Book Review – Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear (2013)

Shattered Pillars (The Eternal Sky, book 2)
by Elizabeth Bear
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books

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I love fantasy. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a kid. But my fantasy has to have meat to it; hack-and-slash fantasy doesn’t do much for me, unless it’s a part of a bigger story. Because of this, novels that focus on world-building and fleshing out the cultures of the lands that inhabit said world are therefore what really get my blood flowing. Elizabeth Bear’s new book SHATTERED PILLARS is one of these pulse-pounding books. It is set in a lavish and beautiful world filled with action and intrigue, a realistic land that you will want to visit over and over again.

If you are not familiar with SHATTERED PILLARS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Tor Books:

From the eastern end of the Celadon Highway to the western, chaos reigns. The great Khaganate is shattered, and with it the peace. High in his desert fastness, the sorcerer Mukhtar ai-Idoj, al-Sepehr of the Nameless sect of the Rahazeen, plots to bring all the world under the rule of his Scholar-God. He is very close to success; his enemies war with one another, and none sees the true author of their downfall.

Re-Temur and the wizard Samarkar have reached the great city of Asitaneh and the house of Temur’s powerful grandfather. With their companions, they intend to mount an assault on the fortress of the Rahazeen to rescue Temur’s beloved, Edene. If they succeed, it will be a mighty feat, a hero’s deed. But Temur has sworn a magical oath, and he has a wizard of the Tsarepheth at his side.

Far to the east of Asitaneh, the attack on the Rasan empire has taken the form of a plague. The imperial city of Tsarepheth struggles against the contagion, a terrible disease that kills all who contract it. The wizard-healers do all they can to discover the course and cure the disease, but with little success. Someone with power in the city has invited the plague demons in, and if the Emperor Songtsan falls to the disease, so too might the Rasan Empire–he has no heir who is of age.

But al-Sepehr has made one error. He has allowed the escape of his hostage, Edene.

SHATTERED PILLARS is one of those books that you’ll read several times, just so you can soak up everything about it. It is an epic continuation of the Eternal Sky fantasy series and picks up close to where the first book leaves off. Once again, as with the previous book, RANGE OF GHOSTS, Bear does a painstaking job of creating a lush world full of eccentric characters and believable landscapes.

Again as with its predecessor, this book is written very well, and it never sacrifices the story for its prose. Bear writes with silk-smooth form, filling the reader’s head with vivid details while not bogging the story down with over-descriptive scenes. I love this aspect of her writing, as it showcases the immense talent that she possesses.

Aside from the rich creation of its world and cultures, the story in SHATTERED PILLARS continues to impress. The trials that Temur faces as he quests to free his love are intense, while the secondary plots that populate the main storyline are also quite immersive. The reader is never left in a slow period, as Bear does an excellent job of pacing each aspect of the story.

SHATTERED PILLARS is an absolute win for me and I recommend checking it out. You might check out the previous book RANGE OF GHOSTS first, though, otherwise you might be a bit lost on certain things. But regardless, definitely give this one a look. Elizabeth Bear is a top-rate author and this book is a true testament to that. You won’t be disappointed.

MSB

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