REVIEW SUMMARY: Schroeder’s sequel to Sun of Suns is an even better book – a focus on characters against a fanastic hard sci-fi backdrop. This is one sequel that surpasses the original.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following the events of the first book, Venera Fanning inadvertently lands on Spyre, a decaying cylinder station on the verge of collapse, and realizes that the Key to Candesce she liberated from the pirate horde could destroy the entire world that lives in Virga. Her arrival sparks a change in the insular little community and sets in motion a chain of events that disrupts not only the political stability of the region but also the way Venera sees herself.
PROS: Can be read standalone, excellent characterization – Venera’s Machiavellian nature is a perfect canvas on which to paint the experiences she has, hard sci-fi is always there in the background having a real impact on the book.
CONS: As with the first book, this one is a bit too sci-fi for non-fans to stomach.
BOTTOM LINE: Great book that I recommend easily.
Schroeder elects to ignore the ensemble of characters he introduced in the first book and instead focus exclusively on Venera Fanning (arguable the most interesting character from the first novel.) What luck for us that he did so, because the book is significantly better for it. With his ability to zero in on Venera we get a chance to know her, understand her, and grow with her as she is transformed by the circumstances she finds herself in.
A quick note on the sci fi in this and the previous book. JP (and others) have compared it to steampunk, and I can understand why. The machine that powers Candesce disrupts electrical circuits from operating within its sphere of influence, and as a result the worldlets have to survive on different technologies. This creates a set of technology that can take advantage of the lack of gravity (Virga doesn’t have anything with enough mass to create it) but can’t use computers. Its fun, and interesting to think about – but most importantly it plays an important part of the plot. The towns that have sprung up in this environment have learned to adapt and adopt the way things works.
This book can be read standalone without reading the first – somewhat rare for a sequel today. But it definitely has me looking forward to reading the next book!