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***Spoilers for the first ROSEWATER book ahead – read the review here***
After the startling revelations of the previous book, the city of Rosewater is a powder keg ready to blow. Whereas ROSEWATER was told from a very tight first person perspective, INSURRECTION is told from multiple points of view, and that’s a great stylistic choice because shit gets blown wide open in this second book.
There’s no main character per se and I’d argue we’re actually following the turbulent story of the city of Rosewater itself, as seen through the eyes of some of its most important citizens. The story opens prior to the events of the previous book with a new POV character, a sensitive called Eric who is sent to assassinate Jack Jacques, a prominent politician in the newly-emerging city of Rosewater. Jacques was mentioned in the first book but is one of the main POV characters in the sequel and it’s through him that we get to witness the ever-increasing political instability of the city.
This was one of the most interesting themes of INSURRECTION for me. The Wormwood trilogy doesn’t present an optimistic picture of humanity and alien contact sparks more tension and conflict among humanity than it does direct confrontation with the alien itself. The takeaway perhaps being ‘What hope do we have for co-existing with extraterrestrials if we can’t even coexist among ourselves?’
Similarly, the aliens themselves are far from united and this is another aspect of Tade’s worldbuilding I love. Too often in science fiction we’re presented with homogenous alien races that display no individuality or even cultural and linguistic differences among themselves.
Not so here.
The conflict between Anthony and Molara from the previous book is still present and while the humans begin to fight among themselves, sentient alien flora begins to attack Wormwood, sparking a conflict between the different alien bioforms as well. These two parallel conflicts cause chaos in Rosewater and there are some exhilarating action scenes that raise the stakes but also double down by developing character and setting at the same time.
I’m very happy to say that Aminat, Kaaro’s girlfriend who was revealed to be an S45 field agent in the previous book, is also one of the POV characters. Despite not being front and centre in the first book, Aminat was a great character with hidden depth and Kaaro was overtly knocked down a peg or two when Femi told him that “Aminat has her own story; she is not a supporting character in yours”. Here we get to witness that story first hand when Femi assigns her to track down a woman with an abnormally high proportion of alien cells in her body.
Despite taking an active part in the escalating conflict though, Femi herself isn’t a POV character and this is another great decision by Tade. By denying us direct insight into her motivations and forcing us to rely on how she is perceived by others, Femi remains one of the most intriguing characters in the story and I constantly found myself wanting to know what she was up to and flip-flopping between rooting for her and disapproving of her actions.
I often find the mark of a good middle trilogy book is the author’s ability to crank up the stakes and not let the story sag. Tade does this well and the story is engaging at every turn but at the same time I don’t think INSURRECTION quite reaches the heights of ROSEWATER. Don’t take that as anything like serious criticism though because I still thought this was a bloody excellent book, I just felt that it perhaps wasn’t as tightly plotted as its predecessor. It’s definitely easier to follow as there’s much less jumping around in time and actively piecing things together as the story unfolds, but I thought that complexity was part of what made the first book so compelling. Having said that it’s like comparing apples to tea bags because INSURRECTION is telling a different kind of story and the stylistic choice absolutely works.
If you enjoyed the first book I think there’s an overwhelming chance you’ll love INSURRECTION as well. It gives us more of the stuff we loved and builds on it to expand the world of Rosewater with that signature imaginative weirdness Tade showed when he first set the science fiction genre alight with this series.
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