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The Ships of Air: Book Two of the Fall of Ile-Rien    by Martha Wells order for
Ships of Air
by Martha Wells
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the 2nd in the Fall of Ile-Rien series, following The Wizard Hunters. What I like most about it is its impulsive, ruthless heroine, Tremaine Valiarde. In the first book, with their country losing to the invading, sorcerous Gardier, Tremaine and companions used a magical sphere to travel to another world. There they joined with Syprians, in particular with foster brothers Giliead and Ilias, survived several violent encounters with the enemy, and briefly returned to Ile-Rien.

As this episode opens, Tremaine has essentially hijacked a cruise ship, the Queen Ravenna. Filled with refugees (including Ile-Rien royalty), it has crossed the 'etheric gateway' again. The Riens seek to ally with the matriarchal Syprians, despite the latter's distrust of anything (including technology) that appears magical. To solidify the agreement, Tremaine agrees to act as the Syprian spokesperson, and also makes a more personal commitment. What follows is a long voyage on a half empty ship, filled with refugees of different races, Gardier prisoners, captive sorceror Ixion, and something evil that stalks the ship's corridors with deadly intent.

The Queen Ravenna sails to the 'walls of the world' (jagged mountains rising from the sea) and searches for a passage, a 'Wall Port'. Of course, the enemy is already there. Tremaine, Ilias and Giliead are part of a mission to destroy the Gardier outpost. When things go awry, they end up in the air in a 'flying whale' (an airship) under enemy control in the enemy's homeword. There's a capture and an escape, several explosive encounters, and a surprising meeting with a Rien agent. When they finally rendezvous with the Ravenna once more, Tremaine finds her own people poised to work with the untrustworthy, manipulative Ixion.

Martha Wells writes brilliant fantasy, full of unique cultures and worlds, strong individuals, intriguing puzzles, and headlong action. I can't wait for Book Three in the Fall of Ile-Rien.

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