This is volume two of a trilogy and has a very cool title, I thought. It sounds like the kind of title William Gibson would use. Maybe that's how Gibson makes his money these days in an era of him being much less relevant than he used to be? Maybe he cooks up cool titles and sells them to other authors? LOL!
But I digress. I'm not a series person as anyone who has followed my reviews will know. Apart from my The Little Rattuses&trade children's series I'm in the middle of, I will never write one myself. As to reading them, I'm not steadfastly against it, but I've encountered very few that were worth all the volumes. To me, series too often represent laziness and a lack of imagination on the part of the author.
This one was a rare surprise in that the story was, in a sense, very much completed in volume one, but there was an organic option available for the next episode, so it felt very natural to me. On top of that, volume one was really good and I enjoyed it. The ending was reminiscent of the first volume of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials." In that case and this one, the ending/opening for volume two were strikingly similar.
Volume two began engagingly, although I ran into an issue that bothered me and got me thinking, which is always dangerous! In volume one, the main antagonist, Raven, had orchestrated a scheme to get the main protagonist, Zen Starling, infiltrated into the Noon family by having him pose as a distant relative. In order to do this, he had to sequester that relative, and he employed a young girl to do it. She got caught afterwards and sent to jail.
On this world, crimes are punished by the perp being frozen for a period of time. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how that exactly is a punishment or what it's supposed to achieve, but that's the way it is. I guess if you're put into it for a decade, as she was the first time she was caught, it changes things because fashions change and friends grow older or die, so she comes out feeling literally out of things and having no friends. The world has moved on without her. Maybe that's the real punishment rather than the actual cryo-sleep, but for short sentences, zero degrees makes zero sense.
So this brings us to where the author describes this girl being taken out of her cryo-sleep prematurely. She's a repeat offender, so despite Chandni having been alive for 96 years, she's actually only nineteen years old, physically speaking. Apparently when they put people into the freezer, they shave their head and tattoo a prison number on it. Why, I do not know - it's not explained here. So we have the author describing her coming out of sleep, and he says, "She would have been quite pretty if they hadn't shaved her head." That struck me as a mean thing to say. If the author had had a character say that, then that would have been one thing. People can be mean and thoughtless, but for the author himself to make such a declaration is mean in itself.
There are women who have no hair because of a medical condition, or because of, to mention a well-known example, a cancer treatment regimen. To describe a shaved head of itself as not pretty isn't fair at all. Personally I don't think it makes a woman look less than she did before. I like hair, but I don't find it lessens a woman's attractiveness any more than it lessens a man's purely because they're missing hair for whatever reason. It can often enhance it in my opinion. Just google Budz McKenzie, or Sharon Blynn, or Marielle McKenna, or Rae Ann Reyna or a host of others. It's one thing to write that "she didn't look pretty, but then she never had, even with hair," but to hang it all on her hair (so to speak!), or lack of it, felt like very ill-advised writing, to me.
Anyway, I read on hoping there wouldn't be any more of that nonsense, and while the book took a brief dip into boring me, during which I wondered if I was going to finish this or DNF it, it very quickly turned things around by going off in an unexpected direction which (while in some ways predictable) definitely stirred things up significantly, so I was back onboard. And it avoided more faux pas, so I ended up happy with it and I'm looking for volume 3 next! I commend this one as a worthy read.