Two Serpents Rise
March 4, 2020 10:05 AM - by Max Gladstone - Subscribe

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

The second book in the Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone (in both chronological, and I believe publication order) covers the problems of bringing water to 16 million people in Dresediel Lex, made more difficult by its nearness to the desert.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (8 comments total)
Last First Snow

Nextly, but also previously: (it's complicated)
Three Parts Dead
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:07 AM on March 4, 2020

Two Serpents Rise is my least favorite book of the Craft Sequence. A particular pet peeve of mine is characters who behave like idiots at all times, but both the other characters and the book itself nonetheless regard them as Very Smart. Caleb set that off for me big time.

Ah, well. Max Gladstone has also written many books I liked a lot, and two books that I would count among my all-time favorites, so I'm happy to spot him this one.
posted by kyrademon at 3:21 PM on March 4, 2020

Yeah, I'm not sure quite why Caleb is so... meh as a protagonist. Is it because his friend is a lot more fun? As is his father? I never really got the feeling there was any chemistry between him and Mal, either. They get together because of Plot Reasons, and that's about it.

The King in Red must have been a joy to write, which I think is one of the reasons why Last First Snow exists.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:32 PM on March 4, 2020

I spent more time than I probably should have trying to map out Dresediel Lex in my head. Some of it is pretty obvious but every once in a while there was a location whose cognate I couldn't be sure about. Then I felt bad because it didn't actually matter, but I couldn't stop.

I get why people didn't like this one as much but I still prefer it to The Ruin of Angels for reasons I can't quite pinpoint.
posted by Justinian at 1:32 AM on March 5, 2020

Two Serpents Rise is my least favorite book of the Craft Sequence.

I'm glad you said that because I am bogged down like half way through it right now and thought it was a personal failing.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:58 AM on March 6, 2020

Caleb was so stupid I genuinely thought there was gonna be a plot reveal that he was being mind controlled or otherwise manipulated to explain his repeated idiotic behavior. The book had a sort of frisson of horror for me, waiting for the mind control reveal.

Buuut nope.

The last bit of the book, where Caleb is finally forced to be less totally stupid, and which also feature way more of his awesome lesbian friend and way, way less of his boring constant internal monologue about his love interest, was the only half-good part, really.

Pity because the premise was so cool!
posted by Cozybee at 8:16 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I felt like this was trying to be a noir novel, and not quite getting there? I enjoyed it, because Desedriel Lex was delightful and because it was the first sequel I read. The 667 Sansilva break-in was great.

But Caleb seemed to have more clues and more resources than the noir detectives I've read. I would have liked it better if he had realized something was fishy, but decided pointing fingers at someone present for two terrorist incidents running is only going to highlight the fact that Caleb, son of Temoc, was there too. Instead, he trusts authority but has to be hit with a clue-by-four?

I also didn't get a real clear sense of Caleb's 'risk management' job, somehow. Gladstone captures the legal field perfectly, and Kai's banking work likewise seemed drawn from specific detail. Caleb felt like a generic office middle management-ish suit, which was less fun.
posted by mersen at 6:22 PM on March 4, 2021

This was absolutely meant to be a Noir, complete with nightclubs and femme fatale. To me, Caleb was an interesting character specifically because of how dense he is. He spends most of the book in a besotted haze, incapable of entertaining the slightest thought that his precious Mal could be anything other than an innocent party, even when he WALKS IN ON HER PERFORMING A RITE TO THE SERPENTS. He consistently refuses to admit how religious he is, because he associates all religion with his father. But I don't think any of the characters seem to consider him to be particularly bright, the nicest thing the King in Red says about him is he takes risks and gets things done, which is absolutely true. I also appreciated the fact that Mal, despite being the Femme Fatale, was just as enamored with Caleb as he was with her. A lesser writer would have simply made her coldly manipulative and never interested in Caleb beyond his usefulness to her.

Anyway, Caleb should have at least suspected her, and the fact Qet Sea-Lord died immediately after he took Mal to see him (just like all these other disasters happened during or just before Mal showed up) and Caleb didn't immediately put two and two together is egregious. Let him be hopelessly in denial, sure, but he barely even entertained the thought that Mal could have had anything to do with it.

I've been reading these in chronological (numerical?) order rather than publishing order and this makes for a great sequel to Last First Snow. Caleb's love of games, his resentment for his father, Temoc and the King in Red all flow naturally despite this having been written first. I do think the writing and worldbuilding here isn't as impressive as it was in Last First Snow, but that's to be expected. I'm curious to see what reading Three Parts Dead is like after this. From what I gather, it doesn't follow on from the "previous" book nearly as closely as this and Last First Snow did.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:47 PM on June 11, 2021

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