A review by lanko
The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams


Really good, with surprising twists along the way. If the first book was pretty straightforward, this one has many careful layers and foreshadowing built in.

Wydrin, Sebastian and Frith got a lot more depth here. If in the first book Sebastian was the one who took the brunt of the hard and moral decisions, here this is more evenly spread between them, although Frith has the lead on this one.

Also, there are many more secondary characters, and they also always have at very least their fifteen lines of fame, a lot growing in importance and doing memorable deeds as the story progresses. Unfortunately, Ephemeral, my favorite character since the first book, wasn't one of them and she didn't appear much either. But the other new characters made up for it. The villains are pretty good too.

Another change from the previous book is the tone and atmosphere. The first had a more adventurous feeling, and here, while having heart touching moments between some characters, also have a very grim tone in others.
There are lots of deaths, injuries and sacrifices, as there are two nations at war, a demon, a mad mage and an assassin on the loose, and the heroes also don't shy away from giving the enemy the sharp ends.
In the first book probably there were many more deaths than in here, as Y'ruen wiped out entire cities and orders, but this was told through reports, something that felt too distant and impersonal. Here the characters are always at the center of events, raging and mourning their losses, now all characters we got to know, even if briefly, and the deaths always happens in front of at least one character, shown to us, a much more powerful and welcome change.

This is balanced by Sebastian's doubts and feelings towards his daughters and someone special, Frith remains insufferable and since they tend to be serious, Wydrin's humor really shines.

I also liked that events of the first book are used to remind us of those events. They don't appear just in the beginning as some failed attempt to disguise a summary of the previous book like I've seen some trying to do, but appear throughout the story in small dosages. This is good for those who remember them and for those who don't it will bring the memory back.

Two things that I found strange, though:
Spoiler In the first book's ending, 200 Brood sisters remain alive after the battle and decide to follow Sebastian. Here, there is only about 48 or 50, and unless I missed something, it's never explained what happened to the other 150.
Also, O'rin, who is supposed to a powerful god with knowledge of the Edeian, dies really, really easily, without managing to throw a single attack.

Great read, and there are hints of even greater things to come in the next volume.