Tade Thompson, The Rosewater Insurrection, Orbit, 2019.
Audio version available on Audible.
"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.
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 story (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 this volume - 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 it's because I loved this initial nihilism and I'd have loved to see how it applied in action.
"So is anything happening at all?" 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.
One of my main gripes in Rosewater was that the female characters were very much secondary characters. Here 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.
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 two different frontlines--to say nothing of the characters' internal conflicts-- and Thompson carries everything off very smoothly.
Thompson also expands a lot the alien background. We know now a lot more about them, their goals, their methodology.
Because it is action packed, the novel loses a bit of the dreamlike, surreal quality of the xenosphere exploration we had in Rosewater. But since this is now a series rather than a stand alone, it feels natural for the second volume to have things moving forward at a fast pace.
I always dislike reading a series without reading it complete. I need to absorb it all to understand where the writer is heading. Honestly, right now, anything can happen in Rosewater. So I may be a bit underwhelmed because I don't know where it's all going, but it's also an excellent sign that the series is able to keep us all on our toes in this way.
I had loved Rosewater and sung its praises endlessly. I enjoyed The Rosewater Insurrection almost as much. And I am definitely, very much, looking forward to the last volume!
Disclaimer: a free copy was received from the publisher, with my sincere thanks.
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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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