2022’s The Void Ascendant is the third and final volume in Premee Mohamed’s Beneath the Rising trilogy.
Nick Prasad survived the destruction of Earth at the manipulative limbs of cosmic horrors. He survived tumbling through dimensions. Arriving on alien Aradec, he embraced the role of designated prophet. True, he has had to enable some terrible things, but as long as his superiors do not tire of him, playing prophet allows him to put off his death. It’s not much but it’s all Nick can hope for.
Now, it seems that even personal survival may be out of the question.
The vast, malevolent beings who own Aradec do so at a remove, leaving daily governance to the king and queen. Subjects could kid themselves that they were subject only to an oppressive theocratic monarchy of purely local origin. Now even that illusion will vanish, for it is time for Aradec to play a role in the cosmic entities’ endless wars of conquest.
The immediate consequence for Nick is that he is drawn into what amounts to counter-espionage. Enemies have tried and failed to infiltrate the kingdom’s most secure repository of forbidden information. They are now prisoners; all that remains is find out what they were looking for.
The ringleader of the spies claims to be a person Nick knows to be dead: Johnny Chambers. Johnny and Nick have a history. Nick loathes Johnny, not least because the utter destruction of Earth can be blamed on megalomaniac Chambers.
This supposed Johnny claims to be fighting the Masters. She hopes to free the Great Old Ones, entities who can defeat the Masters. But Nick believes — nay, he knows—that the original Johnny was not trustworthy. Why should this imposter be any better?
Nevertheless … it’s hard to avoid being drawn into Johnny schemes.
For people who are beginning the trilogy with this volume: firstly, don’t do that. Secondly, Johnny is the book’s hate-sink because she is responsible for the loss of Earth. Twice over. Whatever bad things happen to her, she earned in spades.
There’s an interesting aspect of the book which by its nature is a huge spoiler, so have a wodge of rot-13. Sorry, don’t know how to make the text invisible:
Vf gur abiryyn Gurfr Yvsryrff Guvatf eryngrq gb gur Orarngu gur Evfvat gevybtl? Obgu gur abiryyn naq gur gevybtl gryy bs vainfvbaf bs Rnegu ol vapbzcerurafvoyr pbfzvp ubeebef, fheivirq (V fnvq vg jnf n fcbvyre) qrfcvgr znffvir pnfhnygvrf, yrnivat onssyrq fheivibef hafher jung whfg unccrarq. Gur ybffrf va Orarngu gur Evfvat qba’g frrz arneyl nf onq nf gubfr va Gurfr Yvsryrff Guvatf, juvpu whfg tbrf gb fubj gung rira haqrfvenoyr bhgpbzrf pna or enaxrq. V yrna gbjneqf oryvrivat gur gevybtl naq abiry ner haeryngrq rkprcg gung gur nhgube vf snfpvangrq ol pregnva gurzrf.
A second question: given that this is written in the first person, who did Nick intend the reader to be?
I find myself baffled and confused by the fact this trilogy consists of exactly three books. Surely the error bars in trilogies allow for seven or more volumes? But apparently, they take the “tri” part of trilogy seriously in Alberta1 because this particular trilogy is actually a trilogy. One delivered in a reasonable amount of time at that.
Happily the final book is also a conclusion rather than a stopping place. All of the important threads are tied up neatly and while Mohamed could no doubt return to this setting, nothing in ending requires another volume. Beneath the Rising is a nicely written, deftly plotted sequence of horrors that will at least assure readers that no matter how dismal their circumstances, things can always be worse.
1: Alberta is a Canadian province several kilometres west of Etobicoke.