cover image The Cradle of Ice

The Cradle of Ice

James Rollins. Tor, $29.99 (672p) ISBN 978-1-250-76674-8

Too-familiar epic fantasy tropes and underbaked characterizations bring down Rollins’s second Moonfall novel (after The Starless Crown). The plot surrounds series heroine Nix with an admirably diverse cast, including “a second-born prince, a broken knight, a recalcitrant thief, [and] a figure sculpted of flowing bronze,” all seeking to avert moonfall, or the world’s destruction, and Rollins tantalizingly teases what to expect in a prologue announcing a “story of innocence lost, of trust betrayed, of hope banished,” which “makes a mockery of what was written before.” But what follows is utterly formulaic. Nyx, a student who has dedicated herself to averting the prophesized disaster, is alarmed to find a bomb on her questing vessel, the Sparrowhawk, evidence of a sabotaging traitor. Other dangers, from humans and monstrous beasts alike, pop up regularly. Sometimes-weak prose (“While she might not have been born of womb and blood, she was as much a woman as any other—only more so”) doesn’t help. Only diehard fans of the previous installment need bother with this one. (Feb.)