Two Serpents Rise

Two Serpents RiseTwo Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems as if fantasy in general, and the New Weird in particular, has finally caught up with the trend in contemporary SF to riff, tongue firmly in cheek, about things like economics, urbanism, social planning and the web of interrelated issues that make the modern world turn (just think Charles Stross and Iain Banks).

Max Gladstone’s vastly superior follow-up to Three Part Deads is about the desert city of Dresediell Lex, and what happens when its main fresh-water supply is contaminated, followed by suspected sabotage at its only desalination plant.

If this sounds boring, the contaminant in question is a melange of demons and the remnants of gods, killed during the so-called God Wars when the city bloodedly freed itself from the shackles of its deities.

Allied to this plot strand is the corporate merger between Red King Consolidated and Heartstone, which results in a titanic struggle for the heart and soul of the city (literally, as it turns out).

This is a much more confident book than Gladstone’s debut. The world-building is more sustained and convincing, the characters are believable, and the plot crackles along towards quite an eye-popping climax.

I enjoyed the fact that the Red King himself, besides being reduced to a bare skeleton due to the puissance of his thaumaturgic capability, is gay, and in protracted mourning for a lover killed during the madness of the God Wars. Another key protagonist is a fiery lesbian, who can ride dragons and drink people under the table.

Definitely one of the more intriguing and fascinating series out there at the moment.

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