cover image The Bear and the Serpent

The Bear and the Serpent

Adrian Tchaikovsky. Pan Macmillan, $19.95 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-1-5098-3023-7

This well-wrought second installment in Tchaikovsky’s Echoes of the Fall epic fantasy series (after The Tiger and the Wolf) focuses on two major threats to the realistically magical world his shape-shifting tribes inhabit. Loud Thunder, mightiest warrior of the Bear tribe, follows his dangerous destiny to rally the various quarreling tribes of the north into a united warband capable of battling the reawakening horror, the Plague People, who have destroyed the Seal tribe and are building a lethal foothold on the seashore. In the South, Maniye, a young Wolf-Tiger, and Asmander, champion of the Crocodile Sun River Nation, become enmeshed in a potentially disastrous conflict between twin claimants to the throne, while the enigmatic Serpent priestess Hesprec constantly warns that something vile is approaching, so terrible that it may vanquish both sides. Tchaikovsky’s huge cast of brilliantly portrayed characters must learn to heed the wisdom the Serpent has brought from the Oldest Kingdom: that soulless refugees, playing on the pity of their hosts, pose the ultimate threat to the peoples’ souls and must be defeated, no matter the cost. (Whether this is intended as a parallel to current political topics in our world is unclear.) Tchaikovsky cannily leaves enough unfinished business to lure fantasy fans through many more emotional struggles and sweeping battles struggles to come. (Nov.)