Mark T. Barnes concludes his Echoes of Empire series as he started it, with dense world building and political machinations. The Pillars of Sand continues from where the previous book left off and brings the power-hungry Corajidin’s plans to fruition and completes the journeys of our heroes, Indris and Mari, in a suitably explosive manner.
Even over this trilogy, Barnes’ development as a writer can be clearly tracked. Perhaps it is simply because I’m three books in, but The Pillars of Sand flowed much better than its predecessors. The deluge of world building, and somewhat flat characterization that hobbled my enjoyment of the first novel is here a thing of the past. Barnes’ Shrīanese Federation is now a familiar and richly historied setting, and the mysteries of Indris’ past and his struggle with his own power finally connected with me as a reader. Corajidin has been a stand out since the very first novel and major revelations coupled with his final descent into madness make him far more sympathetic and three dimensional than one would expect. Of course, I often and invariably sympathize and root for the villain, but it is rare to find one so delightfully brought to life.
When I began reviewing the Echoes of Empire series, I noted that despite my abiding love for touchstones such as Lord of the Rings and Dune, this was not my favorite genre of fantasy and sci-fi. It would be a gross exaggeration to say that The Pillars of Sand has changed that, but it was certainly a well-written and enjoyable read. I look forward to more from Barnes.
**Received copy from NetGalley for review