Ruin of Angels

      Publisher: Tor 

      RRP: £19.99

      Author: Max Gladstone 

      Published:  2017-09-05




The God Wars destroyed the city of Alikand.  Now, a century and a half and a great many construction contracts later, Agdel Lex rises in its place.  Dead deities litter the surrounding desert, streets shift when people aren’t looking, a squidlike tower dominates the skyline, and the foreign Iskari Rectification Authority keeps strict order in this once-independent city—while treasure seekers, criminals, combat librarians, nightmare artists, angels, demons, dispossessed knights, grad students, and other fools gather in its ever-changing alleys, hungry for the next big score.

Priestess/investment banker Kai Pohala (last seen in Full Fathom Five) hits town to corner Agdel Lex’s burgeoning nightmare startup scene, and to visit her estranged sister Lei.  But Kai finds Lei desperate at the center of a shadowy, and rapidly unravelling, business deal.  When Lei ends up on the run, wanted for a crime she most definitely committed, Kai races to track her sister down before the Authority finds her first.  But Lei has her own plans, involving her ex-girlfriend, a daring heist into the god-haunted desert, and, perhaps, freedom for an occupied city.  Because Alikand might not be completely dead—and some people want to finish the job


Gladstone provides a range of complex characters.


Diving into a series midway is always a bit disconcerting; you can't be sure when something would mean more or should be interpreted differently based on previous stories. But sometimes it can be exciting to jump into something new with both feet; to try to work out for yourself what’s going on.

The world of the Craft Sequence is an interesting one, in which belief and thought can have a direct impact on the stability of the city, where buildings may be stone or living flesh and religion even more controversial, and where souls are currency in some strange kind of way that isn't clear; it’s all very reminiscent of China Mieville, which is no bad thing. The basic world and its history – the God Wars, the twin cities of Alikand and Agdel Lex and their interaction - are all intriguing in their own right.

Though not impossible, it's often hard to find good science fiction or fantasy with an even balance or even a bias of female characters, especially not if you expect them to be interesting. Refreshingly, however, Ruin of Angels is a great example, and on the whole the men are not particularly in the frame. Gladstone provides a range of complex characters whether good, bad and or somewhere in between, and they all seem to swirl around Ley, Kai's estranged sister – who, sadly, is the novel’s greatest flaw. Maybe the intent was for her to appear mysterious and sexy, but instead she comes across as irritating, repeatedly explaining over and over about her need for trust. If this were a film you could rely on the skills of the actress to communicate almost anything, but in print you rely on the prose and sadly that is lacking, at least when it comes to Kay’s character.

Fortunately, however, Ruin of Angels has a lot of other characters to enjoy - like Izza, Raymet and the exiled Camlaander Knight Gal -  in addition to plot elements like a train heist, and lots of interesting concepts and ideas besides. The story also encompasses the difficulties of sisterhood, the balance of power and privilege and who is really right to act, stability over self-determination and the value and danger of history, giving it an emotional edge which hooks the reader in. Well worth picking up.