A fine story, showcasing an unique universe.
Babylon Steel, former avatar of the goddess of sex and war, currently owner of the Scarlet Lantern, the best brothel on Scalentine, city of portals, has been offered a job; as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, the latest candidate for the Council of Incandress; and as spy for the Diplomatic Section, the barely-acknowledged government of Scalentine. She doesn't want it. Incandress is on the verge of civil war. Enthemmerlee represents the hopes or fears of a large portion of its population and is a prime target for assassination. And on Scalentine racial tensions and economic stresses are boiling up, with Babylon's lover, Chief Bitternut, trying to keep the lid on. But circumstances conspire to send her to Incandress. There, what with attempting to turn Enthemmerlee's useless household guard into a disciplined fighting force, dodging the Moral Statutes, the unwilling presence of a very annoyed member of the Diplomatic Section and the need to keep both herself and her client alive, things become rather too interesting. And that's before Babylon realizes that the situation is far worse than she thought, and is driven to a choice that will have far-reaching consequences…
Early 2012 saw the release of Gaie Sebold’s debut novel Babylon Steel and new start of a series published by Solaris. By the synopsis and of course the cover (yes, I am a sucker for a good catchy art) I just had to read this book. Now I recently read Ack-Ack Macaque, which was released in January this year also by Solaris and I immediately had to think about Babylon. On the comparison they both are completely different books but they do share one strength in common and that is the uniqueness in their concepts and universe. Like I said in the Ack-Ack Macaque review Solaris has made a great deal with these books.
Babylon Steel, the first book in the series, revealed a more than rich universe where worlds/planes are connected to each other via portals. Different races likes weres (like werewolves), fey and lizards. Magic that is limited on each plane where it can be deadly on one, it can be just a small tingle on the other. Everything for the setting to the heroine Babylon, herself an ex-avatar of the Goddess Babaska produced a great debut and very enjoyable story. There was a nice ending towards it but due to a clever way of telling there story Gaie Sebold already introduced some interesting concepts to go on about.
What directly falls to notice in the start of Dangerous Gifts is the way Babylon is shown. It is quite different from the first book where you actually followed two storylines, one of Babylon’s past where you glimpse her in her avatar life and the other in her current life as ex-many other things. Now the sole focus is on her story in the present and again it is with problems. In the beginning of the book you see how Babylon is dealing with running the Scarlet Lantern and everything that comes looking around the corner. Later, you see the follow-up of the first book taking in its place. Babylon is somewhat forced in accepting a job so that she can again get out of a debt. By accepting this job you finally have the long awaited travel between planes! Yes! this was really something I was looking forwards to. Is was good to see what this universe had to offer. Describing this passage and everything leading up to it was very neat.
Babylon’s character was just stunning to read about, she has a great character personality. On one level she is just normal with not really wanting to be related with her avatar past. And perhaps by this she has become quite the a badass in not taking no for an answer and trying to always get her way but also trying to relate and see the goodness in other peoples. This was shown in a great manner with the Fey Laney, who is terrible with money. She does see reason in what Laney’s short comings are and although she might be pissed off by this, she does the sensible thing. And even more, with her parting her crew and taking the job solo, she has to become dependent on other people and this again was shown in a great way, adding more and more sense to Babylon’s character. Gaie Sebold does a terrific job with putting down Babylon herself.
However on all the promises that Babylon Steel had to offer for me Dangerous Gifts did not really had the same catchiness as the first book in the series. This is not meant to be a negative point, but there was a large change in the way the book was built up and how the narration was done. The sole focus is on a new planet and that was pretty interesting but it just felt that the pacing of this book was somewhat off. It has many great ideas but in the executing it did feel a bit out of place with the connection. Having some more obvious ideas that you could guess a bit too easily to happen and I missed a good reason of why Babylon did it in the first place. It was that she had to do it by the things that Laney did while Babylon explicitly said no and this felt a bit too easy to set everything in motion. A second small notion is about the persons you meet in the new world of Icandress. They did not feel out of place but after the first book where you got to meet the “misfit” crew of Babylon with Previous, Flower the Orc, Laney the Fey , the twins and Hargur I could not really relate to the characters on Icandress though Enthemmerlee was great and she is shown in a struggle for her self having become something quite different. I just missed a bit magic spark of the first book.
This last part does not take away that Dangerous Gift is again a fine story to read. Yes it missed for me some of the magic that was overflowing in the first book. Dangerous Gifts does deliver an interesting story in Babylon’s world and in the end I really like the intervention of Babaska, the goddess of who Babylon was an avatar. You cannot guess what she wants of Babylon, another great addition Morlock who on one hand further obscures the magic present in the universe and on the other reveals of what is possible. Dangerous Gifts shows a unique universe and slowly you get to learn more and more, and now with some interesting ending and Babylon back on Scalentine who knows what problems Babylon will be facing next time?
Review by Jasper de Joode
8.6/10 from 1 reviews
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