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Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins

Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins
Book Name: Truth and Fear
Author: Peter Higgins
Publisher(s): Orbit (US)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Science Fiction
Release Date: March 25, 2014 (US)

Truth and Fear, book two of Peter Higgins’s Wolfhound Century Trilogy is not one you can just jump into. It is vast, rich, complex, and without the context of events in the first book, you will inevitably find yourself lost. With that in mind, let me introduce you to a little of book two.

It opens slowly, with the macro view of the city of Mirgorod and draws cinematically in to focus on one character looking in. Antoninu Florian. Not quite human. A creature, rather, who takes human shape, a denizen of the Forest who is half the age of the city itself and recalls his first sunrise looking upon it almost two hundred years ago.

This creature embodies one of the many manifestations of the theme of possibility. Because while the Forest and its agents have set events in motion, to see Maroussia Shaumian (a woman only now coming to accept her responsibility) open the heart of possibility, the mysterious Pollandore, Florian doesn’t know where his own interests lie. Maroussia believes by opening the Pollandore she will not only destroy the cancer that is the living angel (the only one of its brethren to survive falling to Earth from the cold darkness between stars and an intimated celestial war) but prevent the terrible future it works towards, but Florian is not so sure. He waits. He watches. And if his interests lie with Maroussia, he will help her, if not, he will take her life.

Unresolved decision. It is a theme that grows even unto the macro scale: past, present and future intertwine in this novel in a way I have never seen before. Everything has a history that is told, a present that is lived, a terrible future that seems all but decided, though the slim possibility of another is contained within the fragile person of the Forest-touched Maroussia Shaumian.

And by her side, resolute in his will to protect and aid this woman he is coming to care for, brutish, former inspector, Vissarion Yppolitovich Lom. A man himself full of possibilities and latent potentials, being both touched by the Forest and tainted by the piece of dead-angel flesh embedded in his forehead (a semi-sentient material that confers powers). But as per the development of events in book one, they find themselves on the run from the agents of the living angel: the equally mad, self-aggrandizing, murderous, power hungry monsters: the head of the Secret Police, Lavrentina Chazia, and her uneasy ally, Maroussia’s father by blood only, the political terrorist Josef Kantor. Behind them is the might of the Vlast, at once both the repressive alternate Soviet state and its people.

But Maroussia and Lom, if they are to complete their mission, must first find out how to open the Pollandore, then find a way back into the heart of danger, the stronghold of the Vlast itself, where the Pollandore awaits Maroussia to open it. To alter reality. To supplant the inevitable future of war, death and destruction with one much rosier, of her and Lom’s own choosing. It is against these overwhelming odds that they fight, which makes for some thrilling action and very intense scenes.

But while the book starts off well – the prose is impeccable, reads like poetry; the description is detailed and wonderfully cinematic; the scenes are tight, complete units that keep you on the balls of your feet, racing through to find out what happens next – things do not stay this way. Somewhere in the middle of the book the pace begins to slow, and as we work into Part Two, the pace slows to a crawl. In Truth and Fear, everything has a story, which starts as a very welcome grounding in everything you need to know – the history of this part of the city, of this particular ethnic group, or whatever – but somewhere close to the middle the information becomes less a relevant accompaniment to the present forward action, and more an irrelevant, purely thematic device, which begins to grate.

So too the consistently paced description. In the beginning, as the action is fast paced, the pace of the description – the slow setting of the scene before we’re given the action – aids suspense and delays gratification by not giving us what we want immediately. And it works well. However, when the pace of the action slowed, and the intrigue dimmed somewhat, or when we were reaching the climax of an action and were in the heat of battle, say, then all that was needed was for the description to take a back seat and the pace of the scenes to quicken. But that did not happen here, and I found myself bored at times, annoyed at others, skim-reading to get to the good parts, the quality of the writing insufficient to keep my interest.

The other main problem, as far as I see it, is that it was a book of two halves, literally. The emphasis changed from thriller (with all the excitement that entails: chases, murders, political intrigue, plots, important revelations and surprising developments) in Part One, to travelogue in Part Two, one that struggled for the excitement and interest and meaningful conflict of the first part to keep and hold attention. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy this second part, as there were some very interesting developments, but I felt the slowing of pace, instead of the speeding; the winding down of tension, instead of the winding up, diminished my enjoyment of the book in such a way that, as it was drawing to a spectacular close, I felt it never really recovered from.

It is a book filled with wonder, imagination, history, brilliant writing, spectacular possibility, captivating characters and thrills. But it is not without its flaws. But which book is? It was a good read, an enjoyable sequel, a quality affair, and I find myself dying to know what happens next. What more can you ask for?


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