works on a huge scale, having multiple kingdoms falling to his machinations.

I have to point out the one thing that makes this series outstanding: an abundance of strong, fascinating female characters. Samarkar is probably the standout, as strong wizard who despite being Temur's love interest never feels like a secondary character. Same is true for the other women: Hrahima, Edene, Tsering, Ashra, even Bansh the pony. Strong women. And that's something you just don't see that much in fantasy. I approve!

Can heartily recommend this series, if you have any penchant for Middle and Far East flavored stories.
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