Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins (Orbit, March 25, 2014)-Shortly after the events of Wolfhound Century, Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shaumian are on a tram headed into Mirgorod, battle weary and all too aware that they’re being pursued by Commander Lavrentina Chazia, chief of the Mirgorod Secret Police. Mirgorod is on the verge of war with the Archipelago, and they don’t have a chance against their vast armies, but for Chazia, that means an opportunity to remake the Vlast just as she wants, pure and united under her. Her patience is waning, however, and she’s convinced the Pollandore holds the keys to her success. But Chazia doesn’t know how to use the Pollandore, and she thinks that Maroussia Shaumian does. Chazia isn’t the only one after Maroussia, though. Josef Kantor wants her dead, and he plans on remaking himself anew. He has grand plans for Mirgorod and his capacity for hard work is inexhaustible, his desire for utter supplication unending, if it is to meet his goals. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from Mirgorod, there are diabolical machinations underway of apocalyptic proportions. In the forest, an Archangel is stirring, and it whispers to Josef Kantor, much to Chazia’s frustration, and she continues to use angel flesh on herself, in an attempt to connect to the ancient being, the only living angel, but every day, every minute, it drives her more and more insane.
I was blown away by Wolfhound Century, so does Truth and Fear measure up? Actually, it more than does, and as good as Wolfhound Century was, Truth and Fear is even better. Lom is a man whose only goal has become keeping Maroussia safe, and he’ll do that even at great, even grave, risk to himself. Luckily, he has an ally, in the form of a shapeshifter named Antoninu Florian who seems to have his own agenda, but proves more than useful in aiding the two fugitives. Maroussia is a young woman whose fate is entwined intimately with the Pollandore and believes it has the capacity to remake the Vlast into something good, not this burning mass of chaos and war that it currently is under the psychotic gaze of Chazia and Kantor.
When Maroussia is taken, Lom sets off with Florian to save her, and their harrowing journey will lead them to a glass city called Novaya Zima, and a violent, earth shattering conclusion that will change his destiny. In Truth and Fear, as in Wolfhound Century, Peter Higgins has created more than just a story. It’s an immersive and rich sensory experience, populated by giants, shapeshifters, earthy magic, and the power of ancient beings. Lom is a hero in the truest sense, in that he doesn’t see his actions as heroic, they just are, and they come as naturally to him as breathing. Prepare yourself for quite an ending, and the promise of more to come. The world-building is superb, and Higgins’s writing is, as usual, lyrical and sometimes brutal. I love this world, and I love these complicated, flawed, and utterly unique characters. I can’t wait to see what Peter Higgins gives us next.