The second novel in Davis Ashura’s fantasy epic trilogy, The Castes and the Outcastes, continues to fill gaps within the world he’s created. Although it’s a slower start than the first novel, the wait pays off quite handsomely. All this said, it’s a novel that’s nearly as aggravating as it is good.
Any second novel in a trilogy takes a dip in storytelling prowess, attempting to reel in the events of the first book, while saving the series true revelations for the next book. A Warrior’s Knowledge appears to have taken that very dip. That’s not to say the story doesn’t move. It does. If the first novel took the tale from points A to B, and then again to C, than this novel simply took it from C to D.
All the characters, from our heroes to those most vile, have a believable character arc. Everyone grows in some small way, and most times it’s a big way. But this book doesn’t balance its large cast like the first had. No, I’d say the characters back in Ashoka get far too little to say this time around. Which is a shame. While Rukh and Jessira go from one crazy adventure to the next, having a more grounded mystery type tale – like the one unfolding in Ashoka – keeps the story feeling relevant and connected to the greater world. But this one seemed to relegate it’s secondary plots as, well, just that. The only way this balance would have worked in the book’s favor was if these sub-characters in Ashoka closed out the novel with a dramatic cliffhanger, but sadly the cliffhanger we’re left with on their end arrives far too early.
The series being the eastern epic it is, it works on several levels, but I think most poignant is the notion that there need not be a Caste system in place for the world to live on happily. The OutCastes get along just fine. Well. Maybe not. But much of the novel is spent overthrowing ideologies and beliefs that hinder the characters from accepting the changing world.
Much happens in this novel that hasn’t seen a resolution yet, or will have greater consequence as the story unfolds. As this is a trilogy, these things I cannot judge for better or worse until I see the final outcome in book 3, which happily arrives sometime in April. Just know that this is not a series you want to miss.