Kameron Hurley's God's War (Canada, USA, Europe) was everything I want a novel to be and then some! Brutal, uncompromising, brilliant, enthralling; it was an awesome read!
The question was: Could Hurley do it again? After all, the author had set the bar rather high, and I doubted that she could write a sequel that would live up to the lofty expectations generated by God's War.
Although Infidel may not be as incredible as its predecessor, it is nevertheless a very, very good read and a worthy sequel to God's War. It is also a sort of transition book that will link the storylines from the first installment with what will take place in the third volume of the Bel Dame Apocrypha series.
Here's the blurb:
The only thing worse than war is revolution. Especially when you're already losing the war...
Nyx used to be a bel dame, a government-funded assassin with a talent for cutting off heads for cash. Her country's war rages on, but her assassin days are long over. Now she's babysitting diplomats to make ends meet and longing for the days when killing people was a lot more honorable.
When Nyx's former bel dame "sisters" lead a coup against the government that threatens to plunge the country into civil war, Nyx volunteers to stop them. The hunt takes Nyx and her inglorious team of mercenaries to one of the richest, most peaceful, and most contaminated countries on the planet -- a country wholly unprepared to host a battle waged by the world's deadliest assassins.
In a rotten country of sweet-tongued politicians, giant bugs, and renegade shape shifters, Nyx will forge unlikely allies and rekindle old acquaintances. And the bodies she leaves scattered across the continent this time... may include her own.
Because no matter where you go or how far you run in this world, one thing is certain: the bloody bel dames will find you.
Once again, the worldbuilding was my favorite aspect of this work. As was the case in God's War, Hurley's vision is unique and the universe she created comes alive as the story progresses. Her narrative creates a vivid imagery that makes the ravaged world and its characters leap off the pages. Centuries in the past, Islam took to the stars, but the religion has evolved and strife began hundreds of years before while the men and women lived on the moons as magicians terraformed the planet to make it habitable. That facet of the novel was as brilliantly done as it were in God's War. Problem is, so much remains undisclosed. Revelations are few and far between, which makes reading the book all the more fascinating, but also a little frustrating. The backstory is important in order to understand what led to the holy war and the planet's isolation, yet most concepts retain a definite mysterious aura with very few answers in sight. With two volumes under my belt, I'm still looking forward to discovering more about the origins of the long-lasting war and the different societies/religions populating the planet. Hopefully, the third volume, Rapture, will be more forthcoming in that regard.
Throughout Infidel, Hurley keeps her cards close to her chest again, which means that we don't learn a whole lot regarding the strange insectile technology and magic, both of which give this series its unique "flavor." We do learn more about the bel dames and their council, and politicking is at the heart of this novel. It looks as though the gene pirate plotline, which played a vast role in the first installment, will reappear in volume 3. Meanwhile, the bulk of Infidel has to do with the rogue bel dames' attempted coup against the government and Nyx's involvement in the conflict.
The tale occurs in a war-torn and contaminated world, and the men and women populating this book are the product of a brutal and unforgiving environment. The author's characterization is akin to that of gritty authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Richard Morgan, and George R. R. Martin. Once more, nothing is as it seems. And though Hurley is parsimonious when it comes to revelations, the more you read, the more this novel continues to resound with depth. Nyx was too kick-ass for my taste to be fully believable in God's War. She remains true to herself in this second volume, but I felt she was more genuine this time. In addition to her point of view, Rhys and Inaya are also POV protagonists and I felt that their disparate personalities created a nice balance between them. Witnessing events unfold through the eyes of such vastly different characters added another dimension to what was already a superior work. À la Robin Hobb, Kameron Hurley has no qualms about making her characters suffer, and boy will they go through hell before all is said and done.
The rhythm is balls-to-the-wall and fast-moving, making Infidel another page-turner. The author sure knows how to pace a novel. And as the proverbial shit hits the fan, Infidel becomes hard to put down.
Like God's War, this second volume is a violent tale set against the backdrop of a centuries-old holy war. Hurley's prose remains dark and brooding, but she still manages to surprise you with touching moments that pack a powerful emotional punch when you least expect it. The secret's out: Kameron Hurley is definitely a gifted writer and I'm looking forward to reading the final chapter in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series.