The Bear and the Serpent is book 2 of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Echoes of the Fall series. Maniye now has three shapes she can step into and, with the aid of her champion form, has learned to work with all of them. The power structures in the north are shifting and re-aligning and Maniye finds herself the leader of a warband of misfits and outcasts, amongst them her natural father Takes Iron. She doesn’t really know how to handle this or where she fits in, so she takes her band south with Asmander so he can fight in the civil war.
Meanwhile, Loud Thunder is trying to draw together all the peoples of the North to meet the threat that the world faces: the plague people, who have no animal souls, and the strange capacity to destroy the human side of person. Anyone who meets them or is struck by their bullets finds themselves trapped in their animal soul, unable to step and unable to communicate. There are more clues that the plague people are the peoples from the Shadows of the Apt series and I am fascinated to see how the two connect. Loud Thunder’s struggles with the representatives of all the tribes he has gathered together are undermined by his unrequited romantic obsession and his lack of confidence in himself. Eventually he overcomes his insecurities and leads the tribes in an attack that pushes the plague people back into the sea. It is done at great cost and with the sense that they will come back stronger and the tribes will not win next time.
There is a real danger that this blog is going to become an Adrian Tchaikovsky fansite. Once again, I found myself completely absorbed. This is a middle book in a series of three and often middle books don’t resolve anything in the story as they are busy setting up book three. In The Bear and the Serpent Asmander’s story is resolved. He finds a way between the twins at war that ends the conflict and faces up to his manipulative father. But the plague people are in the south too. The Bear and the Serpent is brilliantly balanced between telling a complete story within the novel and forming the middle act in a trilogy. It is very accomplished. I can’t wait to read book three.