The wise brother undone by the idiot, the idiot saying what no one else dares to say.
2 out of 5 stars
Thank you Netgalley and Talos for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I feel I need to give some background on my journey with this series, due in part to strongly believing I was a much nicer reviewer when I read and reviewed book 1.
I came across Master Assassins on bookoutlet about 2 years ago for $2 and thought “hey the premise sounds really good”, two brothers who hate each other are accused of murdering the prophets favorite son and now have to work together while on the run” it took a whole year before I finally read Master Assassins and while I gave it a 4 star review I look back on that and realize I was being very generous seeing as how I had a lot of issues with certain parts in the storytelling. I was still getting my feet wet with reviewing and I was so scared of hurting authors feelings. And while I’m not going to start hurting feelings now, as I know there is a way to be constructive with feedback, I am going to be more honest and not sweep things under the rug that really bothered me about Sidewinders.
Sidewinders is split into 3 parts, and to start with, I would have loved if the chapters where shorter, because man were some of them long and took forever to get through. I’m a chapter reader so I don’t stop until I get to the end of a chapter so when I read a chapter for an hour and half that’s just to much for me. Part 1 and part 3 were my least liked parts, especially part 1, part 2 being the most interesting.
I applaud Redick for wanting to expand his world-building and to do that he included more POVs from people in new locations, sadly I just did not care for this approach. What I liked about the first book was it followed Kandri and Mektu and them discovering the world and the world building unfolding around them. Redick brought in so many new locations that it was overwhelming. So many names and places and people just everywhere. The Prophet had one chapter in this whole book and then she was only ever mentioned in passing, why was this done? She was a huge drawing point for me in the first book. I understand why so much attention was put on the city that wants to attack Kasralys (I think, I had a lot of trouble keeping the locations names straight because there were so many) there is a goal to make the story more than just a hunt, but the hunt is what drew me into the story not a war. While Kandri and a Mektu and their caravan was being followed I wanted to see more of the Rasanga, the white child anything related to The Prophet, but I felt it fell by the wayside, with the internal fighting within the caravan and the expanding story to include a war.
A lot of the first part dealt with new POV characters who had zero draw for me, and in the POV I cared about involving Kandri and Mektu ended up being aggravating. It mostly dealt with Kandri wanting to run off and sleep with Eshett every freaking chance he got, and it frankly that got old fast. It took the whole entire part one for her to leave the group (which was shortly lived unfortunately). Once Eshett was removed I felt like more action finally picked up in Kandri and Mektu’s povs got better.
Part two was the most entertaining but it’s not without its faults. They spend majority of the book crossing the desert and run into a lot of road blocks and enemies so there was action and fight scenes which were very entertaining. There was a stretch to create tension at one point (not that the need to stretch was needed as everyone in this caravan basically hated each other) but one in particular left me feeling very uncomfortable. Redick wanted us to know how evil and bad a male character was by having him for two pages threaten to rape any of the female soldiers of the caravan and that he wouldn’t be able to be held accountable for his actions because of “urges” Redick then tries to make the reader feel it will be okay by having everyone glance at Talupéké and think “oh she is so crazy it won’t happen she will kill him before he gets a chance to even try”. This could have been cut entirely as it was never mentioned upon again, I’m not saying I wanted a rape to happen but Redick gave the illusion that at some point an attempt would be made and we would get to see Talupéké prevent it, it never happens so we never get to see Talupéké do anything, so for me this entire scene was just unnecessary. The first major shock death happens in this part too and I’ll talk about that more in a moment. While going through the desert there was more lore added and some of it interesting others not so much and a good chunk confusing. Lots of new enemies a few old and some creatures as well so all around lots going on. I was disappointed that we did not get to witness a Sidewinder, since the title of the book and all, but I do get its more in relation to the boys being “sidewinders” it was just disappointing.
Now the Deaths, oh lord this book had a lot of death in it but I’m sorry when shock value death is the only device used it does nothing for the story. Every major death was just written in a manner that it was suppose to create shock for the reader, “oh no he was savagely eaten by a monster, oh no he committed suicide, oh no she sank into the sand, oh no he was speared in the back WHILE giving important secret information about one of the main characters” it was all constant shock, shock, shock, that it actually didn’t create any shock at all. I was at one point really hoping Kandri would die, and if it had happened it probably would have been the highlight of the story for me. I had no care at all who died and had zero feelings when it happened. If there was some softer quieter deaths thrown in maybe I would have felt something but I didn’t. I just figure everyone will die at some point in a totally “shocking” manner.
Part 3 was when I honestly stated skimming paragraphs and skipping chapters. It also when looking back I probably should have just DNF’d the book as by they then I was burnt out, bored and annoyed but I was holding out hope that the prophet would become present again, or even one of her sons.
Now as for the characters to start with I do not like a single character in this story. I barley liked anyone in the first as well, but this installment just proved to me that I was never going to care about any of them. Now I had interest in wanting to know certain character arcs because the ideas behind them were interesting. The biggest character I had an interesting in seeing his story play out was Mektu. Mektu is brash, rude, crude, crazy, gross, and everything else you can think of. But his story involved a Yatra, a demon possession ghost, and a mattoglin he just couldn’t keep his hands off. Was he really crazy? Was he really possessed? Was it both? I wanted to know. We get the answer albeit it is confusing as hell to follow. But overall I feel like nothing new was really done with his part and I was honestly annoyed with the outcome over the Yatra and him thing, it was a part of his story arc that just felt like it was ripped from him and given to someone else.
Kandri, wow I can’t explain how much I still heavily hate this guy. Everything happens to him, he is such a special little snowflake, every part of the story is just all about him and how it connects to him, he even managed to take the best part of Mektu’s story arc and now its his (or was I’m not sure I skipped a lot of part 3), plus every women he meets apparently wants to jump in his pants. The worst thing about this is that he still for the whole book talks about how important Ariqina is to him and how she is the greatest love of his life and how he will find her, yet none of this stops him from sleeping with Eshett. Maybe I’m different but if a guy says I’m his whole world and then sleeps with some other woman I would not want anything to do with that guy, and while we still haven’t met Ariqina I would hope she would turn him down. He is constantly keeping secrets and then wonders why him and brother fight, like frankly I too would have left him to go my own way.
Talupéké, oh my poor girl, how you got shafted in this installment. So many times it was mentioned how she was fierce and maybe a little psycho and crazy when it came to fighting, but oh how we never got to see it. We get to see her get her teethed punched in, and we get to see her have a softer more vulnerable side, but man where was the girl from the first book. So much praise yet no sustenance to follow through with it.
The yatra interludes where so confusing, for the longest time I had no idea who it was in, how many there were, who they were talking to, how they were talking and so much more. They just popped up and sometimes their whole interlude was just confusing to understand. Those are the only characters I had an inkling of an interest in and this installment made it even less so.
One of the positives I have is for the animals of this world that Redick created. They were fascinating although a few were kind of confusing to either understand or envision. I do wish there were some we actually got to see but what we did get was interesting, especially when they made it out of the desert, and into the forest. The creatures in that forest where fascinating.
To end this out, this is going to be where my journey with The Fire Sacraments come to an end. There is nothing of interest for me anymore, and that saddens me as I had originally looked past a lot of stuff because certain elements were just so enticing, unfortunately this installment didn’t create that same pull.