Review: The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis

Astrid has reclaimed her name and her voice, and now seeks to bring down the Sisterhood from within. Throwing herself into the lioness’ den, Astrid must confront and challenge the Matrons who run the Gean religious institution but she quickly discovers that the business of politics is far deadlier than she ever expected.

Meanwhile, on an asteroid mining colony deep in space, Hiro val Akira seeks to bring a dangerous ally into the rebellion. Whispers of a digital woman fuel Hiro’s search, but he is not the only person looking for this link to the mysterious race of Synthetics.

Lito sol Lucious continues to grow into his role as a lead revolutionary and is tasked with rescuing an Aster operative from deep within an Icarii prison. With danger around every corner Lito, his partner Ofiera, and the newly freed operative must flee in order to keep dangerous secrets out of enemy hands.

Back on Mercury, Lito’s sister Lucinia must carry on after her brother’s disappearance and accusation of treason by Icarii authorities. Despite being under the thumb of Soji val Akira, Lucinia manages to keep her nose clean…that is until an Aster revolutionary shows up with news about her brother’s fate, and an opportunity to join the fight.

This captivating, spellbinding second installment to The First Sister series picks up right where The First Sister left off and is a must-read for science fiction fans everywhere.

Rating: 4/5

Review

I really enjoyed Lewis’ debut novel, The First Sister, and was thrilled to be granted an ARC of the sequel.

It’s hard to say much about this book without spoilers for book one (particularly given Lewis’ penchant for epic twists), but The Second Rebel picks up where The First Sister left off with the characters we previously followed, as well as the addition of a new point of view in Luce. Multiple POVs is always a difficult juggling act – particularly when they’re all in first person – but Lewis does a good job of giving them all distinct voices and meaningful character arcs. Luce is probably my new favourite character, as she stands out with her determination and sense of duty to her family, but I enjoyed spending time with all four characters and seeing how their story arcs coincided over time. We also get to spend time with Hiro as a character – as opposed to a recording – and really understand how their relationship with their family has shaped them as a person, which was one of my favourite elements of the sequel (if occasionally heartbreaking).

The Second Rebel also lives up to its predecessor in terms of the twists and turns. We spend more time dealing with the fallout from Hiro’s discoveries about the awful treatment of the Aster and what it tells us about Icarii society than we do with the First Sister on Gaen, and there’s lots to learn about exactly how deep the horrors go. I should add that if, like me, you forgot a lot of the political nuances as soon as you read book one, Lewis does a good job of reminding you who’s who without it feeling like a chore. It did take a little for the plot to kick off, especially since the main characters are once again initially separated and figuring things out for themselves, but the last 20-30 per cent of The Second Rebel is a total rollercoaster ride.

I do have one niggling concern with this series, which is that the world-building is a little flimsy. It doesn’t necessarily take the reader out the story as they read (due to Lewis’ other strengths), but from a more distant angle, it’s not really clear why this world is the way it is. It’s never really explained why this future universe contains such a gendered religious system, or why the internal politics of the First Sister, the Mother and the rest of their Order matter so much outside the personal consequences for those caught up in it. It does feel a little like the author wanted a dystopian aesthetic, and therefore defaulted to an anti-feminist society without thinking through the delays fully. It might be a bit late, but I’d love to see the the history of this element of the world explored more in the final book in the trilogy.

Like I said, however, this is an excellent series overall and Lewis really knows their strengths – I am still shook from the last plot twist and cannot wait for book three.

Note: I received an ARC from Hodder and Stoughton. The Second Rebel will be released on 24 August 2021.

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