The Path of Sorrow by David Pilling & Martin Bolton
This is a book I honestly lost track of, always keeping in my back pocket as my next read, following that next release-date review. It's inexcusable that I made David and Martin wait so long, especially since I enjoyed the first book so much. That said, it was well worth the wait.
Fulk and Naiyar are back at the heart of this tale, but so is a young boy named Sorrow - the lone survivor of a slaughtered tribe, hunted by knights, sorcerers, and pirates alike because of his unique powers. Once again, the world building is exceptional here, building upon the twin cultures of the first book, and adding even more depth to the world. There's no info dumping here, no long passages of exposition, just a natural reveal and explanation of things that feels natural to the reader. There's a scene midway through, where Naiyar talks of an elephant constellation changing, and it's such a simple, natural conversation, it's almost easy to miss just how much is being said.
Like the first, it's a heavy read, often very dark at times (although with moments of humor). There were so many occasions where I expected a last-minute reprieve, or a bit of deus ex machina to save the day, but Pilling and Bolton don't let their characters off easy. It's not just that they're not above tormenting their characters (and don't shy away from killing them, when the story demands it), but they're honest about the brutalities of war, including the "houses and shops looted; dead-eyed women brutally raped over and over; children slaughtered in the street."
What struck me most about this second volume, however, was the sheer narrative strength. Forget the tropes and the formulas, this is a story that stands on its own, challenging the reader at every turn, offering more than a few genuine surprises, and paying off with a perfect climax.
Into the Black by Rowland White
This was a long, dry read . . . heavy on detail, and even heavier on the technical specifications . . . but still entirely fascinating. I've always been enthralled by the Space Shuttle program, having seen it rise and fall all within my lifetime, so I was excited to forget about the disasters for a moment and reexamine the triumphs that started it all.
This is a book that explores the doubts, the fears, and the challenges of getting a new space program off the ground (no pun intended). Having been too young at the time of Columbia's launch to truly appreciate what a feat of scientific and political engineering it was, I was fascinated to see how it all came about. At the same time, it's sobering to know just how many of those challenges and risks they simply chose to accept, and to know (in hindsight) how they'd come back to haunt them years later.
Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart
This was an interesting book, with some really outstanding aspects to it, but even more roadblocks to a good, solid read. I nearly gave up on it twice, but persevered to the end, although I will freely admit to skimming some chapters.
The good? I liked the concept, and I liked the characters. I was intrigue enough by the latter to want to know more, to read past those roadblocks, and entertained enough by the latter to trust in them (Narky and Bandu especially), even if I was questioning their journey.
The bad? The world building was muddled, with far too ambitious of a mythology for a single book. I read a lot of epic fantasy, and I like my stories to be well-detailed, but this was too much. Also, the plotting of the book leaves a lot to be desired. If never really felt like the storyline was moving forward, or approaching any sort of climax.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of these titles from the publishers in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my reviews.