Today's book review is Queen of Candesce by Karl Shroeder.
The world inherited from Sun of Suns is cool, but we really don't add much to it. This book all takes place on just one city, and although that one city is handled interestingly, it's nowhere near the level of gosh-wow that the whole world was in the previous book. There are also some continuity problems that bothered me. This book by itself is a wild ride with lots of action and intrigue, but it ended up leaving me cold. 6 out of 10.
**** SPOILERS ****
The big continuity problem is that Venera is hero in this book and she was the villain in the previous one -- and she only becomes somewhat more likable at the end of this book. Secondarily, we continue to have the problem that in the first book, Aubri turned off Candesce's defenses, and then Venera killed her when she wouldn't turn them back on; they were still off. Which was supposed to mean the end of Virga. But in this book, Venera seems to think that she killed Aubri to keep her from disabling the defenses.
Quick plot summary:
Venera floats into Spyre (a spinning cylinder with dimensions in miles, with a city like the others we've seen, Lesser Spyre, in the middle), miraculously avoiding defenses, and is caught and rescued by Garth, an old gigolo who was exiled from Lesser Spyre years ago. Garth goes out to get medicine and Venera gets press ganged by Lyris, a whole nation that exists inside a castle. Venera deposes the ruler Magrit (called the Botanist), poisoning her, after learning that she's an agent of a powerful house called Sacrus, and then leaves. She meets Garth again, who takes her to another castle, called Buridan, which is surrounded by an area where the skin of Spyre has torn away; it's been abandoned for hundreds of years. Venera and Garth go up the Buridan elevator and manage to pull off a charade that she is the sole surviving heir of Buridan; it's not really credible but Venera manages to make it in the political interests of a lot of people to make it work. Sacrus kidnaps Garth as a hostage. Venera arranges an invasion of Sacrus' inner sanctum to rescue him Sacrus has stolen the Key to Candesce and is assembling a fleet to blackmail the other principalities and rule all of Virga. Venera manages to arrange her forces to thwart them and recover the Key, but Sacrus has managed to do so much damage to the already weakened structure of Spyre that the outer wheel breaks up. (There's metaphors for modern politics here, of evil nations and power groups destroying the world just to gain political advantage.) At the end of the book, Venera has grown a bit of a conscience, and heard more details of the battle with Falcon that leave her thinking that her husband Chaison is probably alive after all. She leads her people to Fin, a nation that lives in a stabilizing fin of Spyre and specializes in aerial maneuvers, and they fly off into the sky from the wreck of Spyre.