I had trouble getting into the setting of this novel,
which might have biased me against the story. It felt to me unpolished,
for some reason. I nearly lost it at the end, when Karigan’s memories
started fading, but at least that was restored, but for a weak reason,
It looks to me like a new chapter is beginning in the Green Rider saga,
and this book is here to show us the stakes if the future is not
changed. At the end of Blackveil, Karigan
was stuck in a box after breaking the mirror mask of the gods. It turns
out that she was transported into the future by more than a century, and
the whole world has changed. Saccoridia has been conquered, the castle
and most of the lands destroyed, and technology is on the rise. It’s not
powered by battery or gas, and often not even water, steam or coal, but
by whatever remains of etherea, the magical substance that permits
supernatural occurrences. The elitians live on it, as they are immortal,
and it allows the Green Riders to use their special gifts. Presumably,
it’s what the witch Yodanthe also used in her dealings with Amberhill
after he was shipwrecked.
I wondered how long we would spend in
Mill City of this world. It turns out that the entire book, save a
couple of short chapters, were spent in the future timeline, between
Mill City and the capital of Gossham. It’s unfortunate that the book
didn’t divide itself into the future and Karigan’s post-adventure story,
because the part in the future went on for way, way too long, especially
with nothing happening. Karigan was trapped, and only a couple of
chapters allowed her to grow. The rest was about her mourning her lost
ability, her lost freedom, and a repeated emphasis on how the world has
changed. It all could have been compressed into half the length.
While many people might be disappointed to have Karigan taken out of
Saccoridia, I think it was a neat choice, at least for the first quarter
and last quarter of the book. I wish she hadn’t been sidelined for so
long, first by her injury and the morphia, then again by the morphia
overdose. The whole book, she does almost nothing. The time when she
snuck out to follow Captain Mapstone’s instructions seemed like the only
time she was herself.
I’m not sure how the author would have done
it, but I’d like to know how the values of this empire came into being.
Yes, Mornhavon believed in using slaves and having a class system, but
he didn’t seem to have anything against women until he faced Karigan.
The origins might still come up in future books, though, as Webster Silk
(Dr. Silk’s father) said he had been alive for more than a hundred
years. We might see his parents or grandparents in the original time.
Even though Amberhill/Mornhavon/Sea King created the empire, it looks
like Silk was the one who shaped it. It might show his values.
Most of the story takes place inside the home of Professor Josston, as
Karigan is a woman in a place where women have no rights. She is able to
sneak around, first to the Professor’s secret warehouse of treasures
from the past -Karigan’s present. And the Professor gives her the Green
Rider horse Raven and a male jockey outfit in order to ride him freely,
but it’s something that she doesn’t do often enough for my tastes.
The man who owned Raven is one intent on power and eternal life,
which can be given by the emperor through the use of the etherea. This
is apparently his whole motivation for drilling into the remains of the
castle to get to the tombs. He is blind, but can see etherea which
allows him to see. So he sees something unique in Karigan, and wants to
get to know her. She manages to frustrate him at almost every turn while
in Mill city.
The other person of note is Cade, a student of the
Professor’s, and a member of the real resistance. I really liked the way
the Professor was shown to be the leader of the resistance, but because
he is part of the elite class, he has no idea what real resistance is.
He continuously urges caution, even as people are being killed and
worked to death. He has silent protests that are completely wasted on
those who are in power, and completely useless to those being oppressed.
It is only after he has been found out, and suddenly has something to
lose, that he becomes useful, and that’s only in allowing Cade and
Karigan to escape as he takes the easy way out -suicide (though that
includes blowing himself and a huge number of inspectors up).
real resistance is represented by Cade, who is young, poor and wants to
fight the oppression. He thinks he can become a Weapon, but Karigan
quickly disabuses him of that notion by showing him how to really fight.
Of course, they fall in love, but the strictures of this society mean
that they can’t get together, at least yet.
Things start to pick
up a little (and only for a little while) when Karigan gets a note from
the past, delivered by a cat in her window. It’s unfortunate, but still
cool, that the Eletians are used as diviners of the future. It’s
convenient that their abilities are so sporadic, otherwise they might
have figured out the results of the mission to Blackveil. Maybe the gods
gave them the vision, because of course, they fear for their safety. The
people of Mill City don’t know anything about the gods of her time.
Karigan goes to the secret door to the tombs under the castle (followed
by Cade), where she meets present day Weapons and caretakers of the
tombs. They’ve survived in secret for more than a century. Karigan tells
them about the Dragonfly device that the Professor thought the ancient
people used to defeat the Sea Kings of old, so they will start searching
for it. By the end of the book, when Silk’s drill finally penetrates
into the castle, the Caretaker finds the device, and starts to laugh,
just before she is killed. I guess that’s going to be a big surprise in
a future book, but here it feels like a cliché.
The rest of the
book takes place on the road to or in Gossham, the capital city of the
Empire. It is there, following the trail of the Eletian who was moved
with Karigan through time, as well as the heir to Saccoridia’s throne (a
spoiled girl who betrayed the Professor and exposed his movement), that
Karigan and Cade finally become lovers. There is not actually much to
tell about their journey, as there wasn’t much to tell about Mill City.
They travel, try to avoid Inquisitors and their mechanical pets, and
make love when they are in private. Luke, their driver, has fun with
that, as they are both dressed as men.
Although the descriptions
of Gossham are detailed and interesting, the story there is less so.
Fortunately, it has more of a story than Mill City, and it’s where the
climax of the book takes place. I find the keeping of the witch Yodanthe
to be given too much brutalness in assuming that all men in power will
violate a woman when it suits their purpose. It’s a lot like Game of
Thrones, where it doesn’t need to be. It only serves to emphasize how
evil this empire is, when it didn’t have to be done that way. Of course,
when she’s set free, her revenge is swift and terrible. Speaking of
which, given what he knows of Yodanthe, I don’t think Silk or anybody
would actually free her; they’d rather die. But I guess if they know
they are going to die because of it, they’ll hope that Karigan would
also be killed in the bloodbath to follow. The dragons were a surprise,
but it’s disappointing to note that Karigan didn’t see them, or even get
an inkling of what the great weapon could be. Hopefully the Dragonfly
device can provide some hints.
The Eletian wasn’t as important to
the plot as I’d expected. He spends the first half of the book hiding,
then is captured by Silk, who can of course see him easily due to the
etherea in his very being. When Karigan sees him at the circus ball,
Silk knows he is from the past, and transports him to the capital city.
He is dying because of the lack of etherea. Karigan regains her ability
to fade out in the capital, due to the remnants of the Blackveil etherea
there (but why is it there, in the city where she grew up, rather than
in the remains of Blackveil?), and manages to rescue him. Thanks to
visions from the ghost of one of her Rider friends, she knows that there
is a room in the palace where they can try to make their way to the
past. While Karigan is out fighting, the Eletian manages to get
everything set up, so she can return in time. It wasn’t all that
exciting, but a functional ending.
I was gravely disappointed by
a few things at the end of the book. The most disappointing was that
Karigan didn’t get to remain pregnant. I think that would have made for
an amazing development in her character, defying the brooch and Rider
custom, not to mention the effect it would have on the King. I was
mildly disappointed that the gods didn’t allow Cade to return with her,
as it would have given her somebody to lean on now that so many of her
friends are dead. I don’t know what’s to come, of course, but it seems
to me to be a lost opportunity. I suppose future books will have further
opportunities, but I doubt they’ll have as good a setup as this
situation could have.
The final thing to note about this book is
the mirror sight that Karigan had into the past -her present. I liked
the very brief looks into the Wall, where her horse misses her and
briefly senses her and her best friend continues to struggle after
losing her voice, and when Captain Mapstone writes the letters that will
ultimately be delivered to Karigan in the future. But the scene where
they discover that an unknown legendary race helped defeat the Sea Kings
seems a little like reinvention. Is the stained-glass painting the only
history of the time that remains? Nobody wrote a scroll telling of how
the Sea Kings were defeated by humans, Eletians and the p'ehdrose?
Incidentally, Karigan saw stuffed versions of these creatures in the
future, curiosities for the masses to ogle.
Perhaps me greatest
sense of disappointment was when Karigan’s memories began to fade. Why
would the author do such a thing, as it seems completely pointless. Why
have the story if the people won’t even be remembered. Thankfully she
reverses this decision at the very end, with Yates’s sketchbook
retrieved from Blackveil. The whole deception seems like a reason to
string the readers along.
Even without those last few points, the
book was too long for its own good, and Karigan did almost nothing for
most of it. I liked the fact that she found love and experimented with
physical intimacy. Maybe she’ll be ready to open up to somebody new in