A number of trilogies will tend to have the following loose format: the first delves into the world of new and exciting things, the finale gives you that wonderful climax and denouement for these characters you've grown to love, but the second novel just kind of gets you there. It bridges a gap and makes the third book a little better, but in it's own right it's just there doing exactly what a bridge does. It looks cool from a distance, but when you're on it, it's just another road.
This is my oh-so-clever way to tell you The Devil's Armor [US] [UK] does not suffer from the sequel slump. You didn't see that coming at all did you?
In Marco's Tyrants and Kings trilogy, it was actually the second book, The Grand Design, that was my favorite of the entire trilogy. While I can't say so at this point as I've yet to even start the final book, but the same thing is looking to be a possibility in this trilogy as well. The Devil's Armor is an excellent sequel and while it serves as a great bridge to the third novel, it's a deep and compelling book all on its own.
It's no secret that epic fantasy is my main concentration. It just gets me. Not that I want to be alive through all that famine and disease and blood. I mean I really really like medical advancements. But I love reading about battles and history in the making. The problems epic fantasy addresses isn't constrained by history or the laws of physics, it can be anything even if many times it's the same boy-who-defeats-evil-lord plot.
And that's another reason Marco pushes all the right buttons for me. He writes epic fantasy, but he turns a lot of the fantasy tropes on their heads. What happens if that evil dark lord is actually your best friend? What if all you have is an army of people with disabilities (you tear them a new one is what you do!)? What if your hero doesn't make the right decisions, what if he makes terrible decisions sometimes? What if the guy called "King Lorn the Wicked" isn't really a bad guy after all?
The Devil's Armor takes up a year after The Eyes of God, book one of the Bronze Knight trilogy, and starts with the civil war going on in Norvor. The Diamond Queen, Jazana Carr, has paid her way to an almost complete conquest of Norvor and King Lorn (the Wicked) realizes he's been betrayed by almost everyone around him. What a great opening this is, what a satisfying story in and of itself where King Lorn essentially betrays his betrayers.
We also go back to Lukien, who's busy defending Grimhold as is his calling now with the Eye of God keeping him alive. It's actually quite interesting that Lukien really doesn't make a huge appearance in this novel and yet I still consider this one of my favorites. I remember reading The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan and it drove me nuts that Rand was quite possibly in all of 3 pages in the whole book. Here, I hardly noticed until the very end, there were too many things I was interested in to even care.
Gilwyn has been put in charge of Jador as regent for the true ruler, White-Eye, who cannot even visit the place because her eyes prevent her from going anywhere that is too bright. The one-armed Baron Glass is also still in Grimhold and finding himself less and less useful as war has passed (for now) and everyone, including his friends, have gone to their old and new duties.
Marco does an excellent job of seamlessly filling the reader in with details from the previous book, which is very unlike how I have done. Sometimes I like to struggle to find something out, but sometimes it's nice not to have to go look something up, to be told what happened and why this person or event is important. To be done succinctly without interrupting the flow of the novel is hard work, but it's pitch perfect here.
I think the thing I was most impressed with was how much I liked the character of King Lorn the Wicked. Marco writes some of my favorite characters and somehow my favorites are the ones that are supposed to be the bad guys.
Battles are fought, evil manifested, and betrayals are numerous. Marco knows how to plot a book (and series for that matter) and I'm amazed at where things end up from where they began. I thoroughly enjoyed this second installment in the Bronze Knight trilogy, an improvement on the first even and can't wait for more.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)
The Bronze Knight/Lukien/Inhuman Trilogy [Read in red]:
1) The Eyes of God (review)
2) The Devil's Armor
3) The Sword of Angels
Stand-alone in same universe:
- The Forever Knight (Released just last week)