I think the main reason that I had some problems following all of the different storylines in the first Powder Mage book was that I was reading one chapter per day and discussion as I went. Reading straight through the second book helped keep everything together. It also helps that there are few to no new major characters.
Overall, this was very much the second book in a trilogy. It picks up where the first left off and sets up the third. It probably wouldn’t stand particularly well alone, but then again it doesn’t have to. It’s pretty much action all of the way through, tying up various plot lines just to ramp things up even more.
The general world building continues to feel something like a kitchen sink, with at least four different fairly vague magic systems all interacting in odd ways. Ka-poel is even more a singleton that everyone (even the ‘gods’) underestimates. I’m still not sure exactly what she did to Taniel (if it was in fact her), but I am curious how that particularly bit will end.
I think Taniel had the strongest story of the book, growing and changing the most of any of the characters. He’s still insufferable at times, but he’s also interesting. Adamat got pushed to the edge and breaks things (and people) to get his family back. It’s obvious, but it’s still a solid storyline (and I’m glad it ended up as relatively well as it has for him). Tamas' storyline behind enemy lines was interesting enough, but I want to see him back with the others again.
And … cliffhangers. I cannot stop now, which is of course the point. But now I’m actually looking forward to what’s next.