Saturday, January 20, 2024

Stars of Chaos vol 2 by priest: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Stars of Chaos by priest

The second volume of the Chinese steampunk series Stars of Chaos: Sha Po Lang starts with a four-year time jump, which is a good decision. Chang Geng, the fourth prince of the empire, is now twenty and has grown into a fine young man. He’s spent the intervening years studying everything possible from martial arts and military tactics to medicine and accounting. All this for his godfather Gu Yun, because nothing has diminished his infatuation with the military genius marquis.

For his part, Gu Yun has spent the four years securing the silk road to bolster the economics and the coffers of the empire. But despite his efforts, the country is getting poorer and more unstable.

The two reunite by chance and from there on, they’re constantly dealing with a disaster after another. First, it’s bandits smuggling violet gold, the coveted substance powering the mechanical devices, which has larger political implications. Then it’s the inner politics of the empire, which leads to the emperor falling out with Gu Yun. And before they know it, there’s an invading army outside the empire’s borders.

During all this, Chang Geng and Gu Yun work side by side. The younger man has a sharp mind and has travelled all over the country, getting a good understanding of how things are. It constantly baffles his godfather, but he soon learns to rely on Chang Geng’s suggestions. The men grow to be more or less equal in standing, although Chang Geng takes a role of a caretaker, looking after Gu Yun who still suffers from the effects of a poisoning.

But there’s tension between them too. Chang Geng makes his feelings known to Gu Yun, who cannot accept them. They keep throwing him off though, forcing him to see the younger man in a new light. The romance didn’t go anywhere yet, but it had a nudge to the right direction.

Mostly, the narrative was dominated by politics and war. It’s a confusing mess and would’ve benefited from a map to clear some things out, but well-written and fast-paced, keeping the reader’s interest. The volume ends at a difficult place for the empire and the pair. I’ll definitely need to read on to find out how they’ll solve everything.

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