Review: “Tiamat’s Wrath,” James S.A. Corey

Rating: 5 out of 5

In James S.A. Corey’s Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse, 8), once again the crew of the Rocinante is scattered to the four winds. Holden is captive on Laconia (he likens himself to a “dancing bear,” left to wander under guard so people will realize the high consul isn’t afraid of him). Bobbie and Alex are using their captured Laconian ship, the Gathering Storm, to run missions for the underground. Naomi is helping Saba to run the underground, sifting through information and coming up with battle plans. And Amos… well, he went on a mission to Laconia and vanished, never heard from again. Teresa Duarte, 14-year-old daughter of the Laconian high consul, has become one of our point-of-view characters, and Elvi Okoye returns as well.

Elvi and her husband Fayez have taken positions with the Laconians (not like they had much choice) tooling around the “dead systems” looking for alien artifacts. When a horrific event sends her back to Laconia, she’s assigned to work with Doctor Cortázar to find a cure for something that’s happened to the high consul. She’d rather work with anyone else, but she doesn’t have a choice in the matter. How Elvi’s being brought into everything that’s going on, what she discovers, and how she handles it ends up being quite significant. She’s being buffeted by forces she can’t control, but she isn’t alone.

Holden is up to something. His words to a variety of people seem to have hidden meaning, as though he’s working an agenda beyond the obvious. He’s learned a little bit of subtlety in his old age. He’s pushing at Teresa, trying to bring her to some kind of realization. It was his words to Duarte that caused Elvi to be given her current job. He’s out of the game almost entirely… or is he? There are costs to being a prisoner, and he isn’t really the man he used to be.

Teresa feels alone. Everybody is nice to her because they have to be, and her every move is scrutinized. She’s a rebellious teen, only her acts of rebellion will have far-reaching consequences. She’s made a new friend, and she doesn’t want to help her minders to cover up her father’s odd infirmity. When she sneaks out of the compound, she stumbles into all kinds of trouble. She may be angry, bitter, and afraid, but she has a lot of smarts and a lot of strength as well.

Naomi, Bobbie, and Alex are each doing their own part in the quiet fight against Laconian rule. They’re working with a mixed bag of recruits, and relying on as much secrecy as is humanly possible. It seems virtually impossible that they’ll survive much longer. Between the three of them exist existential questions about why and how to fight the Laconians’ authoritarian rule. As they take on their missions, things get SO TENSE.

Throughout all of this looms the threat of the forces that destroyed the protomolecule-producing aliens. Something triggers longer, more devastating effects from them, beyond just the gates occasionally eating a ship or the three minutes of unconsciousness when the Tempest’s weapon was fired.

There are high-consequence circumstances going on. The fate of worlds is at stake. The human race is in danger. And each individual member of Holden’s crew could be wiped out at any moment. There are unexpected casualties and seemingly inevitable ones, so that you never know quite what’s going to happen.

I’m still loving this series, and I’ve pre-ordered book 9!

“It’s been a really weird day.”

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