Trent Jamieson

The Nightbound Land book 2

Angry Robot (2012)

ISBN 978 0 85766 187 6

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

This is the second, concluding title, of the story that began with Roil. And what an intriguing read The Nightbound Land duology has been.

Thing is, from the first few chapters of Roil, we know what’s going to happen at the end. You can’t have those excerpts from various histories and memoirs of the unfolding action without someone surviving, can you? And this is the key to the books’ tension: who survives, and how? And what shape is the world in when the dust settles?

Jamieson’s hero is David, drug-addicted and now somewhat possessed by the spirit of an immortal, on a mission to save the world from the Roil: an all-consuming wave of darkness inhabited by wonderfully fantastical creatures including a version of zombie. Elsewhere there are analogues of vampires and dire wolves, romping through a landscape of steampunk technology enhanced with the likes of organic and jet-powered aircraft. It’s a fascinating and well-drawn world, and in this second volume the truth of its creation is revealed – I wasn’t carried away by the deeper cyclical nature of it all, but the promise of being able to break the cycle adds interest to the final denouement.

Against this backdrop, our heroes push on against the remorseless odds – Kara the daring Aerokin pilot and Margaret the vengeful survivor of the lost city of Tate stand tall and engaging, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of wild child Cam. The cast is fleshed out with flawed citizens trying to cope with the encroaching end of their world as best they can and villains following their own sense of duty. Some of those who fall leave a sense of loss greater than their role might’ve suggested. Some foes are beaten surprisingly easily, while others endure.

Throughout there are beautiful turns of phrase, such as this touching finale for a character who takes a dive from the floating city of Drift:

The fall was a long one, just as her life had been long, but nothing is forever; the earth found her in the end.

This is a global story and Jamieson goes to pains to offer as complete a picture as possible, providing closure for many of the even minor arcs that have brought the big picture closer to home by demonstrating the impact of events on the common citizen.

One of the elements that really impresses about this second book is the way we are brought up to speed. Within a few chapters, without resorting to clunky info dumps, we’re well on our way with all the necessary background. As some old friends and nemeses are reintroduced, for the most part they seem to fit right in thanks to sufficient mentions in the intervening text. Given the size of the cast and the porousness of my memory, that’s quite an achievement.

Sadly, the proofreading – also a bugbear in Roil – has again let the side down, with an above-average litter of typographical errors such as run-on words, incorrect punctuation and an inexcusable line break in the middle of a sentence (p211). Still, the typos can’t hold back the momentum of the story as it rolls toward the inevitable climax.

What a pleasure it has been to journey in the Nightbound Land. I can’t wait to read where Jamieson takes us next.