Second Shift: Order

Second Shift: Order definitely has ‘middle book’ syndrome going for it, but in this case, it certainly works. You get a pile of answers to questions raised both in First Shift: Legacy and Wool along with filling out the world of the Silos.

It’s a fascinating dystopia and feels just real enough to be terrifyingly possible. I do prefer Order over Legacy in that it doesn’t have the ‘modern day’ / pre-Silo points of view. I find it more interesting to get hints of that world from after the fall, rather than having everything spelled out.

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Leviathans of Jupiter

Leviathans of Jupiter takes what made Jupiter so enjoyable (the exploration of the oceans of Jupiter and interactions with the creatures that live there) and takes another visit. This time around, we have even more content from the Leviathan’s perspective and first attempts at actually communicating with them, which is pretty cool.

While the science is cool, the characters and drama isn’t quite as strong as Jupiter. Grant Archer is still around and in charge now, which is an interesting point. We also get more of Dorn, finding his way out after the Asteroid War. He’s been through quite a lot and it’s interesting seeing his point of view, especially since he’s fairly unique in this universe in being a cyborg.

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First Shift: Legacy

It’s been a while since I read Wool. Long enough that I’d started to forget the general shape of things, but as I went through First Shift: Legacy, things started to come back. It’s interesting seeing the gaps in Wool’s history.

That being said, the prequel chapters (of a prequel) just feel wrong. The Silos were built in a matter of years by the government? With apparently minimal or no leaks? Run by a Senator which apparently gets two Representatives to do his absolute bidding (What about their own jobs? It would have made more sense had Donald remained an architect).

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A Conjuring of Light

And so it ends. Where A Gathering of Shadows was the bright(ish) interlude, A Conjuring of Light goes dark quick. The magic that killed Black London is free in Red London and trying it’s damnedest to … take over the world? It’s a little unclear. I guess a piece of sentient magic gets a pass on the ‘evil for the sake of being evil’ card.

Characterwise, we don’t really have anyone know, although we get a lot more of Rhy who actually gets to explore being given a literal second chance at life and what it means to be king. Speaking of which, King Maxim and Queen Emira had a lot going for them. I … just wish they were developed a bit more. Rhy’s relationship with Alucard gets a fair bit more time. It’s complicated (in a good way) and well done. I wish them the best.

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Saturn

Saturn was something of a bummer, especially coming off Jupiter and the Asteroid Wars, The Aftermath in particular. It might as well have been called ‘adventures of a colony ship’, since it’s only in the last fraction of the book that we actually make it to Saturn. The rest of the book is spent by power hungry religious zealots trying to take over a ship ostensibly populated by ten thousand people trying to escape exactly that sort of behavior.

On top of that, I don’t really care about any of the characters. They’re all either cartoonishly evil or inept or scientists that need concepts they should know cold explained to them. It’s kind of a bummer also that the main character went through the cryogenic freeze/thaw that we’ve seen discussed in other books, leaving her having to rebuild her life from scratch. But it really doesn’t actually go anywhere. A missed opportunity.

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A Gathering of Shadows

“Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”

“Be quiet.”

“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”

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The Aftermath

As a standalone story, The Aftermath would have been pretty good. It’s an interesting story from a sci-fi take: a family on a space ship out in the belt, hauling ore. They’re attacked. One member escapes back to the belt and the rest are sent out on a long orbit with a broken ship, years before they’ll return to civilization.

It’s an interesting story, showing just how big space is and how dangerous a frontier it can be in a science fiction story can be in the near future solar system, where they don’t have magical engines that can go through the system in days (well, they do, but not on a cargo ship like this). And if you don’t have an antenna and can’t aim a laser, then you can’t very well talk to anyone.

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A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic is a surprisingly fantastic book–and I mean that in the true sense of the word fantastic.

The core worldbuilding conceit of the book is that of four parallel worlds, specifically four Londons. Gray London (our London?), a dull world with little to no magic left; Red London, with magic full of life; White London, with a more sharp and controlling feel; and lost Black London. The feel and description of each London really makes the book, with Schwab evoking each London with colors and scents and even feelings. It’s a really interesting take and done rather well.

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The Silent War

The Silent War feels like a conclusion to the Asteroid Wars ( The Precipice and The Rock Rats ), with the war continuing to escalate to father and father atrocities with even more sides to the conflict than before ( Yamagata is back! If a bit weirdly. ). It’s a bit strange to see what feels like such a conclusion with one book left, but I guess that’s why it’s called The Aftermath ? We’ll just have to see.

Overall, The Silent War is a satisfying enough conclusion to the Asteroid Wars (as a war and as a subseries) building up both the overall conflict and one within the book itself. It’s nice to actually see everything come to a head and I think the conclusion is workable, if a little ridiculous. It really feeds into the idea that behind every powerful corporation is a handful (or one) of powerful men and women really driving things forward.

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The Republic of Thieves

“I don’t expect life to make sense,” he said after a few moments, “but it would certainly be pleasant if it would stop kicking us in the balls.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora was all about revenge and gang warfare. Red Seas Under Red Skies branched out to an Ocean’s Eleven style casino heist and piracy on the high seas. So what do we get in The Republic of Thieves ? Infighting between political factions of mages and election fraud, apparently.

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