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ARC Review: The Thousand Eyes by AK Larkwood (The Serpent Gates #2)

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Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Synopsis:

The sequel to A. K. Larkwood’s stunning debut fantasy, The Unspoken Name, The Thousand Eyes continues The Serpent Gates series–perfect for fans of Jenn Lyons, Joe Abercrombie, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Two years ago, Csorwe and Shuthmili defied the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and stole his gauntlets. The gauntlets have made Shuthmili extraordinarily powerful, but they’re beginning to take a sinister toll on her. She and Csorwe travel to a distant world to discover how to use the gauntlets safely, but when an old enemy arrives on the scene, Shuthmili finds herself torn between clinging to her humanity and embracing eldritch power.

Meanwhile, Tal Charossa returns to Tlaanthothe to find that Sethennai has gone missing. As well as being a wizard of unimaginable power, Sethennai is Tal’s old boss and former lover, and Tal wants nothing to do with him. When a magical catastrophe befalls the city, Tal tries to run rather than face his past, but soon learns that something even worse may lurk in the future. Throughout the worlds of the Echo Maze, fragments of an undead goddess begin to awaken, and not all confrontations can be put off forever…

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my gods that was So. Good. I will now read absolutely everything A.K. Larwood writes forever. I loved the Unspoken Name when I read it two years ago but I’d forgotten just how fun these books are. Gorgeous descriptions, adventure, proper creepy utterances from the gods, relatable characters, wry humor, and a lot of cursing between Csorwe and Tal.

I loved catching up with Csorwe and Tal and Shuthmili and the gang. And I loved the adventure and was just cruising along until– boom! plot twist! 15 years have passed. And then I got to meet Tsereg and let me tell you, they are an absolute delight. And seeing cranky know-it-all teenager Tal suddenly de facto parenting cranky teenager know-it-all Tsereg was just amazing. Really everyone should read these books if only for the Tal and Tsereg dynamic.

A.K. Larkwood does SUCH a good job capturing character voices. They are so relatable and the wry humor is just my style. It was such an interesting experience, seeing the world through Csorwe and Tal and Shuthmlli’s eyes. They all have very different internal voices and perspectives and they all ring very true. The gods are much more prominent in this book than the previous one, and they also have very distinctive voices.

I was absolutely enthralled, I flew through it in two days, I never wanted it to end, and I definitely shed a tear or two at the end. But also the end felt very right and I am satisfied with it. I would definitely not say no to more books in this series — I would give a lot for them, actually — but if this world ends here then I am okay with that.

Also! Csorwe and Shuthmili are lesbians and have a wonderful relationship, Tal is gay and tends toward dysfunctional relationships, and Tsereg is nonbinary. Also Tsereg is a treasure. I really can’t emphasize that enough. And Tal, Csorwe, and Shuthmili are SO relatable and just feel real, that’s how well-developed they are.

*Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan-Tor/Forge for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

An unreliable friend to some and an inconstant enemy to most.

This is actually from the introduction of the characters not the story itself but I love it as a descriptor

A possibility dropped into his hands, sharp and bright as a shard of glass.

At the point Tal had left, Cherenthisse had divided her time between sleeping, refusing to wear clothes, and demanding that somebody duel her to the death.

You might describe Csorwe as wiry but only in the sense that a steel cable is technically a wire, Shuthmili thought, and could not help smiling secretly to herself.

“Yeah, it looks like a god threw up on it,” said Tal. “had to round up Csorwe and Cherenthisse earlier too, wandered off like a couple of bloody toddlers.”

“Just imagine me nodding and smiling,” said Tal. “Back in Tlaanthothe, our goddess was just a big mean rock that muttered at you.”

Csorwe had a special sympathy for those who were born for sacrifice.

Tsereg was back on their feet, and still shrieking, less with terror and more as if they had turned a spigot marked yell and the valve had broken off in their hand.

Maybe he had never enjoyed fleeing for his life over the rooftops; maybe the thing he enjoyed was surviving afterward.

Tsereg shrugged, like a pile of unclean laundry falling over

“And what, you don’t have a choice?” said Tal.

“Yeah, that’s sort of what being the Chosen one means,” said Tsereg.

“I don’t know what you’ve heard about the good old days, but I’m here to tell you it’s always been a whole mess of bastards,” he said.

It was no good to be brave, he thought. He had to stumble his way toward the thought in darkness. It was no good to break yourself and smile through it. He wouldn’t tell Tsereg they were brave.

Tsereg’s training had probably been delivered by a bunch of old ladies in jail or, given recent revelations, by a drug-fuelled hallucination of their mother’s ghost. Not exactly encouraging.

May you strike your own bargain with the universe.

He had used a poisoned blade before and felt it was more trouble than it was worth, but whatever.

The casual way he said it made Tal’s hackles rise. Nobody said one other complication like that unless they meant a gigantic fucking spanner in the works.

“Are those your only choices?” said Shuthmili. “I mean, nothing, or else murder is a very Thousand Eyes approach–“

Shuthmili disintegrated her ball gown and grew herself an exoskeleton.

Not for the first time, Shuthmili wondered who had made mortals so fragile and so persistent, and who had made Talasseres the flimsiest and most bloody-minded of them all.

Shuthmili lay down on the ground — let Belthandros stare, she hoped he would die from staring —

“I should have known it was you,” said Tal. “Right away. Getting a teenager to fight your battles for you. You can’t resist.”

“I was Chosen,” said Tsereg, hitting the capital C hard enough to crack its skull.

It made sense that this might be the last thing he saw — stared into passive-aggressive oblivion by a corpse — but he didn’t have to like it.

The pungent smell of crushed onion leaves wafted around her, not something Csorwe had ever expected to associate with a malfunctioning divinity.

Oranna was — and this was really a testament to what Tal’s life had become — not an ordinary skeleton.

Tal had mixed feelings about his hometown, but he had never wished to see it turn cancerous.

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