The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis, was one of my top books of 2015, so it should be no surprise that I was excited for the sequel – The Rising. For those of you unfamiliar with the original book, it is a historical fiction that follows multiple points of view, telling the story of a steampunk war between the Dutch and the French. The Dutch have created animatronic slaves called mechanicals, robot warriors bound to their will. The mechanicals are efficient killing machines, and have crushed every army they have come up against with the exception of the French chemists. What most don’t realize is that the mechanicals are intelligent coordinated machines, and they are starting to break free.
Our first book ended with a bang, and the second hits the ground running. One of the previous POV’s has been eliminated, and a familiar face has risen to take their place. Our story revolves around Berenice – an excommunicated spy master, Jax – a rogue mechanical, and our new face – Hugo Longchamp, a French captain of the guard. Much of the quality of the writing, worldbuilding, prose, and character development remains the same (great) from book one, so let’s talk about the differences. One of the major new elements to The Rising is the fact that Tregillis’ creativity was kicked into high gear. The book is a cavalcade of new and interesting inventions from all fronts: French, Dutch, and Mechanical. Tregillis does a truly impressive job of both making the Dutch mechanical army seem like an unstoppable war machine, while also coming up with creative and inventive ways for the French to stall and deter them. On top of this, the character development and growth in the story is phenomenal. The Rising is about change, both in the characters and the world at large. Tregillis has written flawed, interesting, and likable characters that do a great job of feeling like real people. The Rising sees each of the characters exploring their flaws, reminiscing on their mistakes, and questioning their beliefs, but do it in an endearing way that most book characters fail to achieve. Each character must question what they know and think and then must decide the path they want to take. Surprisingly, the characters choices surpassed my expectations in many instances, with some showing major growth and others stagnation.
However, the book did have two problems I wanted to address. The first is that some of the scenes were incredibly hard to follow. There was one scene at a mining town that I had to read about four times before I was able to understand what was happening. In addition, in some instances Tregillis goes into wonderfully explicit detail about how the magic of his world works, and in others he makes vague hand gestures. I expect that more will be revealed in time, but it made some passages of the book difficult to conceptualize. In addition, the ending of The Rising was telegraphed with a bonfire you could see a county away at about the 60% point. It was as if each character said they wanted to figure out how to paint a door, and each character held one item of the equation: door, paint, and brush. I would have enjoyed it more if there had been a little more surprise in the ending, but the ending was pretty great despite the obvious telegraphing.
The Rising continues the excellent quality of writing and story from The Mechanical, while also improving in a number of areas to make an overall very strong book. I am extremely excited about the sequel and the book has cemented Ian Tregillis as one of my favorite historical fiction writers of all time. If you are looking for an imaginative historical fiction with steampunk and Dutch villains, The Quill to Live definitely recommends The Mechanical and The Rising by Ian Tregillis.
Rating: The Mechanical – 8.5/10
The Rising – 8.5/10