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Forty years after the Oblivion crisis, Tamriel is once more plunged into peril, with the appearance of a floating city, beneath which an army of undead conquer lands to feed the cities need for souls to keep it aloft. Arraigned against this unstoppable behemoth, Prince Attrebus continues his quest for the sword he believes can bring the city down. Within Umbriel, Annaïg is a slave in the cities kitchens; using her culinary skills she too is trying to find a way to poison both the city and its dark lord. Without in the Imperil city Colin, a onetime spy, is discovering that for some the appearance of the city has not come as a surprise...
Lord of Souls: An Elder Scrolls Novel (2011) is the second in the series penned by Greg Keyes, the events of which follow directly on from The Infernal City. Keyes has a long history as a successful science fiction and fantasy novelist; past works include the Psi Corp trilogy for Babylon 5, a handful of Star Wars novels and his own unique series.
Throughout he has maintained the same stylistic framework, telling his stories through multiple characters, many of whom never meet. This allows him to show the same events from differing perspectives and gives his novels a much more expansive feel.
In this latest novel we have three pairings of characters all of whom are seeking to stop the floating city. Each chapter is devoted to a single set, though there is little cross over, so no jumping back and forth in time, which can often be confusing.
Whilst each story is based around the idea of a quest, of sorts, Annaïg uses her skills to climb the hierarchy of the kitchens hoping to find some path to the cities destruction, Colin attempts to find the traitor at the heart of the imperial city and Attrebus is trying to survive his journeys into Oblivion to find a mythical sword. Keyes never loses sight of the fact that what the reader wants are characters who they can empathise with.
If the structure allows him to paint the story with a grandiose brush, he never misses in filling in the final details of character development. None of the protagonists will end the story as they began it.
I enjoyed the first novel for both its technical skill as well as its ability to convey a complex story in a nonlinear way, which still achieved clarity and the perfect balance between character moments and action sequences, even if the saving of the refugees seemed at times a little tagged on. My only complaint about the book is that the story has ended and that there is unlikely to be any more from Keyes.
In the end this was a great book for fans of the game series, but more importantly the two books stand together as credible fantasy fiction, regardless of their origins.