Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index

IRON ANGEL

A novel by Alan Campbell (2008, Bantam Spectra)
Book 2 of the Deepgate Codex

Just as Dill is trying to recover from his return from Hell, his soul is sent back after being taken over by a ghost with a message for the gods; he is chased through Hell by its master's servant, and made to serve the war effort as Hell tries to invade the human realm.

 

 

Read July 6th to 18th, 2013, in hardcover  
    This book, the second in a trilogy, opens the world tremendously from the first one, taking us back to Deepgate to see what it looks like now, continuing with a trek through Hell, and ending in a completely different part of the world. The main character from the first book hardly has any part in this book, though he is still central to much of its plot. The story was straightforward, and I appreciated the expansion of the backstory. The world this is based on was complicated to begin with, and continues to grow more so. I think it was more enjoyable  -but it ends on a cliff-hanger.

Spoiler review:

Although this book begins with Rachel and Dill, two characters we are familiar with from Scar Night, we are introduced to a whole host of new characters in this book, including gods that the people in the first book didn't know about. The entire relationship between the people and the world is redefined, since we had such a small viewpoint previously. And that world, which already seemed complicated, grows ever more complicated.

Dill is completely useless in the first part of the book. He is zombie-like since he returned from Hell, and has recurrent nightmares. Rachel tries to hide him in a town called Sandport, but gets captured by the Spine, who have taken over this part of the world since the portal to Hell opened. The spine are quite scary, even given that the contents of Hell seem to be pouring out of the portal. They want to Temper everyone, torture them until people feel no pain and have no emotion. One character after another from the previous novel die, and I wouldn't have been surprised to see Dill also die here. I suppose he does, in a manner of speaking, because an Archon from Hell breaks into his cell and takes over his body, sending him to Hell in his place. The spine manage to break Dill's wings and amputate a couple of fingers before Rachel is able to Focus, dilating time and kill just about everyone in the torture room. She escapes with Trent, the Archon now in Dill's body, and they trek away from the dying city.

Meanwhile, a thief named Jack Caulker is approached to be a guide for a giant who pulls a god's ship across the land. The thief and cutthroat is in awe of John Anchor, and wants to get his hands on the pouch of soul-pearls the man has. The god Cospinol is searching for Carnival, daughter of Ulcis, who drank her father's blood, thus killing him -the blood of Ulcis will give him the strength to leave the rotting skyship that has been his prison for thousands of years, ever since the seven brothers were kicked out of Heaven. When Anchor befriends a group of tribal warriors, however, Caulker decides to betray the giant. While this was an interesting story and really fun in terms of Anchor, I found that the end use of the thief and the tribe of warriors was wasted. Unless they come back in the third book, their deaths were meaningless and could have been achieved much earlier in the story.

Anchor finds Rachel and Trent in a poison forest, and Trent delivers his warning from Hell -that King Menoa, the god who rules there now, has built a dozen Arconites, gigantic warriors powered by the souls of angels, that cannot be killed. Rachel also comes across the Soft Men, who were the first to discover a way to immortal life, and a gypsy named Mina Greene who sends herself into Hell to try and help Dill. Except for Greene, they all hop onto Cospinol's ship and travel to the other side of the world, to help the war against Hell.

In Hell itself, Dill finds that he has created a small apartment for his soul, a very strange concept, but consistent with the brief moment he was in Hell back in Scar Night. The god Hasp tries to help him get to the only remaining place left where Minoa doesn't rule, but runs into trouble and is captured. Greene is Dill's other neighbor, and give a piece of her soul to him for use in the future. He runs all around Hell trying to escape, revealing all sorts of creatures to us and a rather unique version of Hell, I think. Minoa has mirrored it on Earth, but improved it to his uses, which is harvesting souls and changing them into other devices.

One person who is helping him is Alice Harper, who is changed several times into useful forms for the King. She went to Hell to try and rescue her husband -Tom doesn't appear in this book, but that doesn't stop her from looking whenever she can. She helps capture Hasp and sends Dill on the run, where he is captured by soul traders and placed within an Arconite.

Back in the human world, Alice helps guide a train through to a rendezvous with the god Rys, who is expected to yield to Minoa to get his brother back -Hasp, who has been transformed into a glass being -very fragile, but still lethal. The train has a bunch of human aristocrats in it, who have betrayed their own species for transient rewards from Hell. In the end, we don't know what happens to these people, since their presence, though important in keeping the story interesting as the train travels, ends up being inconsequential. It is Mina Greene who finds Dill's soul in the Arconite and frees it from Hell, allowing it to work for Rys instead of Minoa.

But it turns out all of this was a trap by Minoa, after all. I'm a little disappointed in Hasp, who is said to be a brilliant tactician. He didn't see the trap, in that a huge portal to Hell could be opened by all the blood spilled here when Dill razes Minoa's army, though the demons from Hell take many lives anyway. I do wonder if the demons had real blood to shed, though. I suppose if they subsisted on blood, the way Alice did, that it would spill out when they were killed -tens of thousands of them. And as Alice points out, anybody who could possibly harm Minoa are all gathered in one location, where a dozen Arconites jump out of the waiting portal -the cliff-hanger ending.

I think my favorite part of the novel was Dill's encounter with Hasp and Greene, and his subsequent trek through Hell. I liked the way he tricked the door-soul that was following him, and the way he reasoned everything out. Sure, he got caught in the end, but it was fun while it lasted. And I wonder if Dill has to be killed fourteen times before his soul withers, now, since he has ingested the mixture of the thirteen souls in the potion that brought him back from Hell. That would be one for each Arconite, and another for Minoa, if he sacrifices one soul each -he would have only his original soul left.

I wonder if the third book will return to Deepgate, if the remaining Spine have anything to do with the plot anymore, if Caulker is really dead (or if he will get to meet Minoa in Hell, after all, but with nothing to offer), and if Carnival will die, be redeemed, or just have Ulcis' blood sucked out of her and continue rampaging around a new city. Other questions remain: why do the gods have such funny names, like the god of flowers and knives, the god of clocks, the god of chains, and so on? And who is King Menoa, actually? Was he a man whose soul went to Hell and he took advantage of the confusion of the god Iril's fragmentation to gather his power as Rys and the others tried to escape their prisons? I might have missed something describing his rise to power, but I really don't remember it. Hopefully the third book will tell us.

 
   

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