"C., " are you saying because you faithfully follow my reviews, "I clearly remember you reviewing Rosewater in 2017. Why are you doing a new review rather than add to the original?"
Well, dear faithful reader, when I first read Rosewater, I thought it was a stand alone and I reviewed (and enjoyed it a lot) as such. But it's now a series. So rather than retconning the review, I'm writing a new one.
Because as you'll see, it changes things. When a story moves forward, you lose some things, but you also gain others.
REVIEW UPDATE: On 28 October 2019, this review was updated to include my thoughts on The Rosewater Redemption.
Jack Jacques, the charismatic mayor of Rosewater, faces many problems.
Alyssa wakes up one morning with absolutely no memory of who she is.
Aminat, who works for Section 45, the government agency that studies the alien in Rosewater, must take charge of a woman, who turns out to be Alyssa.
In the meantime, a plant grows in Rosewater, and patches appear in the xenosphere...
"Right... So where is Kaaro?" are you asking.
And that's my only gripe with The Rosewater Insurrection (I thought I'd get it out of the way as soon as possible). I absolutely loved how Rosewater ended in a nihilisitic way, with Kaaro walking away from it all.
The trouble is that he has, indeed, walked away. In a sense, I'm very grateful that Thompson didn't turn the character on his head and have him becoming an action hero. On the other hand, Kaaro seems extremely passive in Insurrection - despite saving everyone a couple of times. I have to confess it left me frustrated that the nihilism of Rosewater led to passivity in Rosewater Insurrection. But hey! The good news is that in The Rosewater Redemption he's back in great form! Thompson has created in it an incredible balance in which cowardly, nihilistic Kaaro is still very much present. (Also, "Fuck you, Space Invaders" might be my favourite line of the whole trilogy.)
"So is anything happening at all in Insurrection?" are you asking again, because you are also an inquisitive reader.
A lot happens. And when I say a lot, I mean, a lot. The Rosewater Insurrection is action packed. The Rosewater Redemption is just as much action packed, and also includes a lot of revelations.
One of my main gripes in Rosewater was that the female characters were very much secondary characters. In Insurrection, they are front, left and centre, and they rock!
In a very enjoyable reversal from the conventions, the action hero is Aminat, Kaaro's girlfriend. Thompson has wonderfully developed her and made her a fully rounded and truly believable female character. I also particularly enjoyed the character of Alyssa, who, while searching who she was, also raised some difficult questions about society and relationships.
In The Rosewater Redemption, Thompson manages a wonderful balance between all of these characters we've come to care about and it truly becomes the ensemble story it really was along.
I said there's a lot happening and there is. To start with, there's an insurrection (duh, it's written in the title), furthermore all is not going smoothly with Wormwood, the alien who has settled in Rosewater. There are different frontlines--to say nothing of the characters' internal conflicts--and Thompson carries everything off very smoothly, until a very satisfying conclusion in The Rosewater Redemption. Though not an easy one.
If in The Rosewater Insurrection Thompson expands a lot the alien background, in Redemption he brings all of his threads and conflicts together.
Insurrection loses a bit of the dreamlike, surreal quality of the xenosphere exploration we had in Rosewater. But this is back in spades in Redemption, along with Thompson wonderful, evocative prose. It doesn't prevent him though from writing genuine laugh out loud moments or moments when you feel like cheering the characters along (special mention to the Pride march).
I had loved Rosewater and sung its praises endlessly. I enjoyed The Rosewater Insurrection almost as much. The Rosewater Redemption is a perfect conclusion to it all. This is one of the best trilogies of the decade and if you have somehow missed it, then you must remedy to that immediately.
Disclaimer: a free copy of The Rosewater Insurrection was received from the publisher, with my sincere thanks.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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