The sequel to Crystal Soldier is a book that I was pretty fascinated with, and answers almost all of the questions that the first book raises. We meet Tor An yos'Galan and see how he comes into the story, we find out what happened to Jela, we find out how aspects of the world work, we find out how everyone manages to leave the galaxy...and get to learn the background details behind the founding of Clan Korval. I only wish this one was longer. I would have loved to have heard more.
I do have a few quibbles, though, which is why this book is four instead of five stars or something.
The only thing I thought was really not well executed within the book is, well, the very beginning. My top sci-fi pet peeve is books that when you read the descriptions, you have NO IDEA what they are discussing, and the topics involved have virtually no relation to our real life so you can get the context.
If I'd never heard of the Liadenverse before and picked up this book in a store and started rifling through the opening pages... I would have immediately put it down. Hell, I'm a big fan and I was so utterly lost as to what was going on in the (long!) prologue that I thought I'd bought another e-book by mistake, and had to go back and reread the dang chapter again after I'd just finished it. That is NOT in any way, shape, or form, a good lead-in to either noobs OR longtime fans who can't figure out what they are talking about. It was that obscure to me.
Actually, in general, the whole "cosmic forces working against the destroyers of the universe" parts were pretty damned hard to follow, but the beginning bit is the worst. However, I do understand that describing that stuff would be nigh-impossible to do, so I give it some leeway. But the beginning... well, I would have put that later in the book, not at the very front, or have put it in the first book, or just NOT had it be the first thing you read of Crystal Dragon. Put it anywhere but there so it won't scare people off!
For the record, let me explain what is going on: it's explaining how the Illoheen/shreiekas (the beings destroying the galaxy) school certain humans into working for them, by teaching them how to make and unmake matter. The females they school are all nameless. (Incidentally, the namelessness is quite painful to follow. Gah.) The nameless lady of Rool Tiazan creates him during this chapter as her subordinate- she creates a human body for him and traps some sort of spirit into the body. Only, she somehow ends up trapping the wrong kind of spirit- more of an independent being than a tame spirit- and this makes their partnership much more interesting.
Also a little odd are two plot elements that to me, smack of R2-D2 being able to fly in the Star Wars prequels and not ever in the later books:
- How an aelantaza works- they managed to implant another personality on top of their own and bury the original, and (mostly) the original personality comes back. If you've read Agent of Change, there's a section in it where Val Con mentions that his employers tried to create something similar, but only managed to wipe both the original personality AND make the person unable to take a new personality. How come that ability was lost? Yeah, sure, I doubt any other aelantaza made it to Liad but Cantra and she wouldn't be sharing that information, but.... nobody ever managed to rediscover how this was done?
- The abilities the tree demonstrates with regards to creating specialized seed-pods. If the tree can do that (or for that matter, how the tree manages to broadcast dragons in people's heads), why hasn't the tree done that in the later books? Though I guess Cantra's later speech about not messing around with people might be how that's explained as not happening.
In short, if I were the authors, I wouldn't have gone THAT far with regards to plot details if that hasn't been shown in previous books.
But despite my nitpicking bitching, I really liked this book, and sometime I need to get paperback copies of both books and reread things and do some comparisons between the two.