Two Serpents Rise (Craft Sequence #2) by Max Gladstone

Posted: October 5, 2016 in Book Review
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Premise :

Dresediel Lex had been built between desert and sea by settlers who neither expected nor imagined their dry land would one day support seventeen million people. Down the centuries, as the city grew, its gods used blessed rains to fill the gaps between water demand and supply. After the God Wars were won (or lost, depending on who you asked), the corporation took over for the fallen pantheon. Some of its employees laid pipe, some built dams, some worked at Bay Station maintaining the torturous Craft that stripped salt from ocean water.

Some, like Caleb, solved problems.”

And Caleb has a big problem to solve for his boss, the Red King. Someone has been attacking the Red King Consolidated corporation, and the King orders Caleb to investigate the matter. The list of potential vandals is long. Not everyone in Dresediel Lex is happy that corporations like RKC have taken over for the gods; Caleb’s own father, a priest who still believes in the old gods, is among them.

But when Caleb begins investigating the matter, he finds a mysterious, beautiful cliff-runner who calls herself “Mal” at the scene of the crime, and he’s immediately smitten.

As Caleb learns more about Mal, it becomes clear to him that the God Wars did not end sixty years ago. Adult Urban Fantasy, published October 29th 2013 by Tor Books.

The fast-paced, clever and morally grey-scale Craft Sequence books stand out, in my mind, for their explorations of complex controversies, such as religious vs. corporate control. This particular installment, which is set in the Aztec-like desert city of Dresediel Lex, explores hero-ethics and such startling topics as human sacrifice with thought-provoking subtlety. The varied cast has conflicting views on these issues.

First Impressions :

Listening to the audiobook, the startling imagery sucked me in immediately. I started to lose interest as the plot coalesced around the lust-story of Caleb and Mal, neither of whom I found as inherently interesting as the characters in book I, The Parts Dead; but around 35%, Caleb finally begins to find out more about Mal. She appears in his work meeting, representing a rival corporation, and water demons hail the signing of an agreement between her company and his. It was at this point that I began to take a real interest in the book.

The world held mysteries more worthy of their fear than human craft.”

What I Loved :

(1) The voice, as usual, kills. That was never in question. Dialogue, description, everything about the writing itself is fabulously inventive.

The meat arced toward the reservoir. Beneath, water bulged and reared—a wiggling, viscous column rippled with reflected stars.

The water opened its mouth. Thousands of long, curved fangs, stiletto-sharp, snapped shut upon the beef, piercing, slicing, grinding as they chewed.”

(2) I love the unique worldbuilding of Dresediel Lex and the magic system of “the craft,” which I described more in my review of book I. (3) I love the depth of the conflict that defines the God Wars. There’s no easy solution, and when Caleb and Mal finally acknowledge how deeply their own conflicts run, I was hooked. I love how Gladstone manages to be objective by juggling the very subjective perspectives of his characters. Objective subjectivity is already an art, but managing it in a short, Aztec-influenced, fast-paced urban fantasy full of witty banter is a recipe for, at the very least, a four star read.

My Two Complaints :

(1) As mentioned above, I found 10%-35% a really boring stretch, until I found out more about Mal. But that doesn’t have to hold you back—just know that things get more interesting when Mal’s secrets begin to surface. (2) It would be hard to create a character as lovable as Abelard, the chain-smoking priest of book I’s city of Alt Coulumb. Nevertheless, Gladstone spoiled me; the characters in Two Serpents Rise don’t appeal to me quite as much as the cast of Three Parts Dead.

Overall :

Still, this was a fantastic second installment to the Craft Sequence. I’m definitely going to read the next book, Full Fathom Five.

Recommendation :

Urban Fantasy lovers. As with book I, I recommend it to fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

4.5/5 STARS

  1. I love this series! Probably one of the most mind-blowing examples of world-building I’ve ever read. I still need to catch up with the latest installment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christy Luis says:

    Seriously! It’s so unique! The contracts, the Native mythology, the economy based on soul stuff…I just love it! 🙂


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