Harbinger of the Storm is the second volume in the Obsidian and Blood series of novels by Aliette de Bodard, and follows on from the events in Servant of the Underworld, both published by Angry Robot Books.
One and a half years have passed since the events in Servant of the Underworld and the Emperor has finally died. Also known as the Revered Speaker, the Emperor acted as the emissary of the War and Sun god Huitzlipochtli and without his protection the entire Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of annihilation.
A malevolent goddess and her flesh eating star demons seek to take advantage of this lack of protection and unless a new Leader is chosen soon the protective magics will fail, allowing these star demons to descend from the heavens and wreak bloody havok in the streets of the city. When a councilman is found dead, it is feared that these demons are already breaking free and only Acatl, high priest of the dead, can solve this mystery.
And so we return to follow Acatl, the priest detective of the Mexica Empire as he investigates the murder of the councilman and the consequences of this horrific slaughter. The distinctive style is very much the same as Servant of the Underworld but there is a faster pace and slightly tighter dialog (not that there was anything wrong with it before). The action seems to have been ramped up a bit too, with battles against creatures from demons all the way up to gods.
I love the way that this series is written, and the style that the author infuses onto the page - the rich mythology of Mexica along with the very real and physical presence of the god's (there is no room for doubt here that they exist) along with the graphic and frequent bloodletting. Moving through this we have the reluctant priest and detective Acatl, still torn between fitting into a society that he has little patience for and his principles. His assistant Teomitl has really grown in power, flowing with the might of his god and even able to summon creatures to fight at his side.
Another thing that intrigues me here is the whole fact that historically we know that the real empire died out mysteriously and completely and as such there is always that thought in the back of my mind that the author could choose to bring about the end of days. That highlighted sense of possible doom is something that is missing from too many novels.
The way the story is told in this book is very impressive, the plot is both mature and seductive, twisting and turning like a weather vane in a force 9 gale while the action is both bloodthirsty and imaginative. The world building is fantastic and we get to learn even more of this rich culture and the many gods and creatures of the dark.
I really can't fault this book at all and recommend it to one and all but if you haven't yet read Servant of the Underworld I suggest that you get them both and read them in order, you won't be dissapointed.
Written on Saturday 12th March 2011 by Antony.
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