IMBUED WITH THE MORE MAGIC AND EVEN MORE MYSTERY.
Stan Nicholls keeps the weak second instalment syndrome at bay with this engaging follow up to Quicksilver Rising.
(Quicksilver Trilogy, Book 2)
Genre: High Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
Date: 7th March 2005 (First Published 2004)
Quicksilver Zenith is the second part of Stan Nicholls’ underrated Quicksilver Trilogy, and readers who enjoyed the first book should be pleased to discover that book two delivers more of the same, in terms of great characterisation and action-packed narrative. It even sheds just a little more light on some of the mysteries first touched upon in Quicksilver Rising.
Any concerns that Quicksilver Zenith might succumb to the weak second instalment of a trilogy problem, are adeptly dispelled by author, Stan Nicholls. Once more he writes in a manner that is always engaging, the plot is well paced—eliminating the possibility that any part of the book drags—and his characters continue to be compelling.
Though it shares, more or less, all of Quicksilver Rising’s positives, there is some welcome evolution in the tale, as book two’s narrative diverges—to some extent—from that told by its predecessor, which focussed on the Resistance taking the fight to the empires of Gath Tampoor and Rintarah.
Quicksilver Zenith on the other hand follows the Resistance’s plans and preparations to migrate en mass from Bhealfa to the island of Batariss—more commonly referred to as the Diamond Isle—in order to establish an independent state. It is hoped that once there, the Resistance will be able initiate plans to mount an expedition in search of a mythical artefact said to have been left behind by an advanced, prehistoric, magical civilisation known as the Founders. The location of this artefact, The Clepsydra, is also said to be home to The Source; a store of all the knowledge of The Founders, which may provide the Resistance with a potent weapon against the empires.
As the story commences, only three months have elapsed between the conclusion of Quicksilver Rising and the beginning of Quicksilver Zenith, and as Stan Nicholls re-introduces the rag-tag group of protagonists from book one, it is readily apparent that each one has undergone varying degrees of personal change in that time. This is especially true of Serrah Ardacris.
Having survived her suicide attempt at the end of Quicksilver Rising, Serrah’s has become even more of a concern to the Resistance. Her reckless and potentially self-destructive behaviour has some people convinced that she might be hoping to bring about her own demise through other means.
Reeth Caldason, meanwhile, is causing a different type of concern. He has become increasingly impatient at carrying out missions for the Resistance, and getting nothing in return. His only reason for joining in the first place, was the promise that the Resistance would help him find The Source which he believes will provide him with a cure to his condition.
Just like its predecessor, there are multiple story-lines to follow from the viewpoint of several characters. Some of these plots and characters are given more prominence than others, so depending on which character(s) any given reader favours at this stage, may have a bearing on how enjoyable the story proves to be.
While on the surface all these story-lines are interconnected, one plot in particular seems rather disconnected from the others; to the extent that it appears as though it won’t ultimately have any bearing on the conclusion of the trilogy. The plot in question revolves around the character Prince Melyobar, the puppet Head of State of Bhealfa, and his obsession with death—who he believes is a living breathing person out to get him—and the lengths he will go to in order to escape his clutches.
Throughout book one, Melyobar seemed to be little more than comic relief, to lighten the mood at various intervals, and Quicksilver Zenith pretty much cements that impression; which is a shame. Prince Melyobar is clearly a lunatic, and while it is amusing how none of his subjects are prepared to let him know just how crazy he is, the potential for the portrayal of a disturbingly scary character is wasted.
At the end of the day it’s probably of no real consequence, as I don’t expect this story-line to have any relevance to the overall tale.
As mentioned at the start of this review, the author does shine a little more light on some of the mysteries briefly touched upon in book one, but without giving anything away. Though only playing a relatively minor role throughout the novel, it is very apparent that the northern warlord, Zerreiss, is going to have a major part to play in how the story ultimately reaches its conclusion. It becomes increasingly obvious that Zerreiss and Reeth are linked in some way, and that they are destined to meet during book three.
Stan Nicholls also gives several subtle clues about the ruling class of both empires. He often makes mention of how old the various individuals among them appear to be, quite possibly indicating at their true origins. It is also hinted that the ruling class of the two empires are more closely connected than their perceived rivalry would seem to imply.
The only real sour note of the book—if it can be considered as such—is the ending. While the conclusion is unquestionably dramatic and unexpected, having the story end in the manner it does severely limits what can happen in the final instalment of the trilogy. Certainly, the conclusion that I had been envisioning is no longer possible. Whether or not this ends up being detrimental to book three, Quicksilver Twilight, remains to be seen.
To conclude, Quicksilver Zenith is a worthy sequel, infused with magic, mystery, adventure, and a raving lunatic who thinks death is a flesh and blood man, out to get him.
Telling it like it is. Giving you honest and balanced, spoiler free reviews. Completely devoid of irrational fanboyism, or shameless astroturfing.