I read the first book of this series a long time ago, it was one of the first self-published books I picked up, actually. Darrell is an active member of r/fantasy and usually has a funny quip so I figured why not?
If you haven’t read the first one, you should start there. It’s a stand-alone and can be read that way, but I’m so glad the story has continued on with Tirdad. Also, if you haven’t read the first one, this review will be super spoilery regarding the first book.
The events of this book pick up directly after the ending of the first one, Ashta isn’t even dead yet, Tirdad is holding her as she dies and it’s really is sad to relive the whole thing all over again. Ashta is one of those characters where I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I felt for her, but it was a lot. She was a deeply troubled and depressed woman with a morally greyish ambition to wipe out every single star reckoner from the world. Something happened when Tirdad killed her, when he drew the sword out it wasn’t covered in red blood, it was black and iridescent almost like a ‘black pearl’. He was flooded with Ashta’s memories all at once and was sent reeling from the experience. He didn’t understand what was going on at first until he found another star-reckoner that explained to him the link between Ashta’s soul and the sword. Ashta had a phylactery, something able to heal serious injuries, or even bring you back from the dead. Something went wrong, however, and instead of her essence being saved in her body, part of it was transferred to the sword as she died, it’s possible the sword disrupted the phylactery in some way. It’s not a sentient sword, but it’s more like carrying around a ghost or a memory box.
Tirdad is now forever linked to this sword, and he’s not able to be more than a few feet from it at any given time. He’s also experiencing what her life was like and it’s hitting him hard. He sees her nights spent contemplating suicide, he sees her pleading with him through her eyes to understand why she was doing what she was doing.
Tirdad thought by killing her he was satisfying his honor, but through the second book, you see him struggle almost every day with his decision. The more memories he relives the more he understands and sympathizes with Ashta… and the worse he feels about it. He’s absolutely feeling guilty, feeling lost, and is lonely without her. Tirdad goes through a lot of growth in this book and it was both fascinating and a bit heartbreaking at times to see his change in worldview. There’s even a romance for Tirdad in this one, a lot of time passes in short page space so at first, my reaction was “that was quick”…” oh right it’s been a while”. It’s a very interesting romance that’s so fucking out there it fascinated me despite my overall ‘meh’ feelings towards romance plots.
Another life changer for Tirdad is being formed into a planet-reckoner, he’s now able to draw lots himself, and he’s muddling through how to use it similar to Ashta. He and Chorbin are almost taking up Ashta’s cause in her place, wandering the countryside and killing star reckoners and divs he encounters.
There are more divs in this book, more of Waray’s sisters and a div named Shkarag 🙂 Divs eating eggs. Divs being kinda weird. Divs on drugs. Divs having sex. A lot of div stuff. If you liked it in the last book then you’re in luck because there’s a lot more of it in this one.
The world building continues to be fantastic in this, and I feel like I understood the magic system a bit better. There was more explained in this book than the last one, I think, and it leads to a clearer picture of this world and its people. I also really enjoyed getting to see planet reckoning instead of star reckoning in this one, a tiny change of pace from Ashta’s book that kept it fresh and expanded the world a bit.
The pacing in this book is considerably better than the first one. I’ve read a lot of reviews for ASRL that point out the bumpy pacing at the beginning that smoothed out towards the end of the book. There are small time skips at the beginning of this book, Tirdad goes through a month of mourning after Ashta’s death and that passes off screen. But, it’s much clearer what’s going on and it has a much smoother transition.
Overall, this book improved on basically everything from the first book which is always fun to see an author hit their stride. The world building was explained more, the pacing was smoother, we get more character development and the prose was great. If you liked the first one you should totally check this one out.
Final Score: 86/100 – 5 star
World Building: 13.5/15
Personal Enjoyment: 10/10