Waiting for a Jennifer Fallon book to come out is like being a kid told by Mom that she’s making this scrumptious chocolate cake in the morning, but you can't have a slice until you both spend all day at school and get your homework done when you get home. In other words, it can be excruciating. I'm thankful that the slice of cake has always been worth the wait, and that's certainly true of Fallon's second book in the "Tide Lords" series, The Gods of Amyrantha. This has to be her best book since Warrior, as the shortcomings I found with The Immortal Prince (few as they were) are all addressed in the second book, and she hasn't added any major missteps. Once again, upon finishing this book, I want next summer to come now.
The Tide is coming in, that ebb and flow of magic that gives the various immortals inhabiting the world of Amyrantha their magical powers. The last time the Tide came in, Cayal, the "Immortal Prince" who is sick and tired of immortality and wants to find a way to kill himself, destroyed a large part of Torlenia in what's called the "Cataclysm." As the Tide rolls in, various immortals position themselves to take power in the many lands of this world, opposed only by a secret cabal of regular people who will do anything to stop them.
Arkady, wife of Duke Desean of Glaeba, bristles under the strict rules that women must follow in Torlenia (always appearing in public in a shroud, etc.), but she befriends the concubine of Torlenia's ruler, who holds many more secrets than a concubine should. Declan Hawkes, spymaster for the king of Glaeba and member of the Cabal, is torn between familial duties and figuring out how to stop Immortal takeovers in both Glaeba and Caelum. Cayal, as ever, simply wants to die. A fellow immortal may have an idea how to do that and sends him on a mission to recruit other immortals to the cause. Just what is his motivation to help, though - and what will it mean for the world? Has Cayal finally discovered a reason to live in Arkady? As the novel progresses, we discover that the Cabal may have some friends in high places to help out. But will that matter, or will they be betrayed?
The Gods of Amyrantha is almost impossible to put down. Fallon's prose, characterization and plotting carry you along on the tide of events. Almost every chapter ends on a note that makes you want to read further. Regarding the prose, one of my peeves with The Immortal Prince was the almost romance novel style Fallon used, especially during the Cayal-Arkady scenes. Thankfully, that language is almost totally absent from this book, even when Arkady and Cayal are in the same scene (though she does come perilously close occasionally). I could do without the constant commenting of various characters on how Hawkes, who grew up with Arkady, is really in love with her but refuses to admit it. That’s overdone, although it is important to the story. The rest of the narrative is wonderful.
The same goes for Fallon's characterization. Once again, not a character is wasted; most are three-dimensional, with only the occasional thin ones who really don't need any depth anyway as they are merely passing characters. This holds true all the way from Cayal and Hawkes down to the lowly slave of the Torlenian concubine, who has opinions of her own on the difference between slavery in Glaeba and Torlenia. Fallon uses her characters economically, serving the plot but also for some more world-building. Warlock, one of the relatively few Crasii who do not automatically bend to the immortals' will, is installed by the Cabal in the Glaeban royal palace to spy on the immortals plotting to take over Glaeba. Warlock is willing to help the Cabal, but he mainly just wants to be there when his mate gives birth to their pups. Yet once he's spying, he does become a little intrigued by all the cloak-and-dagger machinations. Tiji, the chameleon Crasii rescued by Hawkes from a circus, now spies for the spymaster, even as she's one of the few people Hawkes can truly talk to. She's definitely my favorite new character in the series.
As The Gods of Amyrantha goes on, Fallon continues to hit the reader with twists and turns, especially toward the end of the novel. Unlike The Immortal Prince, this one does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but only for one character. Most of the other characters in the book have been slammed with major changes in their circumstances or worldviews, making readers desperate to find out what happens in the next book. One twist I could see coming a mile away, but Fallon still inserts the knife in the gut by having things happen that make that twist seem impossible, only to reverse and make me realize I was right all along. Despite
the complexities of its plot, the pacing of the novel seems almost sedate. The pages fly by without your even realizing it, but events in the novel seem to take their own time even as you're being blindsided by them.
This book certainly doesn't suffer from "second-novel" syndrome, in which many second novels in a series almost seem like placeholders. That's not Fallon's style, though. The Gods of Amyrantha could turn out to be the best book in the series. Unless she manages to top herself.