I was lucky enough to be introduced to Michael McClung’s Amra Therys series by Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, and came away impressed with McClung’s tight, compelling noir story. It was a trim, enjoyable tale with an interesting protagonist and a plot that kept the action coming.
In THE THIEF WHO SPAT IN LUCK’S GOOD EYE, McClung changes the formula. TROUBLE’S BRAIDS was strictly limited to the city in which Amra lived, but we barely get a few pages into LUCK’S GOOD EYE before Amra and Holgren are off in search of the lost city of Thagoth on a quest for the secret to immortality. In the first book, McClung made Lucernis feel like a real city by introducing us to scores of interesting characters who made the city feel vibrant and alive. But here, the outer world seems largely unpopulated, and almost everyone we meet is either immortal, a monster or both.
The setting is just a symptom of the changed focus, as brief interludes are interspersed between scenes. In these interludes, we see the gods Kerf and Isin looking down on Amra and Holgren from the heavens. While Kerf’s confusion as to why Amra constantly uses “Kerf’s balls” as a swear term is amusing, for the most part, these scenes didn’t do much for me, and the idea that the gods were playing a hands-on role in Amra’s adventures didn’t bring any additional stakes or excitement to the proceedings.
Unfortunately, that was part of a trend. When Amra and Holgren eventually find the city of Thagoth, they soon find themselves in the midst of a battle between a powerful sorceror and two immortal gods, a battle that requires Amra and Holgren to understand a long history between the key players. This probably has more to do with my interests than McClung’s skill as a writer and storyteller, but I found myself largely disinterested. I was also uninterested (and, admittedly, a bit confused by) Amra’s new love interest, which seemed to come out of nowhere.
The story wasn’t helped by the discovery that one god’s blood could bring dead characters back to life, which ends up becoming something of a crutch throughout the story — so much so that one character is brought back to life twice.
On the plus side, Amra remains the same strong, principled protagonist as before, even as we get a chance to explore her dark past and why she continues to see herself as a questionable character. Her flashbacks were illuminating and lent depth to a character I already liked.
Ultimately TROUBLE’S BRAIDS was a very personal story, in which Amra investigates a friend’s murder and shows that she’s willing to go to incredible lengths to find the truth. In LUCK’S GOOD EYE, the stakes are raised, but the story feels far less personal, and I found myself disappointed as a result.