The jungle cloud of Besti Bori is in quarantine. An infection has consumed the cloud, turning its peaceful people into monstrous splicers. Now a team of archers watch over its borders, ensuring nothing enters and nothing leaves.
That is until Sheriff Baran visits for a routine inspection. His sky-horse is mysteriously drugged and he plummets into the darkness of the cursed jungle.
Now, Sheriff Shaula must return from her self-inflicted exile to lead a rescue mission into the most dangerous place in Nephos. Armed only with a team of warrior fairies, Shaula must battle her way through hordes of splicers to retrieve the stranded Baran.
However, Shaula soon learns that splicers are not the only danger lurking in Besti Bori.
I’ve read for Simon before, notably Circ and The Sheriff, and I was asked whether I’d read and review this book as well. As I had enjoyed his earlier work, of course I said yes! This is the second in the Nephos stories, following on from The Sheriff, and the world is now being established. You don’t have to have read the previous book to pick this up the general sense of the world in this book, but there’s no harm in reading the first to fill in the gaps. (Analogy: it’s like watching the Avengers movies, then going back and watching the first Thor movie and going “ahhhhh…..!”). I also did an interview with Simon a while ago.
In the Nephos world, the Cloud World Besti Bori is full of Shapeshifters, who have been infected with a disease that makes them live in between their Human and animal selves, neither one thing or the other, resulting in them being given the name Splicers.
The cloud has been in quarantine for the last five years and guarded by deputies surrounding the cloud, who have strict instructions to shoot anything on sight, including birds. A monthly inspection by one of the Sheriffs (a Seven-foot bull) and things don’t go according to plan – the Sheriffs and two deputies, with their sky-horses, plummet to the cloud after an apparently uneventful review.
Shaula, the scorpion Sheriff, has been in self imposed exile for 15 years, hunting down members of a failed rebellion against the Maverick by those who wish to return to Earth. Shaula is called back to search for Baran, and she has more than enough of her own baggage to deal with in the process. The Hornets she is travelling with include an ex-lover, his wife, a couple of fairies with attitude problems, one raw recruit (who is hiding more than he’s letting on), and all before they land on the cloud with some seriously deranged animals.
Meanwhile, there are the Burners and the Curers – two sides of the same coin, who want to either destroy or cure those with the Splicer issue. The majority of the book is then spent searching for Baran and the two deputies – who bring their own surprises into the mix when found. We find more out about how the Hornets communicate between themselves, and Shaula has to confront more of her past and why she went into exile in the first place. Lines are drawn between individuals and groups (friends, siblings, lovers, family), and various sacrifices are made. There is a resolution in the end, with gains and losses on all sides, and Shaula finds there IS a reason for her to remain, even if she wants to go.
Overall the book is a strong addition to the Nephos world – there is the odd scene I would have done differently (e.g. when planning to get onto the cloud, I don’t remember a discussion as to how to get off) but then again, this isn’t my book and if I wanted it my way I should have written it in the first place!