Today's post will cover An Ill-Fated Sky, the second book in the A Star-Reckoner's Legacy series by Darrell Drake. Last year I was given the pleasure of reading and posting about the first book, A Star-Reckoner's Lot, where readers first met Ashtadukht, her cousin Tirdad, and their half-human/half-div traveling companion, Waray. Now we follow the latter two on another journey across various lands of the Sassanian Empire in a quest for answers and revenge. Naturally, I must issue a serious spoiler alert for anyone who has not read the first book.
The Situation: To say that Tirdad is filled with guilt after what he did to Ashtadukht would be an understatement. He has plenty of reasons at his disposal that he could use for justifying what happened. In the end however, he is only left with guilt and sadness. When Tirdad becomes cursed by the very sword he used to kill his cousin, he also inherits her planet-reckoning powers, and gains insight into what led her to do what she did. Now Tirdad's guilt and sadness are joined by anger and revenge. Fortunately for him, his old half-human/half-div traveling companion, Waray, is up for another adventure. She may be as cryptic and violent as ever, but she is also helpful, and knows how to wield an axe when it is needed most.
The Problem: Learning the truth behind what really happened to Ashtadukht, and what really caused the fall of Tirdad's House will not be easy. For one, he is not a young man anymore. And two, learning the truth and possibly getting revenge means hunting down star-reckoners in a land filled with kingdoms at war with each other, and ill-meaning divs who think nothing of causing trouble and ending lives. Also, traveling with half-human/half-div Shkarag (Waray's true identity) often proves challenging. She can be enough trouble on her own, but it does not help that other humans are wary of her mere presence. If Tirdad is to find out what he wants to know, and take the revenge he feels Ashtadukht is owed, it will be more than a simple matter of finding the people responsible and making them pay. He must first manage to stay alive that long, but he also must not allow himself to be consumed by the same anger and hatred that Ashtadukht fell victim to.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a historical fiction/fantasy novel that, just like the first book, is once again set during the Sassanian Empire of what is now Iran. The story picks up after the events of the first one, with Ashtadukht's unfortunate death still fresh in Tirdad's mind, especially since he was the one who caused it. Up to this point in Tirdad's life, honor has been incredibly important. But can the thing that caused him to take the life of a family member really be all that great? Especially when his House would end up ruined as a result? Tirdad is ready to be done with honor and the past altogether, but fate has decided to bind him to his dead cousin, her powers, even her memories, and her dangerous thirst for revenge. If there is anything that helps him hold it together it is the presence of Shkarag, though she has issues all her own. Just as in the previous book, trust between humans and divs (even half-divs) is a tricky thing. Though Tirdad and Shkarag become close, he still does not know everything about her. And one thing about Shkarag is that there is always more to her than what she chooses to reveal, and she knows more than she would ever tell, even in her own cryptic way. Much like the first book, this one is filled with adventure, strange creatures, and epic battle scenes, all against the backdrop of the Sassanian Empire.
My Verdict: I was once again treated to a unique story with incredibly vivid and often terrifying creatures and characters, some of which don't even stay dead after they have been killed. And though Ashtadukht is dead, she still makes the occasional appearance in the way of memories, feelings, and the sword that Tirdad must carry. She is the invisible third character in a journey that is clearly going to be tough, but entertaining. What Drake does so well is making it clear that there is more to the journey than what Tirdad sees, but this truth is not revealed in any obvious way. It is the subtle sense of unease that comes from almost every conversation and encounter that tells the reader that things are not as Tirdad wants to believe them to be. It is another successful blend of historical fiction and fantasy, with an adventure that will keep any reader entertained.
Favorite Moment: Any moment when Tirdad is shown that he knows very little in the grand scheme of things, and there is a lot of them.
Favorite Character: Chobin is the kind of friend that we all need to help us not take ourselves too seriously all of the time.
Recommended Reading: The Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor is also full of strange creatures and epic adventures.