This is Carl's Brain
The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms is the follow up to The Grace of Kings.  I started reading this immediately after I finished reading the last novel.  I absolutely loved the first book in the series, so the bar was high for this novel.  Perhaps, the bar was set to high, because I was a little disappointed in this novel.  It’s not that it was bad, but it clearly does not measure up to the first novel in the series.

 

The novel takes place about ten years after The Grace of Kings.  Kuni Garu is now the emperor trying to keep his kingdom together with duct tape and cult of personality.  He faces treachery from within his own house, disgruntled nobles in the various kingdoms, and followers of the deceased hegemon.  This is all the prelude to an upcoming invasion by a group of people who seem kind of like Vikings, but instead of longships they have flying beasts that breathe fire and are capable of all sorts of destruction.

 

There is a lot of intrigue in this novel.  There are also all sorts of technological innovations, which set this series apart from any epic fantasy series I have ever read, where magic is replaced by primitive (by our standards) technological innovation.  There are, however, two big problems in this novel.  One is that it is overwritten.  It doesn’t have to be nearly as long as it is.  I think if about 200 pages or so were chopped off, it would have been a better read.  There are entire passages and flashbacks that contribute little to the story.  The second point is that the characters in the first novel were terrific.  They were phased out or killed off in this novel, for the most part, and the next generation of characters replacing them, which were more in focus here, were not nearly as compelling.  In any story, but especially a series, the characters are the lifeblood of the story.

 

The ending of the novel sets up for a third in the series, and I will be interested in reading it, but my enthusiasm for it has waned a bit.