The Rising, Ian Tregillis (Orbit 978-0-316-24801-3, $16.99, 534pp, tp) December 2015.
Like The Mechanical, first of Ian Tregillis’s Alchemy Wars trilogy, The Rising deftly interweaves three viewpoints and plotlines, but this sequel raises the stakes in its fantastical North America devoid of Brits and rife with industrial magics. The strained detente between colonies of French Catholics and Dutch Protestants reaches a crisis point when an act of sabotage (shown in book one) triggers a violent response: hot for vengeance, the Dutch invade New France with an army of their mechanical slaves and warriors, the Clakkers.
Early on, as panicked refugees flood into Marseilles-in-the-West from devastated villages, captain of the guard Hugh Longchamp (now with his own plotline) knows the sophistication of Dutch alchemy gives them an overwhelming advantage, but he’s determined to go down fighting. Though the two returning viewpoint characters spend most of this book on very different paths, both explore the nature of pain in a world where magic grips the soul. Berenice, former spymaster for New France, delves into the rigorous structure of Dutch spellcraft, seeking a ‘‘calculus of compulsion’’ – spells that Jax the freed slave knows as ‘‘the agony of geasa.’’ Alone in a far northern wilderness, on a quixotic quest for legendary Queen Mab and the Lost Boys of Neverland, his old traumas lead to deeper questions: would a God who abhors murder ‘‘punish rogue mechanicals like Jax, or only soulful humans? And what of his soldier kin…?’’
If Berenice and Jax can survive their latest ordeals and share their hard-won knowledge, it might change the course of history – in New France and beyond.