Corbin and Marley circled around a relationship – until he disappeared without a trace for a very long time.
Now he’s back – and he’s changed. He’s consumed by rage and anger and hate against his family and the Senyaza corporation he worked for. That same corporation also wants Marley to bring him back into the fold… while quietly hiding why they may deserve his scorn
It doesn’t help that Senyaza is also suspected of shenanigans by the government organisation Branwyn’s sister works for – which would be enough to enrage Branwyn – if it weren’t for another her creations in the hands of a potentially murderous angel which will lead to more of her morals being compromised.
This world is vast and strange and huge and original. With the celestial beings (angels and Kaiju), the fae, the various offspring of these beings and their myriad powers, a very original magic system, celestial machines with a will of their own and even sentient buildings – there’s a huge amount there
And none of it is simple. It would be easy to create a vast world and then have the good creatures and the bad creatures and the naughty organisation and the nice one. But it’s not that simple because everyone and everything is scrabbling to hold their corner while the whole world is changing with the recent revelation of the supernatural. It leaves no organisation necessarily evil and none necessarily good – but all of them doing things that are… unpleasant and dubious as they try to keep up with the newly changing world. Whether that’s the government agency that Bronwyn’s sister works for weaponising her inventions, working with dubious angels and trying to set up magical-people registers or Senyaza callously risking the life of one of their own for an advantage and, again, perverting one of Branwyn’s creations way beyond her expectations
And our protagonists aren’t immune to this – making deals with Senyaza, making deals with Kaiju, working with beings that were once their sworn enemy. It’s hard to stick to your morals when family and loved ones are involved.
Branwyn and Marley both excellently represent different ways of dealing with this conflict. Branwyn is overwhelmed and outraged because just about everyone is trying to use her. Her highly in demand skills are being exploited on all sides – and she’s certainly profiting from that – but then she has to face her inventions and creations being abused time and again. She’s a woman with fierce morals and principles – but even her most benign acts seem to be co-opted by creatures so much more cunning than she imagined. Her moral conflicts are excellent to see
While Marley is focused on a more personal level – keeping people she cares about and values safe (including Corbin) when just about everyone is being hooked in by at least one of the organisations for potentially nefarious purposes; along the way we see plenty of people who have been at least a little chewed up by the powers that be
Penny really works well cutting through all of this – I love how her changed nature combines with her epic, practical completely-unimpressed-by-your-bullshit attitude to just hammer through all the “what-ifs” and awe and terror. Penny is Not Impressed. Despite not being one of the main characters, Penny may be my favourite simply because she was such a victim in the beginning of the series and is now so inflexibly strong.
This book has brought together so many of the characters with their own separate storylines – Matchbox Girls and Infinity Key along with several world elements are now nicely converging on one. If I had a criticism about the series it was that each book seemed only tangentially connected to the other – not necessarily a bad thing but it read more as an anthology than an actual series. But this book is stronger for the disparate focus of the ones that came before it, each of them exploring more of the world with their different emphasis allowing me to read this book with all the knowledge needed to make it make sense: whether it’s Branwyn’s story telling me of the fae and Machines or AT’s story talking about the Kaiju and magical world or Marley’s examination of how magic worked. It’s all coming together now into a big complex – but understandable – whole. I like the feel of this because it suggests this series is, in some ways, beginning
Diversitywise we do have POC – Penny is definitely and overtly labelled as Middle Eastern and Simon (there's also a random Kaiju who is... a Kaiju). This isn’t exactly something I can praise especially because there really is a HUGE cast in this book – a good squillion people – and this is both very few POC and not the most prominent (Penny is there a fair bit but isn’t close to a co-protagonist. Frankly it’s only their very long and powerful relationship which stops me saying she’s there to help her friends with their drama). There are no LGBT characters, sadly.
This book is not only excellent in its own right – but it also promises that the whole series is heading to higher and better places. I can’t wait for the next; it’s all coming together – I just hope there’s so much more to come