Rebellion (The Tainted Realm)
by Ian Irvine
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by April Disney
Orbit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316072854
Date: 12 March 2013 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Rebellion is the second book in the Tainted Realm Trilogy, and continues the story of a dying land torn apart by vengeful war. The first novel, Vengeance, was chock full of anticipation, action, and emotional twists and turns. Irvine does not disappoint in this follow up installment.
Tali is the first slave to escape from underground Cython since her ancestors were taken in exchange for a ransom that was never paid. The Cythonians, now at war with Hightspall, are strict and brutal masters. Tali has sworn to free her people, all eighty-five thousand of them, but with Hightspall losing the war and their leader, Lyf, still hunting her for her master pearl, how can she even think of doing that?
Rix, meanwhile, is also on the run from Lyf and his forces. His enchanted blade, Maloch, is pulling him towards an unknown destiny. Maloch might have the ability to awaken something from the depths that will change the war, and the world, forever.
Rix, Tali, and the rest of the cast from Vengeance are as three-dimensional and imperfect as ever. Ian Irvine does a magnificent job of making the reader relate to each of them. Rix remains haunted by his betrayal of his family and their subsequent downfall. Despite being a leader of epic abilities, his self-doubts and lack of confidence make him seem like a real person, a friend with real life baggage. Tali, too, has moments of brilliance that are shadowed by her fears and occasional over-confidence. Blundering into unforeseen errors and doing the best you can by those you love -- these things are part of the human condition, displayed in a believable and touching fashion.
The theme of setting as character continues as well. We learn about the engine at the heart of the world -- what is it? How does it relate to the terrible things happening in the land? The Pale have been enslaved for thousands of years. How will they react to the possibility of freedom, even if the alternative is death? What about those with the madness of the caitsthe bearing down on them; how does a person come to terms with that? These are but a few of the questions you can wonder about as the author digs into the heart of both the darkness and light inside humanity.
The real coup de grace that makes this novel masterful, though, is the nonstop action. It's nearly impossible to put down. Like George R.R. Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series, Ian Irvine likes to switch viewpoints, trying to keep the story in timeline order. Unlike in Martin's work, however, I never resented the switch. Holding onto the seat wasn't just reserved for the end of each chapter. Every story line is immersive, and almost immediately to boot. The hunt for the catalyst to heal the land, the secrets of king magery, the nearly impossible situations characters have to climb out of, and the unfortunate fighting among many with the same goals -- these events are threaded together to create a thrilling race to the climax.
This series so far has been an example of contemporary epic fantasy done right. Brilliantly timed action, deep characterization, and fascinating concept; the ability to make a reader's heart race through most of the story; Irvine's clear love of his craft showing through. What more could a reader ask for?