The second novel in Tom Toner’s Amaranthine Spectrum sequence, The Weight of the World continues the story of the descendants of humanity across local space 125 centuries into the future with a continued exploration of its range of characters set across an era of change and uncertainty for the immortal masters of the Firmament and their would-be supplanters alike.
What The Weight of the World brings for a reader of the original book, The Promise of the Child, is the continued development of the plotlines whose tapestry began in that first book. There is Lycaste, of course, now far from the simple home, the Eden, really, that he had been driven from in the events of the first novel. Here, he continues his perambulating journey, a pawn of forces that seem determined to use him as he simply, still, like Odysseus wants to return home. But duties, promises, responsibilities and the vicissitudes of conflict drive Lycaste forward. Too, other characters met in the first novel show up here. The knight Ghaldezuel, for instance, continues his lonely, rambling quest across the worlds. Sotriis and Jatropha, two of the immortal Amaranthines whose lives seem as fragile as their own world, and others, continue to make their way in this time of tumult.
The novel has an extensive glossary, and this sort of dense, wide-screen space opera means that you will be referring to it a lot.
The virtues that made the first novel so compelling still abide and grow, here. This is the sort of novel where space opera and post-singularity universes abut up against epic fantasy and it shares that sort of type and expanse of worldbuilding and possibility. From wrecked ships on a moon that holds ancient and deadly secrets, to entities abiding and older than humanity, to grand wars, the novel, like its predecessor, is not arranged in chapters, but rather than points of view. Therefore the novels together come across as if the author is providing us a kaleidoscope, sometimes very fractured view of a world that even he seems to be struggling to depict.
Be it ships crossing the void, the strange lands in hollowed worlds and the moons bound to them, or even stranger vistas glimpsed by some of the characters, sometimes making sense of it all requires a lot of work. There isn’t a tremendous amount of connective tissue between the various points of view. One of the characters in Jatropha’s party wonders idly about Lycaste, and the grand events are impacting on everyone one way or another, but in general, there isn’t a lot to connect the various threads together aside on plot and character level. There are definitely deeper, subtler, thematic resonances between their stories. It is those literary motifs, the rich descriptiveness and evocation of theme in the writing, the depth of how the novel brings that richness to life that makes this series fascinating for me to read. These thematic resonances are what make the novels work. The story of an impending fall of a civilization, and ancient entities stirring after long dormancy, is one that is much more familiar to epic fantasy rather than space opera.
But it must be said that The Weight of the World, just like its predecessor, is not for everyone. If you ever wanted to read the love child of the Book of the New Sun and Paul McAuley’s Confluence Trilogy, and have it set in a wild and weird galaxy, with a strong literary bent, then the Amaranthine Spectrum novels are definitely going to be jam. Others, to be honest, are going to bounce off of the ornate and complexly uncompromising universe. Even in Lycaste’s thread, as the outsider from a small isolated culture, the universe that Toner depicts can be intimidating to try and visit. I personally think it’s worth the effort.