The Pliocene exile saga continues in The Golden Torc, following on from The Many-Colored Land. The action got going much faster this time out, mostly because this book overlaps with and follows on directly from its predecessor. We spend less time getting to know people, aside from the plethora of Tanu nobility infesting the capital city of Muriah, and more on parallel plot up to the climax of The Many-Colored Land, and then the consequences of that played out in Muriah and elsewhere.
All the quirks of the prior book continue here, but now I found them comforting, rather than off-putting. “Ah yes, this is someone fresh from the galactic milieu, not a native of Exile.”
A lot happens in The Golden Torc. The status quo is smashed. There’s a cataclysm. Characters I thought we would follow for a long time to come don’t make it out alive. Characters I thought were sidelined seem ready to spring to the forefront in the next installment. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in The Nonborn King, though I think the title’s a giveaway of how it begins, at least.
That said, this one felt like a slog in a different way at parts. If you’re into courtly speechifying and ritualized action, The Golden Torc‘s for you. Centered on the Tanu capital city as it is, with the highest courtiers playing major roles, it’s not surprising that’s where the focus of the novel lies. I found myself wishing to know more about the action happening on the fringes, or outside the narrator’s chosen frame entirely, like anthropologist Bryan’s survey of human-Tanu interactions. Yes, the conclusions are what drive characters’ actions, but what was Bryan looking at to arrive at those conclusions? Given his training, why did he seemingly take a shorter view than everyone else who read the survey?
Humanity’s prospects in Pliocene exile seemed pretty grim in The Many-Colored Land, even at the end. They’re not rosy by the close of The Golden Torc, but there’s newfound hope and opportunity for change, even as the story glosses over the consequences of rape and mass murder. Or maybe the consequences will hit in The Nonborn King. Characters who seem to have escaped the rolling boulder of the plot could still be run down.