The Trials of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #2) by M.R. Carey
Publication Date: September 17th, 2020
Paperback. 445 pages.
About The Trials of Koli:
"The Trials of Koli is the second novel in M R. Carey’s breathtakingly original Rampart trilogy, set in a strange and deadly world of our own making.
Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind."
I'm slowly catching up on some series I fell behind on, and The Trials of Koli was one that I had been particularly anticipating, though I also felt a bit nervous going into it. When I first read The Book of Koli, I recall being a bit unsure at the start before being slowly sucked into the story--this time there was no 'warming-up' period and I was immediately captivated once again by this world and the characters that inhabit it. Before diving into this review, just a head's up that there may be minor spoilers for the first book, but there will be no spoilers for this book!
In the first book, we followed only Koli's perspective, but in the sequel we have a new perspective added from Spinner, a girl from Mythen Rood that played a minor role in the previous book as someone that Koli loved. I really appreciated Carey's choice to include this perspective since it allows readers to continue following events that occurr in Mythen Rood after Koli's departure, as well as simply allow readers to get a new perspective and explore a new role from someone living in Mythen Rood. If you've read the first book, then you may recall that Koi's narrative voice is a unique one that has a certain 'uneducated' style to it since the current world setting is one that lacks a lot of the technology and education that once existed. With Spinner's point of view, I was impressed by how well Carey set her voice apart from Koli's and how much more dimension it added to this world to hear from different people. Spinner herself is a compelling character with such a strong voice and personality that I really grew to admire her and couldn't help but feel captivated by her own journey in this book that is vastly different from Koli's in a lot of ways, but also surprisingly similar in many other ways.
Koli remains a character that feels oddly relatable in all the best ways. He's rather naive to many things about the world, but he's certainly not stupid and has no problem catching onto things and ideas pretty quickly. Although this was also apparent in the first book, I found his goodhearted nature even more prominent in this book--Koli really is someone with good intentions and who cares about people in general, but circumstances often make it difficult for him to be able to trust people or allow his kindness to take precedence. His first journey into the world outside of Mythen Rood continues in this book, and I found myself enjoying his discoveries--both amazing and tragic--along his journey immensely.
Monono Aware, the Dreamsleeve tech Koli took from Mythen Rood, a girl named Cup, and the healer Ursula (and her Drudge, of course!) accompany Koli on his journey, and I this was such a ragtag sort of group that I couldn't help but love their dynamics. There's a lot of bickering and uncertainty, but also plenty of heart and excitement that was a part of this group. There's also a lot of sadness plaguing this group that emerges in a variety of forms, from anger to distrust and more, and I think this is what really allows us to get to know these characters and for their relationship dynamics to grow and develop in authentic ways that really allowed me to connect with them and care about each one.
The world-building created in The Book of Koli really gets to expand a lot in this book as we continue to explore what's left of the world outside of Mythen Rood, and these re some of the elements that I was particularly excited about. This is a world leftover from a post-apocalyptic event and the Unfinished War, where the population has been rather decimated and people live in groups scattered throughout what's left. There are cultural changes, major environmental differences that readers discover, and a world in which there are now some rather dangerous trees and other creatures that pose grave threats to inhabitants. I was pleased that we got to learn more about these "choker seeds" that come from the violent trees, as well as more about the trees themselves, as this was something that I felt wasn't developed enough in the first book and left me wanting more--and we finally got more!
One thing that I have really loved about this series so far is Carey's ability to tackle so many prominent themes in ways that feel so natural and fitting to the story. For instance, there are some discussions about Cup being a trans woman that explores the difficulties that accompany this experience, as well as themes of acceptance that go beyond Cup's experience and allows the characters within the book to reflect on things, as well as readers themselves.
I also read this book switching between the audiobook and the physical book, and I just want to note that the audiobook is truly well-done and I enjoyed it immensely. Theo Solomon and Saffroon Coomber, narrators for Koli's perspective and Spinners, respectively, were excellent in their roles and captured the personalities of each character extremely well. As someone who is new to audiobooks and has always struggled with focus, I was immersed in seconds and found it a highly enjoyable experience.
Overall, I've given The Trials of Koli 4.5 stars! I cannot wait to read the final book in this trilogy, which will be released next week!