The Ships of Air is the second book in Martha Wells trilogy The Fall if Ile-Rien and over all I’d say its the weaker of the first two books (the third is not yet out at the time of writing).
Presumably the title refers to the air-ships which the Gardier use in their attacks on Ile-Rien and its allies. However, its still not clear to me what relevance that title has to what actually happens in this book.
That’s really the heart of my criticism. This book is every bit as well written as the previous one. The characters are both complex and compelling but very little that happens in this book really seems to forward the plot. We spend an awful lot of time wandering around a cruise ship discussing things with characters who never appear again.
Perhaps the endless fantasy sagas so common these days have made me cynical, but this book smells of padding. Its artful and entertaining padding, but I’m left with a sneaking suspicion that the story could have been told in two books rather than three.
But lets not give the wrong impression. This is a good book. It’s fast paced, well written and Wells continues to excel at characterization. Particularly good is the halting romance between Tremaine and Ilias. It’s also nice to have the Gardier fleshed out. They are no longer faceless and implacable villains. Instead they have human emotions and may well be being manipulated themselves.
I’m still definitely looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy, I’m just not quite as blown away by this one as I hoped to be.