Infidel: Bel Dame Apocrypha Paperback – 1 May 2014
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"Infidel is a well thought-out and intelligent novel, which asks a number of questions and refuses to present easy answers. " (SFF Chronicles)
"Readers who enjoyed God's War will not be disappointed by Infidel... I highly recommend it." (Strange Horizons Magazine)
"Hurley's world-building, vivid and blissfully free of infodumps and expository lumps, was one of the great strengths of God's War, and it's a pleasure to return to the fascinating and messed-up world she created -- one especially enjoyable for its ethnically diverse cast and freewheeling remixes of traditional gender roles. " (Tor.com)
"...Kameron Hurley is worth investing in... this is ground breaking work and should be recognized... " (Staffer's Musings)
An action packed, high concept, far future thriller.See all Product description
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At the end of God's War, Nyx's team has spread to the far winds. Her magician and shifter have gone to a safe third country, where they won't be compelled to fight. Her comms specialist is dead and her best gun has set up as an independent. The new team is more-or-less an excuse to rescue lost causes, and Nyx will need her old people and a lot of called-in favours to discover who is trying to kill her and possibly overthrow the kingdom of Nasheen.
The narrative here flows better than God's War, despite the jumping around to various characters' viewpoints. Inaya, Khos and Rhys have excellent character development, and we get to learn a little more about Nyx's contacts within the bel dames and the magicians, not to mention the Queen and her security service. We also see some more history and learn just how unusual Inaya's shifting abilities are. However, the world of Umayma is still too much a dark and depressing place for me to be able to invest in it emotionally, and Nyx seems to be not only adding to the horror of it but intent on continuing to do so.
I was given a free copy of this novel to review.
Infidel is the second volume in The Bel Dame Apocrypha, following on from God's War and preceding Rapture. As with the first novel, it's a hard-arsed book fusing fantasy to science fiction by way of a whole lot of attitude and a lot more smarts. It's also the rare middle volume of a trilogy that builds and improves on God's War.
God's War was a great book, but one that ended up being a little too confusing for its own good, especially at the start. Infidel is much more coherently focused on its storytelling, building a parallel narrative contrasting Rhys's new, peaceful life in Tirhan with Nyx's ongoing life of mayhem. This structure worked well in God's War but is even better here, with the different locations and circumstances for the two characters allowing Hurley to even more strongly define them. The two strands are held separate for a large chunk of the book, building up tension so that when they come together the results are appropriately cataclysmic.
Hurley's writing is tighter than in the first book and also more empathetic, building up the new characters and relationships so that when the inevitable gut-wrenching betrayals and deaths come, they hurt. Infidel is a brutal book - more than the first volume - but one that earns its shocks rather than relying on them for a cheap emotional fix.
There are problems: the ending is extremely abrupt, an epic final confrontation over and done with in a blink of an eye. There's also the age-old trilogy situation of the first instalment being more or less stand-alone (in case it bombs) but the second volume being left wide open for the story to continue into a third book. Whether this is a bug or feature of trilogies is up for the reader to decide.
Infidel (****½) is an improvement over God's War, being tighter, more strongly characterised and with a better structure, whilst the 'bugpunk' weirdness is carried through and becomes even stranger. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
The story picks up 6 years after the events of God's War. Nyx, a disgraced ex-Bel Dame, is trying to eke out a living as the bodyguard for a diplomat's daughter with the assistance of her new team, which includes a shifter and a weapons expert -- but is lacking the all-important magician for communications and healing work. This lack becomes more dire when she fights off some Bel Dame assassins and then collapses from the sudden onset of an undiagnosed, highly-debilitating illness.
The war is still going on, but there is a new threat to Nyx's home country of Nasheen: a rogue group of Bel Dames is set on assassinating the Queen and taking control. Not knowing which of the Bel Dames she can trust, the Queen tasks Nyx -- who, having been excommunicated by the Bel Dames, no longer has a personal loyalty to the group -- with identifying and permanently eliminating the rebels.
Nyx decides to seek out a former member of her team, a second-rate magician with whom she had a complicated emotional relationship, to help her achieve what is almost certainly a doomed mission. But he has unknowingly gotten himself into a highly-dangerous position, and the consequences will be devastating not just for both of them, but for the other past and present members of her team.
Though Nyx's behaviour is often cruelly pragmatic and frequently self-destructive, I do not find her an unsympathetic character. Her main goal is one of ending the war -- and she is willing to sacrifice herself or her team members to accomplish that. But in the meantime, she does what she can to protect and provide for her team -- knowing that however loyal they might be, under the right circumstances they might still choose to betray her.
For those who would prefer a little more orientation -- or who would like some refamiliarisation after a time-lapse from reading God's World -- the author has created a Godswarbook wiki at Wikispaces (a Google of those two capitalised words will provide the URL). This provides an excellent resource for a brush-up on events up to now, or on answering questions about the world as the story progresses.
Readers who enjoy God's War and Infidel will not want to miss the trilogy's conclusion, Rapture.
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