Although I was not a big fan of Lebbon's previous two installments in his Assassin's series -- "Dead Man's Hand" and "Pieces of Hate," collected together in the recent Tor novella, Pieces of Hate (reviewed here) -- there were enough interesting ideas in Pieces of Hate to keep me curious enough to see what comes next. Maybe it was because I had enough of the background story, or perhaps because I went in expecting there to be zilch in the way of resolution regarding Gabriel and his battles against the entity known as Temple, but I found A Whisper of Southern Lights to be much more satisfying.
Gabriel and Temple are basically immortals, and their personal battles have allowed Lebbon to play in some interesting settings. We've gotten a weird western and a bit of high seas pirating adventure, and now Lebbon takes us to Singapore circa World War II (personal note: Lebbon teases an Antarctic expedition as another setting in their worldwide struggles through time, and I'd pay good money to read that story, because I'm just a sucker for stories set in that region). Both Gabriel and Temple are hunting for a man named Jack Sykes, which never bodes well for the dude unwittingly falling into the middle of their bloody, violence-fueled triangles.
I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful vacation in Singapore a while ago, so I had no trouble imagining the sweaty treks through the rain forest, and war-time is always an interesting period to explore some supernatural shenanigans. I dug those elements the most here. I fell in love almost immediately with Singapore, and hope to go back one of these day. Books set in this region at least provide enough of a mental sojourn until I can physically head there again. It's also a bit of a reminder that I need to seek out more Singaporean literature... Yeah, I know, I'm digressing here.
A Whisper of Southern Lights is a short novella, which makes for a brisk read. Lebbon gives us enough sketches of life on the front lines in the Pacific Theater, but I wouldn't have minded more details. Gabriel's relationship with Temple has always been one of the strongest elements of this series, and that remains true here, as well. The ending felt a little bit rushed, but there's a marvelously macabre display where our characters confront one another before the requisite cliffhanger.
Yeah, another cliffhanger and little in the way of resolution. The last line of the book, though, does actually have me antsy for another entry, so kudos to the author! I feel much more invested in this series after this particular entry than I did with Pieces of Hate.
[Note: I received an advanced review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]