The Weight of the World: The galactic chess game continues

The Weight of the World by Tom TonerThe Weight of the World by Tom TonerThe Weight of the World by Tom Toner

Note: This review contains some spoilers for the previous book,  The Promise of the Child.

I finished The Promise of the Child, the first book in Tom Toner’s AMARANTHINE SPECTRUM space opera series, rather bewildered but game to continue the series by jumping into The Weight of the World (2017). Toner begins this second book in the series with a two page summary of what actually happened in The Promise of the Child, which is extremely helpful given the complexity of the events in that book. Then the story picks up right where it left off at the end of the last book.

The Weight of the World follows multiple characters as they journey in different directions, against a backdrop of galactic wars and conflicts. Most of the characters are familiar from the first book, though there are a few new faces, most notably Perception, an ancient, disembodied artificial intelligence with a bone or two to pick with some people, who develops a fondness for Lycaste. Lycaste, the gorgeous but painfully shy Melius (a giant human race based on Earth, the “Old World”), is swept along in the wake of Hugo Maneker, an immortal Amaranthine, as Hugo pursues his own agenda. Lycaste is beginning to overcome some of his childish traits and is gaining in confidence, as he experiences some really harrowing adventures on various planets and spaceships.

Book 1

Lycaste’s former crush Pentas and her sister Eranthis have been pulled away from their home by another immortal Amarantine, Jatropha, and are traveling across the Old World Provinces in a Wheelhouse, an immense mechanical rolling wheel with built-in living space. With them is Pentas’ baby daughter Arabis, a product of her liaison with a deceased man from a ruling family, who bodes to become a pawn in the political landscape. Is this baby the “promised child” the first book’s title alludes to?

Meanwhile: Aaron the Long-Life is plotting a takeover of the Firmament. Sotiris, currently the Amaranthine ruler of the Firmament, is still searching for his dead sister (WHY? He knows she’s dead. One more thing I don’t understand) and is losing his sanity, a byproduct of the Amaranthine immortality process. The knight Ghaldezuel and spaceship captain Maril are off on their own independent paths, having equally nerve-wracking and potentially deadly experiences in different parts of the Firmament. And that’s not all! But I’ll leave the other threads for readers to discover.

The Tropic of Eternity: Volume Three of The Amaranthine Spectrum Hardcover – August 7, 2018 by Tom Toner (Author)

Book 3

Most of the characters’ ultimate ends and purposes remain mysterious to me, and I’m not certain if that’s because I overlooked the explanation in the vast complexity of the story, or forgot it, or Toner just hasn’t revealed it yet. Toner writes well and these AMARANTHINE SPECTRUM books are highly imaginative, but I have a tough time seeing the forest for the trees in these novels. The paths of the various characters don’t cross much, if at all. The Weight of the World is, like its predecessor, quite fragmented and opaque, with little connection between the various threads. I sometimes had trouble remembering where a particular thread left off and had to backtrack to refresh my recollection. A few surreal, dreamlike scenes increased my sense of disorientation.

Additionally, this is definitely an interim volume in the series. Nothing much gets resolved in The Weight of the World; one senses that it’s a long chess game and the various pieces are still getting moved into place.

As a result, I was never able to fully immerse myself in this series, though other readers who enjoy complex stories may enjoy it far more than I did. For my money, though, The Weight of the World, like The Promise of the Child, fails Daryl Gregory’s “Mom Test”: “Does Daryl’s Mom understand what’s going on? Does she understand the characters, what they want, and why they want it?” For this particular mom the answer is no, and I’m afraid I’m done with this series. However, if you’re a (very bright) reader who appreciates truly complex world-building, plots with multiple moving parts, and a cast of characters large enough to require frequent reference to the glossary, it’s worth checking out. For the right reader these will be 4 or 5 star books.

Published in January 2017. It is the 147th century; the turning of the Amaranthine new year. In the provinces of the Old World, the giant Elatine’s war of liberation has come to an impasse, leaving the wicked monarchy of the First in possession of the throne. In the Vaulted Lands of the Firmament, acolytes have risen up to execute their immortal masters. The opportunistic races of the Prism, intoxicated with greed, have arrived inside every Solar Satrapy to scavenge what’s left. In the wild Investiture, on a forgotten water moon, a crew of shipwrecked Privateers come face to face with their greatest terror, and with it the most valuable treasure in all the galaxy. Jatropha, legendary Immortal, must escort his precious charge through the exotic Westerly Provinces, knowing all the world would steal her if they could. Sotiris, his mind fading fast, must set out to find his dear, drowned sister in a land previously unglimpsed by anyone but the dead. Lycaste, now far from home, must journey in strange company to the edge of a tempestuous sea, to the lair of someone so dangerous that even the legendary Amaranthine fear his name. Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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