Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Prophecy Con - Patrick Weekes

The Prophecy Con is the second in Patrick Weekes’ “Rogues Of the Republic” series. It picks up shortly after the first book left off, bringing us back together with Loch and most of her crew, as they struggle to prevent war and catastrophe from overtaking the Republic – and not-entirely-incidentally, save their own skins.

The world we became familiar with in the first book – filled with mysterious crystal devices, magical creatures and warring states – is still in play in this second novel. It does, however, take the opportunity to expand in scope.  We’re taken on  trains hovering over tracks powered by magic, through cities populated by entirely new peoples, and Weekes opens up his world wonderfully.  I was particularly fond of his dwarves – an industrious, socially cohesive people, who look on the more chaotic impulses of their human neighbours with bafflement. There’s also more opportunity to look at elves – mentioned quietly in the first book, here there’s talk of their lands, and a closer examination of why they act as they do. It’s internally cohesive, and provides an intriguing background to the actions of the characters. There’s a vivid universe here, and a strong sense that it’s going about its business around the characters, even as they work to make an impact on it.

The characters are largely familiar from the preceding novel, though there’s also some new additions. Notably, the main cast are all dealing with the fallout from their preceding adventure, some more successfully than others. Loch’s right-hand-man, for example, keeps up his barrage of “your mother” insults, in a manner which is delightfully crass – but also clearly struggles to adjust to the traumatic stress of events that overcame him near the end of the previous volume.  The returning characters remain a delight to read. The interplay between them is particularly fun – there’s a lot of wit on display here, and the air fairly sizzles with repartee. Some of it is perhaps a tad familiar to readers of the last story, but it’s dynamic, punchy, and often extremely funny. 

There’s some new companions and antagonists here as well – it’s perhaps less clear than previously which ones are which. There’s a sense of inhuman dread around…well, at least one of them, which Weekes paints into the text very well. The others appear to be acting for their own reasons, and the play of emotion and motivation is portrayed in such a way as to make each character feel unique, and also, if not human, perhaps fully rounded individuals.

The plot is…well, it’s a heist. Or a series of heists. There’s some wonderfully tense moments involving breaking into high security buildings, and they’re interspersed with some downright thrilling combat moments – and both of these are running alongside well developed characters in a fully-formed and fascinating world. As ever, the book starts with a bang, and the pacing thereafter is top notch – there’s moments of relative relaxation for the reader, but whilst the prose is very dense, all of it feels necessary, or at least interesting to read. The stakes…well, they start high, and they only get higher as the narrative rattles along. It’s a fast-paced, fun book, with some interesting red herrings, matched with equally intriguing revelations.

Is it worth reading? As with the first book in the sequence, there’s not that many books in the fantasy-heist genre, and this is one which has been done well, and with a sense of adventure. If you’ve read the first book, this is more of the same, but dialled up to eleven. If not…well, go and read the first one – but this book succeeds at what it sets out to do –it’s got a solid central theme of heists and trickery, within a gorgeous world, with characters you care about.  So yes, it’s worth reading.

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