2022’s Fevered Star is the second book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between Earth and Sky secondary-world fantasy.
It was such a simple plan: train Serapio in fanatical devotion to his Crow God, dispatch him to distant Tova, and have him manifest as the avatar of his deity, whereupon he would slaughter the Watchers, whose ruthless enforcement of law has become oppressive, then die himself. The old guard would be gone, the god-in-flesh would be gone, leaving room for the new order to establish itself.
Pity it all went so wrong.
First step: it was vital that Serapio kill Sun Priest Narapa. Thanks to an ill-timed coup, Narapa was briefly replaced by another priest. Thus, Narapa was not present to be murdered when Serapio tore his way through the Watchers. The true Sun Priest being alive, the rite the slaughter was supposed to seal in blood remains unfinished. There is an unending eclipse and the golden age of the Crow God cannot come to fruition.
Secondly, the crows to whom Serapio has a mystical link chose to sacrifice their lives en masse to save Serapio. To his immense surprise, Serapio — who knew full well the likely outcome of his attack on the Watchers — wakes, alive if not wholly well.
These two deviations from the grand plan mean that far from a city in chaos, lacking anyone powerful enough to defend it from the armies even now planning attack, the city-state of Tova is now inhabited by two divine avatars. Chaos reigns. Schemers who would try to exploit the situation risk personal experience of divine wrath. Serapio in particular finds it difficult to stop short of lethal violence.
One further complication: the gods whom Narapa and Serapio serve loathe each other. Their unrelenting enmity is part of the natural cycle. Two living incarnations of gods in a single city is one incarnation of living gods too many. Conflict, with consequences unpredictable, appears inevitable.
I am reading an ARC (which is why this review will appear before publication day) so the text in the epub in hand may be different from the actual book. That said, if the list of characters in my e‑ARC is the same as the list of characters in the final version, it contains what may be spoilers. If you’ve not read the first book, don’t casually thumb through this one.
But what of Xiala the Teek, whose adventures were a core part of Black Sun, volume one of Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between Earth and Sky secondary-world fantasy? Xiala has her own adventures which lead her away from Tova. This volume is a divide-the-party volume, with plots running in two places. I couldn’t see how to fit Xiala’s adventures into the synopsis. At least I mentioned her, unlike poor — but another paragraph beckons.
The novel as a whole is a fine demonstration of what happens when a large number of methodical plans and opportunistic schemes work at cross purposes. Thus, the excess of gods. It’s also a demonstration of what happens when authorities find the exact point where rule becomes so oppressive that resistance seems less dangerous than keeping one’s head down and hoping for the best.
Unfortunately, while the first volume could be read as a stand-alone — albeit one with a huge cliff-hanger ending — the same is not true of this volume. The series is an epic fantasy and as is the case with so many intermediary volumes in epic fantasies, one really needs to have read Black Sun before reading Fevered Star . Also like so many epic fantasies, volume two is mainly setting the stage for the grand finale to come.
The plot may be too convoluted to fully detail here; however, thanks to the author’s skill, its convolutions are easy to follow on the page. The characters are engaging; even the antagonists have what is to them sensible reasons to act as they do. I’ve looked forward to this installment ever since the first volume appeared and it did not disappoint.
Although now that I have read Fevered Star, I want the next volume. Deferred gratification is so irritating.
1: Ideally, right before reading Fevered Star.