RogerBW's Blog

Latchkey, Nicole Kornher-Stace 19 July 2021

2018 fantasy/SF, sequel to Archivist Wasp. The Catchkeep-priest has been overthrown, and the former acolytes and Archivist are an uneasy part of the post-apocalyptic community of Sweetwater. But bad things are coming…

And that's not even really what the story is about. After the events of the previous book, Isabel the archivist has some distinctly ghost-like characteristics herself, and when some of the townspeople have to hide from the raiders in the old tunnels it doesn't go at all smoothly.

The bulk of the narrative covers Isabel working with the two ghosts she's met before, of pre-collapse super-soldiers: there are other super-soldier ghosts in the tunnels, which turn out to have been part of a substantial underground complex, and all sorts of things can attract their fatal attention. There are ways to deal with this, but they are not simple, and nobody left an instruction manual.

Over by the doorway, Salazar had begun nosing at the air, scenting like a predator. Suddenly, viscerally, Isabel wished Salazar still had eyes. Her slow blind triangulation of their position was extremely unnerving. It made Isabel uncomfortably aware that she was, at best, a slow-moving bag of blood, and it would take precious little effort on Salazar’s part to unzip her.

They're all much more people than they were in the first book: there's none of that initial scene-setting post-apocalyptic grind, and so things get moving much faster. There's more exploration of the pre-collapse world, and some reconstruction of what happened to make things the way they are…

…but yet, somehow, it feels like explanation of a thing that didn't really need explanation. When I read Archivist Wasp I filled in the gaps for myself, and being given the official version doesn't really make things better. AW was written as a stand-alone book, and while I enjoyed this sequel, in some ways I think AW should perhaps have stayed stand-alone.

Or maybe it's just that that book ended with a conclusion, and this book ends with something of a cliff-hanger, but while Kornher-Stace is working on a third and final volume it isn't yet available.

I enjoyed it, I don't regret the time I spent reading it, but it wasn't the wonderful surprise that Archivist Wasp was. Is that a reason to condemn it? I don't think it should be, but I certainly got less enjoyment out of this than I did out of that.

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