Since I opened this blog three years ago I've been reading more science fiction than fantasy. And when I've read fantasy I have chosen urban fantasy in front of epic fantasy, I have a certain surfeit of this subgenre, altough it has always been one of my favorites. The tendency to publish sagas instead of independent novels has saturated me.
That is why I choose very carefully my readings of this genre. Last year I read The Tiger and the Wolf, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, mostly because I enjoyed the author's previous novel a lot.
I found a novel with an original world-building, in which humans are able to transform into the totemic animal of the tribe they belong. The protagonist is a half blood, capable of transforming into a wolf and into a tiger. The plot narrates her escape of the tribe that has seen her grow, the wolves, when she discovers what they have in mind for her. The story of personal growth of the protagonist is mixed with a history of dark omens for the future of the world in which they live. Although the main protagonist lacks the necessary charisma to accompany the good background, the secondary ones were very interesting. My final assessment was not overly positive, especially since the novel is suffering from an excess of persecutions and ritual fights, but I ended up with interest in knowing how the story is going to evolve.
This year I've been very lucky with the second parts of the sagas I'm reading. I think Tchaikovsky in The bear and the serpent corrects the details that caused that the previous novel of the saga was not perfect.
The story is explained from many points of view (many more than in previous novel), with much more variety in the locations, and the rhythm is not affected by persecutions and struggles, which are not as abundant as in its predecessor. The plot becomes more complicated, events of the past are clarified (although new mysteries are opened), new tribes and new enemies appear and there are really surprising plot twists. A very entertaining novel, and totally recommendable, although with some failures that I will comment later.
Watch out! From here, spoilers of the first book, and some of the second.
The novel presents two very different plots. On the one hand Maniye, Hessec and Asmander return to the land of the Rivers to participate in the dispute between the two twin brothers who aspire to the throne. The division between the priests and the main houses of the river is about to trigger a civil war. In the cold north, Loud Thunder has the mission to reunite the priests of the different tribes to try to discover the threat that everyone predicts but nobody knows. The two plots advance in parallel, almost as if they were two independent novels, although in the background they are related. The changes between plots and between points of view of characters that are in the same plot is very well achieved and manages to maintain the interest and the tension throughout the story.
The characters have a really bad time, but with such a large cast, I think there should be more casualties of important characters. Accustomed to the stories of Abercombrie, Martin or Erikson this has seemed a bit innocent to me in this sense. Maybe the book it's aimed at a different public, maybe young adults. I'm also afraid of how the author will explain the origin of the main enemy of the protagonists. If he chooses what I have intuited, I think it will be a little disappointing, but from what I read of him, the author deserves a vote of confidence, and therefore I will wait for the conclusion of the saga to be able to comment it based on facts and not intuitions.
In short, an interesting saga for its world-building, for many of the characters (especially the secondary ones) and for its evolution, since this second volume improves and corrects the main defects that I found int its predecessor. I'm looking forward the next one.