Top Tier (4 to 5 stars)

The Salt-Black Tree [Dead Gods Heart Duology #2], by Lilith Saintcrow

4 of 5 stars. must be read in quick succession with the first book (you need to pretend they’re just one book, that’s the trick). Good conclusion to Nats journey.

4 stars

Welcome back to the adventures of Nat, and her mother and probably her grandmother. There’s still a lot to be done – so let’s get to it. Dawaj, dawaj!

In case you’re missing some kind of intro here – no. Read the review to the first book, and read the first novel itself, because this story starts right where the last one ended. It’s like someone took a long story, used a cleaver to cut it in two halves and said in a thick Russian accent: Is going to be two books now. Two books better than one. Da.

See? Is smaller book now.

(I want to apologize to all my Russian friends; I know that was very cliche. But also kinda fitting, you know?)

True to the first part, Natchenka is still way over her head into the whole mystery of it. But she started to wise up at the end of the first novel, and she keeps walking that path here. Although on a crucially painfully slow pace – I’ve mentioned it before, that pace is a point of critique. I think the story would have benefitted from Nat being a faster learner, because it’s not helping me liking her. I like her in general, but I really want to slap her around most of the time, while wanting her to wise up and ask the right questions.

Nat being slow is probably part of the dramatics (plot-wise), but it’s not keeping inner consistency with the character. And since we’re talking about plot: with both books combined, it really starts to look like the hero’s journey was a role model for Nat’s journey.

In the case of Nat, it’s more a stumble than s journey.

One could argue that Baba is the mentor, but I think Konets fits that role better. Enemies and allies are there, too, like friendly and ranger, and book two starts at the approach to the inmost cave, with Nat having secured the second of the three arcana’s of her mother (or her own, there’s room to debate here).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll happily repeat it: This feels like it should have been one book, not two. I’ve had some problems with the worldbuilding while reading part one, but those question marks left in my head became clearer during reading part two. Coincidentally, I would bump up the rating for the first book by half a star in light of the second part. I’m not sure if this was the author’s decision or the publisher’s, but whoever decided to split the story in two, did it a disservice. The value of the overall story is bigger than the sum of its parts. I swear – trim some dead wood from the first book and fuse the remaining scenes with book two, and it would instantly be better.

The hero’s journey as a concept holds true to the end, but it is being compressed and stretched here and there – really long stretched at the start, pretty compressed at the end.

To come to a conclusion: I’m happy I picked up the second title in this duology, even after my struggles with the first part. The second part made everything better. If you like dark urban fantasy and are not afraid of getting through the first part (it’s a bit drawn out at some points), then go for it. But take both books and pretend they’re one! 4 stars, in retrospect.

Disclaimer: I’ve received a free Advanced Reader’s Copy and am leaving this review voluntarily.

By Stefan

father of two, not enough time to read everything I want to read

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s