This is the second book in the Griffin Mage trilogy. I think you could probably read this book without reading the first one, as the main characters are different and it focuses on a different country (Casmantium rather than Feierabiand), but there are reappearances from characters in the first book and it does continue a wide-reaching story arc. Land of the Burning Sands was sent to me for review by Orbit books.
My review of the first book, Lord of the Changing Winds can be found here:
The Premise: The story begins with Gereint Enseichen, a geas-bound man in Casmantium, who, when his master’s town is being evacuated, sees an opportunity to escape his magical bounds. Eventually his escape through the desert around the town of Melentser creates consequences that reach further than he would have expected.
My Thoughts: Since Land of the Burning Sands starts its focus with Gereint rather than any of the characters from the first book in this series, it initially doesn’t feel like a continuation and more like a separate standalone. Gereint has a layperson’s idea of what happened in Feierbiand, but it’s only relevant to him because it means the evacuation of Melentser, and a means to escape his geas. What we focus on when we begin Land of the Burning Sands on isn’t the griffins, but whether Gereint is going to escape or even survive.
Because I’m more drawn to character-driven stories, this focus on Gereint’s journey made the first half of Land of the Burning Sands faster read to me than Lord of the Changing Winds. I think the more limited scope just appealed to me more, at least from this writer, and while I did like the dreamy descriptions of the searing desert and alien griffins in the first book, they do their job too well sometimes, and can wear me down as a reader. There was less of that here. I enjoyed reading about Gereint, who despite his status came off as well read and educated (it made me smile that he included the theft of a book in his survival supplies!) I was curious about his human problems – whether he’ll be identified for what he is and caught, and what will happen to the people who helped him. I also liked that along the way we learn more about the magic system. This book sheds light on the Casmantium affinity for making (the people of Feierbiand have instead an affinity for animals, and Linularinum for words), the geas binding that Gereint tests every chance he gets, and further along, the Casmantium’s Cold Mages.
Of course, this isn’t just the story of Gereint. Over the course of the book his path merges with the larger story of Casmantium and the griffins, and the scope of the story begins to widen. He meets Tehre Amnachudran Tanshan, a brilliant but absentminded maker/scientist, and after this, the focus shifts back and forth between their two characters. It is after her character is introduced that the King of Castmantium, and the last Cold Mage, Beguchren Teshrichten, both characters that first appeared in Lord of the Changing Winds are brought into the story. They bring Tehre and Gereint into the ongoing issues brought on by what happened in Lord of the Changing Winds. Gereint and Tehre’s stories split up. They both make separate journeys, Gereint with the Cold Mage, and Tehre, frustrated with being labeled ineffectual when she is not, follows with Lord Bertraud, the Feierabiand king’s advisor and principle character in the first book.
At this point of the book, where the focus is once more on the wider scope of a country rather than an individual’s problems, that the book began to slow down for me. I found it obvious where the book was going. There were hints throughout, but the author takes the long route to reveal the repercussions of the end of Lord of the Changing Winds to the main characters in Land of the Burning Sands, and I felt really impatient with that. I thought the details of their days journeying to save their country were somewhat tedious, but the climax, which involve the griffin mages in book one, caught my interest again. I really liked that we got to see Kes and the griffins from a different point of view in this installment. There was a stark difference in who I was rooting for here, and I was struck by how well the author changed my perspective. I also liked how things were ultimately resolved. I’m not sure what will happen in the third book but there was a teaser for it at the end of this one which has piqued my interest. My guess is we will be learning about Linularinum. The third book, Law of the Broken Earth, is coming out in December.
Overall: This is shaping up to be a solid, well-written fantasy series. I’m enjoying the world building and the characters in this story, and the pacing in comparison to the first book was much better, with less parts I found slow. I think that you could probably read this out of order from the rest of the series, even though there are reappearances by characters from the previous book, they are not the principle ones.
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My world.. in words and pages – positive review