This is the second part of Ian Tregillis’s Alchemy Wars series that started with The Mechanical. With the previous book ending on a cliff hanger and the publication date of this sequel so close, it would be fair to see this as simply the second part of a longer book.
he plot carries on almost straight from where it left off but now with an additional focus on the North American capital of North France which is preparing for a siege from the Dutch clockwork army.
This is a less philosophical and more action orientated book. The central here Jax (later renamed Daniel) continues his bid for freedom. As a broad plot the issues he faces in attempting to find friends and allies are predictable including fellow rebels who may not be what they seem.
The exotic weapons deployed as the French and Dutch come to blows can have the feel of somebody trying out a concept for a video game but there is real tension as the French try to survive against the mechanical onslaught. By casting neither side in the war as particularly good or sympathetic there is no expectation that the good guys will necessarily win. The focus on French characters and their status as the military underdog provides enough reason to care about the fate of the people of Marseilles-in-the-West but we are left in no doubt that the French do not have the best interest of the mechanicals in mind either.
Not as stunning as the first book in the series, more of a natural continuation of the previous books world-building. Worth reading and a decent middle-book in a trilogy but not particularly surprising or unexpected.