God of Broken Things, by Cameron Johnston (Angry Robot)
One of the challenges of writing a sequel is the balance between giving the new reader all the necessary background, developing the characters well enough, and yet not boring readers who are already familiar with the cast and setting. I picked up God of Broken Things unaware that it was a sequel to Traitor God. For most of the book, however, I could not decide if God of Broken Things was indeed a sequel (to a book I knew immediately I wanted to run out and read) or a stand-alone with a rich and brilliantly handled back story.
The world of this story, and in particular the city-state of Setharis, are still reeling after the events in the previous book, which include all sort of monstrous, god-like things running amok and smashing things in horrific fashion.Our reluctant hero, Edrin Walker, a “tyrant” magus who can read thoughts and impose his will on others, among other mental talents, remains at odds with the magical authorities and himself. Behind all this havoc are the barbaric Skallgrim (skull-grim?), many of whom are infested with alien Scarrabus mind-parasites. Now the Skallgrim and their mind-worms (or insects) are back again, bent on battering the world into ruins, and if humanity survives at all, it will be as an inferior, enslaved race. Much as the Setharis magus powers-that-be distrust Edrin’s mental powers, he’s their best hope, so they send him to hold the invading army at bay or at least slow it down until their allies can arrive. Edrin gathers together a personal coterie of arsonists and poisoners, plus a mind-slave or two, a sword that’s really a bloodthirsty demon, an old almost-lover, and a vicious pony, along with a handful of other magi of various sorts. And things go wrong. And more wrong. And then seriously wrong, with one reversal or twist leading to the next, even more awful crisis. And then this-can’t-possibly-get-worse-but-it-does wrong.