Robert thought becoming a dynamicist would enable him to change the world, starting with saving all his friends from being slaughtered. He was wrong.
Acts of genuine creativity used to bring mortal punishment. But now, wizardry is dead and Robert, Koria and Eloise live in a world where change and invention is possible.
Robert hopes that mathematically-framed dynamics will enable him to change the new world. But he keeps having prophetic dreams where his friends are all murdered by a mysterious cloaked man, and the grain protestors are more menacing than ever. They declare dynamics is dangerous and that the changes must stop. They are right about one thing: dynamics is dangerous, especially for someone so hopeful, angry and impetuous as Robert.
Soon Robert’s horrific nightmares come true and a cloaked man appears on campus, stalking and murdering students --his friends are next.
Desperate to change the future, Robert recklessly pushes the bounds of both dynamics and reason. Every crushing failure dampens Robert’s hope for the future and pushes him a step closer to the powerful, nihilistic, and merciless Lonely Wizard.
Hunt’s not stingy with answers as his story widens in scope to include political conspiracy, a cult, and the threat of war. He renders scenes of action with crisp power, albeit with an overreliance on onomatopoeia such as “BRRRRAAAAA” and “CRRRACKKKKKKKKKKKKK,” and the action sequences are winningly varied. Readers will enjoy a tavern brawl, a fracas at an underground cult meeting, a confrontation with a legendary magician, and a desperate battle against monstrous “skolves,” in which Robert and his classmates must cooperate with everyday soldiers who are understandably skeptical of magic schoolboys.
The most memorable elements of the series remain Hunt’s philosophical provocations and his vividly detailed magical system. It’s a joy to see the characters dig into the study and theory of magic as well as the cultural consequences of its use. Engaging deeply with how heroes’ actions affect the lives of everyone else, this sequel finds Robert discovering the complex truths about why his world fears change. Even the cultists, he realizes, have their reasons. That richness occasionally comes at the cost of narrative momentum, especially in the first half, but the story picks up speed again for a climactic conclusion. This is an exciting, expansive, and ultimately satisfying exploration of the meaning of heroism, the economics of magic, and the role of innovation in society.
Takeaway: Readers looking for a thoughtful take on the wizard-school story will enjoy this mix of philosophy, mathematics, and action.
Great for fans of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+
A bold fantasy sequel that delivers on the first volume’s call to action.
In this second installment of a trilogy, a talented student closes in on the villain of his prophetic dream but at great cost.
At the New School, in the bustling capital of Vercors, 18-year-old Robert Endicott trains to be a knight and a dynamicist. The latter involves manipulating energy with his mind to alter probabilities and perform what looks, superficially, like wizardry. Robert’s been preoccupied as of late with a “heraldic dream” that revealed a tall, cloaked figure murdering his friend Eloise Kyre and his lover, Koria Valcourt. He’s committed to thwarting this tragedy while learning to harness his talents at the Vercors Ice Company, home to a secret, off-campus training lab for dynamicists. The lab is safe, but because Robert can’t resist a woman in need, he helps seamstress Freyla Loche repair her “stitching engines” that were sabotaged. He later investigates a potential conspiracy of those loyal to the demon Nimrheal, who’d like to blame all of life’s ills on a new type of grain called “triticale.” When the cloaked figure does strike, Robert and his classmate Gregory Justice are well prepared, thanks to some covert work in a forge. But lives are lost in a grisly manner that references Robert’s favorite book, The Lonely Wizard. Mortal danger is much closer to Robert’s friends than he can guess. Hunt allows his dynamicist to flex his probability-altering muscles in this daring fantasy sequel. The students’ use of heat to change the outcome of thrown dice is a thrilling portrayal of magic. Later, theory is traded for battlefield action as “a sheet of electrons staggered downwards in the tiniest sliver of a second,” hurling lightning on the beastly skolves. And yet human affairs remain central to the narrative. Robert hears the complaints of those whom progress threatens to leave behind and realizes that “the scope and pace of change is...not a joke, and it is not just because people are crazy.” This has deep relevance to life in the early 21st century, and reaching out to readers is a noble endeavor. The finale brings chaos that will shape the next installment.