By Michael A. Stackpole. Second book in the Age of Discovery trilogy.
This is another book where the characters are more rounded than usual, but in this case everyone is larger than life. And they all have secrets. Qiro Anturasi is frightening, but shows a hint of sanity.
For once, turning to the last page yields a pleasant spoiler. Try it (if you like spoilers); you will likely start thinking "That explains so much..." or "I should have seen that coming."
Other mysteries are revealed. The dead girl accomplishes very little, leaving us to wonder why she has a place in this trilogy. Surely it isn't just to be tortured and killed in the first book?
The story, if you aren't familiar with it, centers around the Anturasi family, a map-making dynasty ruled by Qiro Anturasi, an old tyrant whose maps are considered almost magical. Sail without them and you are likely to be lost; sail with them and make a fortune. He and his family are considered national treasures and as a result are locked up (most of the time) in a gilded tower, but the times are changing and old enemies seem to be coming back to life. It's a good idea to read A Secret Atlas first; this book is not kind to readers who haven't picked up the first in a while. I wanted to check whether many of the surprises were foreshadowed in the first book or not, but I didn't have it on hand.
This book and A Secret Atlas are hard to read because there are so many characters to keep track of, but it gets a little easier in this book as the threads continue weaving together and the characters take their places in the big picture. As usual, I find it interesting that Qiro figures very little in the narration, but ultimately is behind almost everything that happens. Perhaps we'll find out his method and motivation in the third book, but it may always be a mystery.
This is a fascinating story with lots to think about until the third volume comes out, even if I had trouble sitting still while I was reading it. Junel is an offensive character but you trust that he will get what's coming to him. However, this book reminds me of The Swans' War: I'm afraid that not everything may be resolved quite so neatly as a reader could hope. The fates of many are up in the air, and it ends with a sharp (if implied) "To be continued!"