Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book review: "Iron Angel" by Alan Campbell

I was very busy this week (had two whole-day trips) so I didn't found time before today, even though I finished "Iron Angel" by Alan Campbell last weekend. This is the second book in trilogy called "Deepgate Codex", and sincerely, I haven't expected much from it. You know the drill: new author, first trilogy, second book - it usually ends badly. But "Iron Angel" just proved me wrong...

"Iron Angel" is separated in three parts. First part is what I expected - after defeating and killing god Ulcis, ex-Church angel Dill and ex-Spine (Church assassins) Rachel Heal are on the run from Deepgate. Even though they finally come on friendly terms with immortal and invincible Carnival, her craving for blood separated them, so now they are on their own. Chased be Spine, who took over things in Deepgate, they will soon learn that there are other enemies to consider. Rys, god of flowers and knives, had sent his elder brother Cosnipol, god of brine and salt, to investigate Ulcis' death and avenge him.

So far, if you have read enough books, this is a pattern you probably recognize - after defeating the big bad in first book or season, our heroes find themselves in trouble after finding out that big bad was only a captain. With defeating him, they just forced his superiors (real big bad) so turn his attention toward them. Another trope is when it is revealed that big bad was not so bad after all and he was actually keeping poor and weak people from the real big bad (e.g. "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann" in anime, or "Mistborn" trilogy by Brandon Sanderson in books). First part of the book follows the first trope, while second and third are closer to the second one.

Reading second part was like reading a totally new series. Only things connecting it to "Scar Night" was Dill as main character and seeing things from his POV. In third part we lose even that, although some old characters come back. Plot and setting expansion introduced in these two parts is quite big. As you noticed, I am trying to avoid spoilers, so you will have to believe me that they are both great. I am only sorry that I didn't reread "Scar Night" before reading "Iron Angel" (I didn't expect such turn-around), so I can't be sure if setting is consistent. I was especially surprised and delighted by resolution regarding PRC management - I am only sorry that the effect will be spoiled in my second reading. There are some real clever details that make this setting very complex. Plot in general is very interesting and completely unpredictable.

Pace of plot is very fast, maybe even a bit too fast. I wouldn't mind this book being a hundred or two pages longer (it is only 500 pages long) - but I am a fan of complex settings and I am always hungry for new details. But on the other hand, that would make "Iron Angel" less impressive book - such hard pace make it very intensive and it's not letting you relax. One of best points of this book was its description of Hell (whole second part) and characters connected to it. It was done really originally and the effect of it was surreal. Or maybe weird. In any case, it was great and unexpected. You should be warned that there is a lot of graphic violence, and even more blood. Blood is actually one of its structural elements.

Characters are very nicely written and interesting. They remain a bit mysterious because their reasons and motivations are left hidden. But when Campbell devotes himself to them, he makes them feel believable and real. There is a bunch of new and important characters: Hasp, Alice Harper, Mina Green, John Anchor... My only surprise was that Carnival was almost nonexistent in this book - but maybe she will have a larger role in the last book.

The biggest surprise comes at the end - and then book ends with an enormous cliffhanger. It almost made me immediately go to Amazon and buying its sequel, but I was able to stop myself.

"Iron Angel" was a terrific book introducing massive amount of new elements, a big surprise when I expected weak and tepid sequel. If last part, "God of Clocks", is good as this one, "Deepgate Codex" will be promoted to one of my favorite short series of all time. A recommendation to everybody who searches for a bit of unconventional fantasy.

No comments:

Post a Comment