The Obsidian Heart continues Mark T. Barnes’ Echoes of Empire series where the first novel left off. The dangerous Corajidin has seemingly been defeated and put on trial but instead he seizes the moment to put all of his ambitions into action and the result is a novel with all the twists and intrigue and battles of the first.
As a sequel, Barnes takes advantage of the fact that his core cast of characters and their relationships have been firmly established, and places them in new and more revealing situations. Indris, warrior-poet, and his enemy, Corajidin, were both the highlights of the first book and their battle continues apace. Mari, Corajidin daughter, was perhaps less well developed in the first novel and her romance with Indris was not as convincing as it could have been. Barnes makes an effort to rectify this and Mari is brought much more center stage this time around.
The world building remains as dense and well-thought out as ever. The reader is dropped into another world that feels real and lived in, with a visceral sense of history that is often lacking. The first novel dropped the readers in the deep end and slowly and organically revealed more and more of the intricate backstory and the world. Barnes again trusts the reader’s intelligence and luxuriates in the fact that the central elements of the world have already been shown.
It is, however, the middle novel in a trilogy, and that shows. It is in many ways, over 400 pages of set up for the final confrontation. The Obsidian Heart builds on its predecessor nicely. The plot unfolds with more twists and cutthroat politics; the characters are richer, and the world itself is deeper.
**Received copy from NetGalley for review