[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A good second instalment to this series, expanding this time not completely on the immediate aftermath of the con performed in the first volume, but also on what happened in the past.
Although I had a bit of trouble with some parts, in general, I enjoyed once again diving into this world. The story begins on a strong note—let’s just say the Scarecrow doesn’t play nice, and neither should he (it? they?)—which ups the ante for Belisarius and Cassandra when it comes to their species as a whole, now that more and more people become aware of what the homo quantus’s abilities could be turned into, once out of their contemplative little corner of space. Faced with the responsibility to save their people, our two protagonists have to turn to unlikely allies.
While I did regret the absence of a new con here (I really like cons), of course I’m aware it couldn’t have just been a copy of Bel’s shenanigans in the first volume. Moreover, this time it’s not just about Bel and the gang he assembled, and not only because some of said gang’s members aren’t present here. We still get to enjoy Stills and his foul mouth, but Cassandra, even though she’s not as present as Bel, also reveals herself as surprisingly resourceful—or able to develop a resourcefulness she wouldn’t have been able to discover and exploit on the Garret, maybe. More interestingly, the story also places a sharper focus on Ayen and on the dilemmas she has to face when confronted with some inconvenient truths about people she had blindly trusted up until now. There’s some really twisted stuff going on here, and in the end it all makes sense, but also casts a bleak light on whether she’s really free to act or not.
The “quantum garden” that appears mid-novel (hence the title) was also oddly fascinating. I don’t entirely agrees with the author’s take on the observer’s role (I’m more a many-worlds than a Copenhagen person when it comes to physics), but it was cleverly used nonetheless.
The parts I mentioned having had trouble with were more a matter of pacing than of characters or plots I didn’t like: moments when the story slowed down, and where a character, for instance, kept running the same things over and over in their mind. It did make sense in that they had a lot to mull over; it just didn’t flow that well in a novel.
Conclusion: 3.5/4 stars