Featuring boardroom intrigue, masquerade balls, gondola chases, street gangs, and shapeshifting mages, the second installment of this series continues the Fall of the Gods series as Buc and Eld turn from pirates to politics and face the deadliest mystery of their career.
While I have made this sound like it is solely a novel of memory, information control, mistaken assumptions and recollection, and the mistakes we make when we have very much have the situation wrong, the novel has action beats in spades ... Chases via Gondola, shootouts in slums, deadly swordplay and lots more keep the action beats coming at sometimes unpredictable intervals ... the action scenes are very engagingly and clearly written, even when mixing up the timeline ... After a pirate adventure, and a study of memory, forgetfulness, magic and politics in this second book, I am very curious as to where Van Loan proceeds with the series.
Van Loan puts his own stamp on this familiar territory, ably incorporating the romantic tension between Buc and Eld and fusing the setting with steampunk tendencies that feel necessary to the story, rather than merely tacked on for flavor ... although they occasionally veer into cliché (in particular, Van Loan’s descriptions of Buc’s attempts at romance trend this way), they nevertheless remain convincing. Both Buc and Eld are well-written protagonists with complex morals and motivations. Van Loan excels at writing unexpectedly dark stories with quick, high-energy prose, propelling the reader through this fairly convoluted plot with a twisted kind of brio ... This speed contributes directly to what is, initially, The Justice in Revenge’s most infuriating aspect: Van Loan hides information from the reader by, well, just skipping things and filling them in later. Most of the time. Some gaps are never filled, so readers who want their novels to leave no questions unanswered should beware. But these spaces are never accidental, and the loose ends still dangling on the last page are clearly intended to be there. Van Loan carries off this stylistic choice with conviction, even starting the story in the middle of a plot that is not really explained for several chapters. It is a welcome reprieve from excessive exposition, as well as an incredibly effective hook. However, this lack of exposition means that The Justice in Revenge relies even more heavily on the reader’s familiarity with its predecessor than most fantasy sequels already do ... may not be especially innovative, and it requires a lot of attention to read without getting horribly lost in Servenza’s labyrinthine subplots. But it is a lot of fun.
Van Loan seamlessly includes gender equality and LGBTQ+ relationships in this fantasy setting, keeping Buc’s focus on the class inequality she wants to eliminate as they rush between different neighborhoods of Servenza. With pirates, magic, and mechanical gadgets, this engaging story will appeal to a cross section of readers.