I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. It turns out that The Steel Remains was the first in a trilogy after all. Richard Morgan’s The Cold Commands is the second in the series.
Ringil is busy exacting revenge on the slave traders who took his cousin. He slaughters a whole caravan and heads into the nearest city to hide out from those looking to hold him accountable. While there he has a number of experiences which seem to add up to the divine taking an interest in his activities and finds himself on a boat headed for Yelteth. Which happens to be where Archeth is, back at the court of the increasingly paranoid and violent Jhiral II, and planning an expedition to find a lost Kiriath city. Egar is also in Yelteth, ostensibly guarding Archeth but is bored with this and starts looking for trouble. He finds it and uncovers a dwenda incursion in the heart of the city. When Archeth realises Ringil is in town she signs him up for her expedition and they rescue Eg from the trouble he’s got himself into.
This was enormously good fun. It is not quite what the first book was and I think that is in part because this is a middle book. It is less grim, less violent and less sexual, although less is very much relative here – there’s still plenty of all those things. There is more about the incursions of alien races into this world and consequently less characterization. I don’t feel that I know any of the three protagonists any better than I did at the end of the first book. In many respects The Cold Commands is not as good as The Steel Remains, but it sets up the third book in an exciting way. I still enjoyed it immensely and am looking forward to the concluding part of the trilogy.