Could you sacrifice your dreams to escape a nightmare?
Csorwe, Shuthmili and Tal survey abandoned Echentyr worlds to make a living. The empire’s ruins seem harmless but fascinating. Yet disaster strikes when they stumble upon ancient magic during a routine expedition. This revives a warrior who’d slept for an age, reigniting a conflict thousands of years old. And the soldier binds Csorwe to her cause.
Shuthmili is desperate to protect the woman she loves. However, as events escalate, she’s torn. Can she help Csorwe by clinging to her own humanity or by embracing her eldritch powers?
Tal heads home, but his peace is shattered when a magical catastrophe hits his city. The wizard Sethennai is missing and Tal can’t face seeking his former lover to ask for help. So, he flees – but there’s no escaping the future. For throughout the Echo Maze’s linked worlds, fragments of an undead goddess are waking. Soon all must choose a side.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Please be aware of spoilers for book one: The Unspoken Name
The Unspoken Name, the first book in the Serpent Gates series, was one of my favourite reads of 2020 and I have been anticipating its sequel, The Thousand Eyes, ever since. Sadly, this long-awaited book did not live up to my expectations, and I found I was dragging myself through it from about the 30% mark. I considered giving up on it a few times, but wanted to judge it fairly, and so I stuck to it. Some moments were worth it, perhaps, but the story as a whole left me feeling disconnected and dissatisfied by the end. Now, I don’t like writing a negative review, and I don’t want this one to be a bashing, because I still have a lot of love for the characters and for Larkwood’s writing, so I’m going to try and talk about it in a way that will still highlight its best parts and entice others to pick it up and perhaps enjoy it more than I did. So, let’s get the negatives out of the way, and then talk about the things that kept me reading!
First of all, my favourite character, and part of what made The Unspoken Name so enjoyable, is Csorwe and she sadly does not feature a lot as a point of view character. This is plot relevant, and I understand Larkwood’s choice to do so, but it felt really jarring to me and like something crucial was missing. Perhaps this was the point, as the events of the story cause a lot of jarring events for the world. Mostly, we see the perspectives of Shuthmili, Talasseres, and a new character: Cherenthisse, a soldier from the destroyed world of Echentyr, found in stasis at the start of the narrative. It is the discovery and awakening of Cherenthisse that sparks a lot of the events. This, combined with the discovery at the end of the last book that the wizard Belthandros, who Csorwe and Tal served for many years, is a reincarnation of the goddess Iriskavaal, has built up and other ancient things are reawakening. So far, so good.
The gang is together, the plot is full of intrigue, the world building is strong, and ancient deities are about to twist the fate of all. Then, things take a very sharp turn, at the above-mentioned 30% mark, and there is quite a big time jump right after something very crucial happens to our main characters. This is, I think, the biggest thing I struggled with. Our characters are older, and have gone through a lot of things we haven’t witnessed, and so it takes quite a while to readjust when we meet up with them again. There’s also a new character, Tsereg, who comes in during the second half and though I loved them by the end, their introduction felt a little stilted and relied a lot on their similarity to Csorwe and the reader’s affection for her.
The build up of tension and the confrontations and twist also felt disjointed, and there were a few times when I thought the story must be ending but then one more hurdle would appear. I really think this story could have benefited from being a trilogy instead of a duology – I suspect the pacing would have felt smoother then. Now, having said all this, I can’t fully dismiss The Thousand Eyes because its world and its characters still tugged at something in my heart, and I really love Larkwood’s writing. The world building, as I said, was spectacular, and the emotional journeys she gave the characters were done really well, and those characters – particularly my boy Talasseres Charossa – are the main thing that kept me going, so it may be that one day I’ll pick this book up again and be more forgiving towards it. In the meantime, I urge you to pick it up and decide for yourselves, and let me know what you thought if you’d like to share!
Published: 17th February 2022 by Pan Macmillan
Genre: fantasy, sci-fi
Series: The Serpent Gates, book two
Narration style: third person past tense, multiple points of view
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: death, grief, enslavement, death of animals, blood, manipulation