The problem with sequels is that they often seem to serve as little more than a way to fill in the space between the beginning and the end of a series. In almost all of the sequels that I've recently read the stories seemed to drag on without any real purpose, other than to lead us to the next book, with the characters drifting through like forgotten ghosts. So despite my eagerness to read The King of the Crags I was also a bit apprehensive since I had so much enjoyed The Adamantine Palace and was afraid of being disappointed. Well, I can now safety say that my fears were unfounded and Stephen Deas successfully delivers another wonderful and exciting fantasy novel, just as enjoyable as his previous one.
The story picks up shortly after the events that took place at the end of The Adamantine Palace. Speaker Hyram is dead and Queen Shezira has been accused of his murder and imprisoned by Zafir, who has taken over as speaker. None of this would have been possible without Prince Jehal, Zafir's lover and Queen Shezira son-in-law, who has spent years scheming for a way to get himself to the top. And now that Jehal is almost there, the situation is not as satisfying as he expected it to be.
On the other side of the realm the White Dragon, Snow, has recovered from the alchemist's poison and is determined to awaken all of the other dragons and remind them of the time when they ruled the world, and humanity. Kemir is Snow's one human companion, forced to accompany the dragon in order to help her hunt down the alchemists who have been supplying the poison that keeps the dragons docile.
It's been six months since I had read The Adamantine Palace and so I had a bit of trouble in the beginning of The King of Crags trying to remember what had taken place and trying to figure out what was currently going on here. The beginning is a bit slow and focuses on a rather minor character from the previous book, Semian, who gets a larger role in this one. Semian was a dragon rider of Queen Shezira's who suddenly gets a vision that he is meant to avenge his queen by leading an army of dragons against the current speaker Zafir. I will admit that Semian's plot line didn't interest me as much as some of the others, but once the story got going I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
The characters are just as interesting and complex as I remember them being, especially Jehal who somehow kept gaining my sympathy despite his despicable actions. Zafir was more two-dimensional here then in the previous book, almost coming across as a classical villain, which was a bit disappointing since the lack of such straight-forward villains is one of my favorite things about this book. I like how each side of a character is revealed so that even those who are corrupt and treacherous, or just unlikeable, occasionally get the chance to be understood as well.
Since The King of the Crags is a middle book I wasn't too surprised that none of the story lines are really resolved, but I still very much enjoyed the journey. Deas has no qualms about eliminating his characters so I was always on edge, wondering which characters would actually survive.
Any doubts I had about Deas and his abilities to provide me with a satisfying sequel have been laid-to-rest and I now await with bated breath (figuratively, of course) for the grand conclusion.