Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. A. Corey is the penultimate book in The Expanse series, and it shows. The gentlemen behind Mr. Corey up the ante as they gear up for the ultimate battle for the galaxy. Set four years after the exciting ending of the previous book, we get to see how the Laconians rule the known solar systems as each crew member of the Rocinante attempts to resist in their own ways. Oh, and no one is safe.
For the Roci crew, resistance takes several different forms, each as diverse as the characters. For some characters, their idea of resistance is direct, public, and very dangerous. However, for others, resistance means publicly playing a long chess game, making moves no one notices until all of the pieces are in play. Yet for others, the only acceptable form of resistance is completely underground, totally behind the scenes, and anonymous. For me, seeing how each person reacts to the new-to-the-reader government is a fascinating study in character.
Tiamat’s Wrath is not all spaceships and watching other ships through telescopes. We spend a good portion of the story on Laconia as it makes a relatively odd shift in tone to that of a coming-of-age story. While on Laconia, we follow Teresa Duarte, only daughter of the Laconian leader and wannabe God, as she gains growing awareness that not all on her beloved planet is as peaceful and straightforward as she believes. There is much wrestling with ideas and growth as she learns to assess information for herself rather than believing the party line. While this is not in tune with the whole space opera format, it does make for interesting reading because it is so different.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you feel about them, no one is safe as we near the end of the series. Until this point, the authors avoided killing off major characters. There are a lot of deaths given all the battles throughout the span of the series. However, outside of the death of one of the main voices in the first novel, main character death has been minimal. That is no longer true in Tiamat’s Wrath. My heart broke more than once during the course of the story.
As Tiamat’s Wrath ends, we have a good idea of the major players in the final story, but we have no idea how it will unfold, what will happen, or when it will occur. I feel like the authors gave the readers all the clues, but I’ll be damned if I can decipher them. The final book is the first book in the series I will have to wait until its release, and I don’t like it. I’m ready to see how the Roci crew’s story and its almost constant struggle against the protomolecule is going to end.