The sequel to ‘The Burning Land.’ (I would recommend starting with that one first.)
For centuries, Âratist doctrine has promised the coming of the Next Messenger – a prophet of the god who will come out of the Burning Land, bearing the blood of the god. His coming will be marked by an act of destruction and an act of generation.
When, in the last book, Brother Gyalo Amdo Samchen returned from his dangerous mission to the Burning Lands, he met all of those criteria – but it was noted by only a few. The Brethren – leaders of his religion – were too busy denouncing him as an apostate to note that there was an option to see him as holy.
Now, one of the last survivors of the ‘heretic’ settlement known as Refuge is out for revenge – against the Brethren and the whole world. A talented Shaper, Râvan is also arrogant, violent and self-entitled. He intentionally sets himself up as a false prophet, claiming to be the Next Messenger, with the aim of destroying everything and everyone he can, body and soul.
Tales of prophecy are all too common in the fantasy genre, but Strauss does manage to accomplish something complex and original here, through her tale of two possible prophets and an interesting ambiguity about which – if either – of them are actually fulfilling the god’s will. It’s also nice that she gets in the fact that there are alternate viewpoints – including atheism and those of members of other religions altogether.
However, it was disappointing that Axane, one of the main characters of the previous book, spends most of this one as a prisoner, meaning she doesn’t get to do much, and has little viewpoint-time given to her.
The book also spends a great deal of time with Râvan – who is just not someone who’s what you could call fun to spend time with.
In addition to Râvan and Gyalo, this volume introduces the viewpoint of Sundit, an elderly woman who’s one of the Brethren. Her chapters give an interesting insight into religious schisms and also, eventually, give voice to a doubt the reader might have had about some of the tenets of the Âratist church.
Worthwhile reading both for fantasy fans, and for those interested in the power structures and methodologies of religion and belief.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for the opportunity to read this book. As always, my opinions are solely my own.