Author: K.J. Parker
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Steampunk
Series: Engineer Trilogy Book Two
(Contains spoilers for Devices and Desires below).
Ziani Vaatzes continues to plan on seeing his daughter and wife one day, and so far the loss of thousands of innocent lives in a war he helped fan the flames for isn't stopping him.
After rushing into war with the Mezentine Empire to save the love of his life, Duke Valens and Civitas Vadanis are in trouble. With Ziani, Veatriz, and Orsea in tow, Valens must now plan to save his own lands from an imminent invasion by a technologically superior enemy.
Evil for Evil continues in much the same way as it's predecessor, moving from the fallen Eremia now to the lands of the Vadani. The inferior Vadani military must find a way to fight against the technologically superior Mezentines, and this time the capital city is not well fortified or in a strong defensive position. At least the Vadani are in the hands of a more decisive and capable ruler than the Eremians are ... that is until Valens decided to start a war with the Mezentines.
Valens I think has become the most likable character of the bunch. Even though he made his one bad decision for love, he still feels the most flushed out and human of all Parker's characters. The letters and the first chapter from the last novel really helped him out there. His flaws are more or less what are explored this time around. He has a touch of arrogance, quite a few moments of self doubt, he falls in love with someone that could politically destabilize his nation, etc. etc. With these character traits explored in more detail, Valens ends up being a pretty well rounded character that's been placed in a highly stressful situation.
Unfortunately the other major characters struggle to find their place. Ziani is still involved in the main plot, he's basically doing the same thing he did last novel which is playing both the Mezentines and whoever will take him in against one another. It was fun to read about the first time around, but this time, it feels like more of the same ... because it is.
Miel Ducas' fall from nobility and his first experiences of learning to live as a poor person teach him some valuable lessons about honor and some of it's shortcomings as a means to live by. Ducas who had a much larger role in the last novel, seems more like an afterthought this time around. His entire subplot probably could have been done away with. Especially once you meet Daurenja.
Daurenja is probably the most interesting addition. An aspiring innovator, Daurenja is a super genius who agrees to be Ziani's new assistance, if Ziani can help him complete a project he's working on further down the road. He's disliked by nearly everyone whom he comes into contact with, and seems to have unlimited stores of energy. By adding Daurenja to the story, Ziani's manipulations now have a new complication that at least adds some extra variables.
Psellus the Mezentine investigating Ziani doesn't do a whole lot until the back half of the novel. But it's an attempt to showcase how backwards the political situation is with the Mezentines. Ziani's wife, now remarried to Falier, Ziani's best friend was also a nice little twist at the end of the last book. It's going to make for a potentially interesting reunion should that occur.
The destructive powers of love and war continues to remain a theme, and the issues that I had with how that was handled in the last book are still issues in this sequel. I enjoyed the first book slightly more, as I found Ziani a bit more unpredictable character in that book, where as this book, you already know what he's going for pretty early on.