I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publishers. It will be released 11 February 2014.
What if this life wasn’t the only life you go? What if you woke up, after you died, on another world and got to go around again? David Edison builds a mind-bending story around that very question in The Waking Engine. Cooper wakes up in a strange city, with two people (as far as he knows) standing over him. They seem disappointed for some reason, but Asher and Sesstri take him in and explain the facts of lives to him.
The Waking Engine covers a very confusing week in Cooper’s second life. On the first day, he learns that everyone gets more than one life. We keep going until we get tired enough to want a real death. Pilgrims come from all over the worlds, from all kinds of universes, to the City Unspoken because it’s the only place they can get that. At least, they used to be able to get that. In the last few years, something has gone wrong with the system. No one’s sure how to fix it, but Asher and Sesstri got a tip off that Cooper might be able to fix it. Unfortunately, Cooper’s still getting his second-life legs and has no clue what’s going on for most of the novel.
This would be interesting enough, I think, but Edison complicates things even more for Cooper and his minders. All around these three, plots are being woven. There’s a young noble woman trying to get out of the palace after being trapped with the other members of the aristocracy for the past five years. There’s a faerie queen’s daughter who wants to help her mother take over the whole kit and kaboodle. There are lich lords who have created their own cults in the City Unspoken and allied themselves with a certain reincarnated Egyptian queen. (On a side note, I admire Edison’s restraint at not adding more cameos. There were just enough to entertain you without getting overly clever about it.)
And, amazingly, it all works. It all works better than Cooper himself, actually. Cooper spends most of the book being clueless. I stuck with this book through his flailing because of everything else that was going on. I’m glad I did. The ending was absolutely spectacular as all the plots collide. And the twists at the end were perfect.