I was curious to read the second volume of The Tears of Artamon, if only to discover if the tale indeed had more depth than what a first glance had revealed. And not surprisingly, Prisoner of the Ironsea Tower contains evidence that that's the case.
The narrative is, once more, rather smooth. It makes this book an easy read. The dialogues, however, often leave a lot to be desired. Not all, mind you, but many of them. Especially everything that has to do with Emperor Eugene, Malusha, Astasia, and a few others. I'll elaborate a little more on that when I focus on the characterizations.
One thing about Sarah Ash, she can definitely write an evocative narrative. Once again, the imagery is at times arresting.
The pace is very similar to that of its predecessor. The rhythm of a number of scenes can be sluggish, while other scenes seem rushed to some extent. But overall, the pace is fluid enough not to be an issue.
The worldbuilding continues to be interesting, revealing yet more depth to this story.We learn more about Francia and its inhabitants. I have a feeling that the Francian Commanderie will play a major role in the final volume. The author also introduces us to the volcanic land of Ty Nagar, where the Serpent Gate is situated.
New storylines enrich the existing plotlines. The addition of the two mysterious Francian characters, especially, hints at many things to come. I particularly enjoyed Ash's take on the dragons, distancing herself from the traditional mold. We discover a lot more concerning the Drakhaouls and their origin. Secrets pertaining to the Tears of Artamon are also revealed. And Sarah Ash manages to keep you turning those pages with a few unanticipated surprises.
Unfortunately, as was the case with Lord of Snow and Shadows, you can see some of the plot twists coming from a mile away. And on the downside, the ending is easily predicted far in advance.
The novel's main shortcoming remains the characterizations. In my previous book review I stated that they were clumsy at times. I now realize that I was wrong in my assumption. The characterizations are not clumsy, they are juvenile. And I don't mean this in a derogatory way. It's just that Ash's characterizations remind me of those of authors such as R. A. Salvatore, J. V. Jones, and Elizabeth Haydon. Hence, fans of those writers could well enjoy this series. But it's a far cry from Robin Hobb's subtle human touch which makes her characters so special.
In conclusion, I'm persuaded that this trilogy could be highly successful if it was marketed toward a younger audience. God knows there are legions of teenagers purchasing fantasy novels! Truth to tell, it might not be greeted with the same sort of enthusiasm by aficionados of the genre and fans of such authors as Martin, Erikson, Miéville, Bakker, Jordan, Hobb, etc. I feel it's just not complex and ambitious enough. . .
The final verdict: 7/10