BRIEF SYNOPSIS: After Vidarian’s opening of the Gate, the consequences of letting loose unpredictable magical forces play out across the entire world.
PROS: More inventive worldbuilding, and a good exploration of theme of exploring the long range consequences of a world-affecting decision.
CONS: The frantic pace continued from the first novel definitely does not work here. Too often the book rushes where it should tarry. Novel could sorely use a summary of prior events or other aids.
BOTTOM LINE: A sophomore effort that doesn’t live up to the promise of the first novel.
In Sword of Fire and Sea, Vidarian, a ship captain on Andovar, — a world with decaying elemental magic, Gryphons and more — has a request to escort a Fire Priestess. It turns into a world-changing event when he chooses to open up a long-closed portal to another, richer magic realm, allowing its magic and inhabitants to flow into his world. The second novel, Lance of Earth and Sky, explores the consequences of that fateful action, as the appearance of lost races and lost magics threaten to topple kingdoms and remake the world.
The strengths of Lance of Earth and Sky stem first and foremost from the inventive worldbuilding. Readers of the first novel — and this novel makes no concession to those starting the series here — will recall that the universe the author creates is filled with ideas and characters, ranging from Gryphons to pirates, schools of elemental magic and much more. In Lance of Earth and Sky, those ideas act as a foundation from which to expand. We get to see the mysterious inhabitants of the other realm, as well as aspects and locations of the world only hinted at in the first novel. We get to see more of Gryphon society, the social structure of the Alorean Empire and the Alorean Import Company, the doings of Pirates, dryads, and numerous other things that the author cannot wait to allow to come onto the page. And the mysterious chaos goddess The Starhunter is far from done with Vidarian. And yes, just like the beautiful cover suggests, we get a dragon in the mix, too.
The theme of consequences, the other major strength of the novel, plays out well here. By opening the gate, Vidarian not only allows the bird like Seridi into the world, but the changes in the level of magic has severe consequences across the empire. The implications of suddenly upsetting the magical balance of the world are explored and drive a fair amount of the plot. Too often in novels, we don’t see the changes that big decisions such as Vidarian’s actually make. In Lance of Earth and Sky, the author is happy to do so.
The weaknesses that I found in Lance of Earth and Sky, however, were disappointing and threatened to overwhelm my enjoyment. Its predecessor’s quick=-step pacing meant a whirlwind tour of locations, meeting characters and quick succession of events. Here, this style does the book no favors. That wonderful worldbuilding is so crammed in the pages that one wonder is shoved off the page in favor of the next. Only during an extended sequence when Vidarian is in one place for an extended period that the jumbled pace slows down enough to give the reader some bearing. For the sake of plotting and pacing, the novel could have done more of this, especially given the middle book in a trilogy nature of this book. And while the map is appreciated and useful, the sheer amount of information thrown at the reader, as well as callbacks to the first novel, is overwhelming. A glossary is sorely needed, as well as a summary of Sword of Fire and Sea. I can imagine readers who start this book immediately on the heels of the first are the only ones who will not have difficulty. Even I, who enjoyed the first novel, often had to stop and recall the significance of events and characters previously met or referenced in the first volume. With such pacing, it diminishes the impact of the worldbuilding and the work the writer has created, to the book’s detriment.
Overall, Lance of Earth and Sky doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the first novel. While the worldbuilding here is prodigious, inventive and creative, too often that worldbuilding comes at the price of pacing, characterization, and plotting. I can only really recommend this book to the more devoted fans of the first novel.