(This review originally appeared on Geek Ireland)
Published by Tor.com, Lightning in the Blood is the second book in Marie Brennan’s tale of Ree Varekai. Much time has passed since the events of Cold-Forged Flame and Aadet’s rebellion has been a success. The former ruler of Solaike has been deposed, and a new leader raised in his place. Cursed to ever wander however, Ree has been away from her old friend for many seasons, but her latest return could not have come at a more troublesome time. Deep in the mountains of Solaike, a group, loyal to the deposed ruler, has been harassing caravans and killing travellers. When Ree comes across one such caravan, little does she know that this chance meeting will reveal her past, dictate her present and set her future on a new path.
Brennan’s use of secondary characters to create an engaging heroine is absolutely masterful. As mentioned before, no one character knows everything there is to know about Ree, but each offers a tantalising glimpse of the whole. Through Ree’s own thoughts we know that her past, before she wakes at the start of Cold-Forged Flame, is lost to her. Through her interactions with other characters, from Aadet and The Lhain to Mevreš we are able to piece together a greater picture of an alluring character.
One of the key issues with the novella as a writing form is the lack of room to really go in depth into character and world creation. Brennan has navigated these waters masterfully however, teasing out little details at a time to create a rich and intriguing world. In Cold-Forged Flame we were briefly introduced to the concept of Archons, while this latest title in the series delves a little deeper. Combined the stories weave an interesting and compelling mythology that attests to the author’s anthropology background. So too are the world and its people becoming more fleshed out as the series continues. All of this lends a pleasant counterpart to the story’s compelling lead character.
Lightning in the Blood is a wonderful addition to the Ree Varekai series. Like its predecessor it offers just the right amount of exposition on a wonderfully detailed world. At just over 100 pages it provides not only an excellent ‘between books’ read but also a compelling read of its own accord.