Review by Joel Kreissman
Starting six months after Shadow Cast, Zyearth is starting to recover from Basileus Theron’s attack. His mind-controlled army has been freed, but those he converted into inky black “Casts” have yet to be restored. The Basileus is still free on Earth, but to their knowledge has no way of reaching Zyearth and can’t create more Casts without a gem-bound Zyearthling’s help. Then a living reminder of Matt and Izzy’s past re-emerges on Earth.
Trecheon Omnir, a rare red-furred quilar with two prosthetic arms who works as a mechanic somewhere on the Gulf Coast, is unaware of Zyearth’s existence or his ancestors’ connection to anyone on it. He has enough problems with the local organized crime forcing him to work as a hitman before some aliens show up on his doorstep.
You see, the Omnirs wiped out Matt’s village fifty years ago, and killed Izzy’s father when he tried to defend them, only for the Omnirs to be exterminated shortly after by someone else. But while Matt and Izzy have barely aged due to their gem bindings, Trecheon is two generations removed from anyone who participated in either genocide. Further complicating matters is the fact that Omnirs can bind gems and create Casts, and Trecheon is within the Basileus’s reach.
I appreciated the discourse on ancestral crimes, even with the added fantasy element of extended lifespans. It still feels relevant to modern politics. We could have seen more of Izzy and Matt struggling with the trauma inflicted by Trecheon’s ancestors while they consciously recognize that he was not personally responsible, but given they have some priorities to work through it makes some sense that they seem to accept him quickly. In contrast, it’s fitting that Theron’s attempts to turn the heroes against Ouranos fall flat because they already focused the blame for everything Ouranos did under mind control on Theron in the last book.
We finally see some of Earth in this setting. While it looks like most of the planet is similar to our world with the addition of zyfaunos, there are bits that are truly unique such as the Athanatos, even if they have to maintain a masquerade. This similarity allows Trecheon to act as an effective audience surrogate when he asks questions about Zyearth, moreso than Ouranos in the previous book as he was effectively from another “secondary world”.
I wanted to see more about Trecheon’s involvement with the Three Fauns Cartel. Aside from the prologue, it seems to be relegated to backstory.
Brothers at Arms is a worthy sequel to Shadow Cast. I might even say it’s better than the last book. If you want an epic science fantasy adventure with nuanced discussions of hard topics, I would check out the Zyearth Chronicles series.