Two Serpents Rise - Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise is the second book published in the Craft Sequence, though I've recently seen an argument put forward that now all five books are published you can choose to either read in order of publication or in order of internal chronology (which apparently coincides with the numbers in the titles) - however, since I don't currently own a copy of Last First Snow, I'm sticking with the traditional catch-up method. Much like my previous review, for Three Parts Dead, this is a re-read and I'm pleased to say that for both books I'm pretty happy with my rating. There's a lot to like about this book but at times I want to shake the protagonist till his teeth rattle, which could in itself be an argument for the quality of the characterisation, I guess? 

 

The main character in Two Serpents Rise is Caleb Altemoc, who works for one of the Deathless Kings - these are the folks who used the power they acquired through the eponymous Craft to overthrow (and often kill) the gods of their respective cities and countries. Caleb is also the son of one of the last surviving priests of those gods, whose father had dragged him into their religion as a child and who is currently on the run from the authorities.

 

Caleb works as a risk manager and his company (Red King Consolidated) provides all the basic services for the city, so it's no surprise when he's called upon to investigate a major issue with the water supply. While on the scene, he meets a woman who he immediately gets utterly smitten with and pursues, very much allowing his smaller head to do all the thinking - we later discover that she (Mal) is a Craftswoman and working for a company that RKC are trying to take over, which Caleb doesn't find suspicious in the least. It's this quality that makes me want to shake him, since everyone else is going 'hey, had you considered how suspicious this is?' and he basically ignores them all. Ain't love grand? 


Anyway, when things inevitably go to utter shit because of Mal's scheming, it's up to Caleb, his best friend Teo (the best character in the book, apart from the Red King himself, a literal skeleton in love with said colour) and Caleb's somewhat crazy father to try and fix it all. All of this is set against the back-drop of a city which once worshipped distinctly Mesoamerican gods whose idea of a good time was blood sacrifice and lots of it - the two serpents of the title make a significant appearance too, if huge reptiles are your thing!

 

All in all, Two Serpents Rise stands up pretty well to a re-read and I'd forgotten enough of the overall plot to make it a gripping read. I'll shortly be starting Full Fathom Five, involving yet another set of new characters but within the same shared setting.