In the interval between Endgame: The Calling and Sky Key, I got heavily involved in the Endgame: Ancient Societies augmented reality game, a primarily on-line game that involved solving puzzles and being creative after declaring yourself for one of the 12 lines. I chose to be a Nabatean, and set up our online community, and then did pretty well on the all-line leaderboard. Fast forward: I’m now a character in Sky Key, along with one of the greatest friends I made through AncSoc. So I’m a little biased when it comes to Sky Key, because eeeeeeeeee, I’m in it, eeeeeee!
Ahem. Which, to be honest, does have its drawbacks, as there are certain things about the inclusion of Stella and the Vyctory storyline that probably raise more questions for me than for the average reader. Also, the reader who fell for the series with the first book will likely be taken aback by the lessened focus on Sarah, but I think it makes sense, and I found her grief entirely convincing (even if I found Jago’s refusal to deal with Sky Key at the end somewhat out of character.) I also really liked the continued nuanced differentiation of the Players, as with Hilal’s message. Some got it right away (An,) some had to work to decode it (Sarah and Jago,) and some just didn’t give a shit (Maccabee and Baitsakhan.)
Aside from finding the ending incredibly satisfying due to being the competitive sort, I also found Shari’s struggle, as well as Maccabee’s decisions, intensely moving. Using a child as an emotional focus can feel like a maudlin trope, and I’m used to lesser authors exploiting that for all it’s worth, but Greg Jordan, I mean, James Frey (heh) and Nils Johnson-Shelton handled it really well.
The main thing this book has as a drawback is, ironically, also its greatest distinguishing feature: the puzzles. The constraints of writing to accommodate for those mean that the format gets a little choppy, tho again I’ve read much worse in “regular” novels. As with The Calling, the story is terrific for a puzzle book, and even for a fantasy novel. Here’s looking to Book Three (which I might also be in, teeheehee!)