Author: C.F Iggulden
Title: Shiang (Empire of Salt #2)
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Plot: IF THESE STONES COULD SPEAK . . . THEY WOULD CALL FOR WAR.
In Shiang, the young king rules without dissent. Mazer swordsmen stand watch on every corner, looking for the first sign of rebellion. This city is a place of quiet and slow dignity, like a man eating rice with a razor pressed against his throat.
Yet with one sharp movement, order is overturned. The balance of centuries is undone in the sudden spill of blood – and in the darkness, something terrible returns to Shiang.
Far to the west, four Shiang masters approach the city walls of Darien. The sword saint and his companions have crossed a continent to bring an old man home for punishment. They will not be denied, even if the whole city stands in their way.
TWO ANCIENT CITIES. ONE FINAL WAR.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Darien, I was very excited to see the second book, Shiang, available through the digital library and quickly borrowed myself a copy.
The first third of the book disappointed me. Several new characters were introduced, but one is kicked out of his own body within the first few chapters, a few are murdering mad-men and the other group fell completely flat in terms of personality. Switching between these different plot lines meant the beginning of the book was a little boring.
Staying with it, however, turned it into a tense, action-packed adventure that leaves you holding your breath, wondering how on earth the characters are going to get out of it.
The turning point was when the characters start to reach Darien. The return of Tellius as a main character instantly brought humour and sarcasm to the book: I loved him from the first and it was fun returning to his character and seeing how he had grown since the attack a few years previously. At the core, he still cares far too much about Darien and wanting to protect her citizens.
Tellius was not quite sure if he believed in the Goddess of Darien, but he had learned not to cross a vengeful woman and it cost him nothing to observe the forms.
Tellius acts as a central point to the characters. A group of swordsmen have been sent to find him, giving us insight into Tellius backstory. While that group were boring when they were travelling, they prove their worth once they enter the fray and their loyalties to the crown can never be called into doubt.
Gabriel is a cold-hearted killer who wants nothing more than the power of the stones of the great families of Darien. Unfortunately, the stones give him more power, making him almost invulnerable to anyone trying to stop him. You were left with baited breath, wondering if it was ever going to be possible for the good guys to bring him down – and what it would cost them to do it.
Marias was my favourite character. A slave in love with her master; she is prepared to follow Gabriel because it means there’s a chance she can save the man she loves: the man whose body Gabriel is currently inhabiting. She’s vulnerable and weak compared to the other characters, and it makes her bravery and determination seem more powerful than their courageous battle feats.
As mentioned, the beginning is slow paced and drags. But as the threat and violence increases, this is a gripping book that I was unable to put down, having no idea what the outcome was going go be. Tellius’ dry sense of humour and his bickering with the other lords cuts through that tension, giving you moments of respite even as the city burns.
There aren’t as many story-arcs as in Darien, but they come together nicely with memorable characters and feats of incredible bravery. There’s magic involved, but it’s an undercurrent to the characters and the setting rather than being a dominant feature. It’s the quest for magic, rather than the power itself.
Don’t get put off by the slow start: this is an enjoyable read!