Second Spear by Kerstin Hall

By way of introductory remarks, I’d like to remind you that when I read Hall’s first Mkalis book, The Border Keeper, I was both over- and underwhelmed. Yet here I am back with Second Spear, hoping all the good remained good and the lacklustre got shined up.

That sort of happened.

For those who don’t know Kerstin Hall’s Mkalis Cycle, it takes place in an otherworld of gods and demons, in which souls from our world go after death to live in the many bizarre realms there. Life can be happy there, but the profusion of ambitious gods and demons can also make it profoundly unsafe. So it is that Tyn, Second Spear of the Realm of Res Lfae, finds herself going on a hair-raising adventure to stop her ruler and friends getting absolutely shafted.

I have to shamefacedly admit that, after wishing for more conventional story after drifting in the sea of weirdness in The Border Keeper, I then complained about there being a lot of character set up and not enough weirdness at the start of Second Spear. A disturbingly good example of just-right readerdom at play. That said, it’s right for you or it isn’t, and it wasn’t. The reason why it wasn’t, and something that plagued me throughout my read, was not really liking the characters very much.

I liked Tyn. Tyn is a pleasantly uncomplicated hero with a wry outlook on the world. I almost always like such characters. It’s the main characters around her that bugged me. Sion’s sole purpose seems to be to do nothing but whine and ask questions. I get it’s meant to be a growing arc, but I need to see something I want to grow early. Also he was up for killing cats at one point, fuck that guy. Yeah, I know he was in a creepy demonic realm and the cat was suspicious, so I’d like to qualify my statement by saying: fuck that guy. Vehn, Tyn’s superior, is a hardass with a stick lodged so far up there you can see the leaves growing out of her nostrils. She has her moments but I spent most of the book rooting for Tyn to slip on out on them and forget they ever existed, not show how great she is by caring for them anyway.

Ignoring the greater character depth and complexity that mostly ground my gears, Second Spear is a lot like The Border Keeper. The atmosphere is thick with weirdness, from out and out spooky to blatantly creepy cult. Sometimes that resulted in me and my friends asking each other in confusion what just happened and why, but I’m not sure any of us were that bothered. The plot once again drifts along for most of the book as the characters explore, before kicking into turbo mode as the end approaches. The chapters where turbo mode happens are fantastic by the way; hugely enjoyed one of the twists.

I did also enjoy some of the character arcs’ resolutions too. Just not enough not to complain about the majority of the arc.

All in all, Second Spear is a good recommendation for anyone who wants some adventure fantasy in very weird places. I am a little frustrated it’s not more than good, but it is what it is, and I look forwards to the next installment in the Mkalis Cycle. More power to Hall’s spear.

I got a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to them and the publishers for this.

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