Ten years have gone by and much has changed for the remnants of humanity that remain aboard The Hive. Leon Jordan is now the Captain and Tin has grown up to become the Commander of team Raptor. It is no surprise that he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and X and become a Hell Diver since X's loss is still felt to this day. X may be gone, but he is not forgotten, and his final sacrifice has turned him into a role model that still gives people hope, which is in short supply. Captain Jordan has abandoned Captain Ash's belief that humanity would one day return to Earth and he is willing to do whatever it takes to convince the rest of the crew that the surface is forever lost. However, walking away from the dreams of so many people is bound to have consequences...
Yarvi was born the son of a king, but unfortunately for him, the gods also saw fit to give him a crippled hand. In his father's eyes this means that he will never be more than half a son with a future no better than half a man, so Yarvi finds himself destined for women's work as a minister. This is actually a good fit for Yarvi because he has a sharp mind and he finds that his apprenticeship to Mother Gundring, the Minister of Gettland, goes quite well. Yarvi is eagerly awaiting the upcoming test that will promote him out of apprenticeship when both his father and his brother are unexpectedly killed on a diplomatic mission. Now Yarvi's life course is forever altered and he finds that he must take the throne instead. Upon doing so he is counseled to swear a blood oath to avenge his father and brother and kill the person responsible for their deaths. Now Gettland has half a king and Yarvi must figure out how a cripple who can't even hold a shield is supposed to carry out an oath of vengeance...
"We dive so humanity survives." That is the motto of the Hell Divers, who risk their lives to keep the final remnants of humanity alive. All remaining humans now live aboard massive airships that float above a storm covered, radioactive Earth, which has not been habitable for the last 250 years. These dated airships have only managed to stay in the air by regularly sending Hell Divers down to the planet below to scavenge the parts they need to keep their reactors running. Hell Divers, who have an average life expectancy of only 15 jumps, are composed of brave men and women willing to risk their lives by parachuting down through the storms to a toxic planet where they scavenge for items created in the past by a people they no longer understand.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle teamed up to tell this apocalyptic tale in 1977, which was a time before such stories were a dime a dozen. This is a book composed of two distinct parts with the first half following various individuals as they go about their normal, and somewhat boring lives, as well as following an un-named comet across the eons as various cosmic events affect its path. The comet is eventually named Hamner-Brown upon discovery, and it quickly becomes known as "The Hammer" as TV coverage ramps up post discovery. The odds are a billion to one that it will hit Earth, but of course that would make for a boring book, so the second part of the book starts upon "Hammer Fall" and covers the impact this devastating event has to the planet as well as the characters from the first half.
I was intrigued by the premise of Partials right off the bat. The last bastion of humanity finds itself living on Long Island with a dwindling population and thus facing extinction. All humans still alive are infected with a virus known as RM that is passed on to newborn children, killing them all within 3 days of their birth. The last successful birth was 14 years ago and things are getting desperate. The school is being shut down due to a lack of students and the Hope Act is now in effect requiring every female 18 and above to be pregnant at all times; hoping beyond hope that a child will be born with a natural immunity to this deadly disease. And that is only half of the problem....
The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence started with humble beginnings but over the course of the series it has dramatically increased in scope and it finally culminates with a battle of characters from multiple worlds. A few of those characters have grown exponentially in power over time, including Caldan, and now a battle of super powerful beings, each with their own agenda, finally comes together. So is there a payoff for all the buildup done in the first two books? The answer is yes, but this book is not without its flaws, and sometimes how you get there can ruin the destination.
With the city of Anasoma in enemy hands, Caldan finds himself on the run in rather strange company. Elpidia, a healer who is dying from a strange disease and wants to drink his blood because she believes it will keep her alive, Amerdan, a shopkeeper by day and serial killer by night who kills with a blade better than most assassins, Bells, a deadly enemy sorcerer who is being held captive and has vowed to kill them all, and Miranda, his love interest who is the only person that he can really trust in the group. Unfortunately for Caldan that means he is actually quote alone as Miranda remains in a comatose state due to a coercive sorcery accident that may leave her irrevocably damaged. This odd mix of individuals, and their individual secret agendas, provide for a whole host of intriguing possibilities, and this is just one of the story lines as war rages on within the Mahruse Empire.
Mitchell Hogan starts off the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence in a pretty standard way. Caldan is an orphan who was raised by monks on an isolated island after his parents were brutally slain. Caldan is a unique individual, as he is both "touched by the ancestors" and has a sorcerer's well, which is very rare combination. When he comes of age the monks reveal to him that his parents left him some powerful magical artifacts and when they give them to him his world changes. His powers begin to manifest and he finds that he must leave his isolated existence with the monks and make his way in the real world. Although this is a bit of a trope, I have always enjoyed learning about a fantasy world and the magical system within it from the perspective of a character learning it at the same time, and it works quite well here.
In the main trilogy of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, Lady Felicienne is one of the "point of view" characters that plays a key role in determining the outcome of the story. This prequel novella gives you some insight into how she acquired her role in service to the Emperor. Lady Felicienne started as a private investigator in the capital city of the Mahruse Empire and her knack for the game Dominion starts to get her noticed. Dominion is a board game that is played across the empire using a board with 3 tiered levels and a wide variety of pieces, making it very complex and strategic. The annual tournament in the capital is so popular that the Emperor himself meets the winner and this event is the backdrop for this novella.
To review a book a read 25 years ago would usually require reading the book again. Perhaps the greatest recommendation I can offer for A Song For Arbonne is that 25 years and thousands of books later I remember it well. Arbonne is land of wine, music, and very fine seaports coveted by its landlocked neighbor Gorhaut. Unfortunately for the aging Countess who rules Arbonne the bulk of her armies belongs to her two dukes who have been on the verge of civil war for years. Enter Blaise of Gorhaut, an ordinary mercenary in the employ of one of Arbonne's lesser barons and let the game of thrones begin.