Tor.com: As noted in discussion of the first book in the series, the Lotus Kingdoms trilogy is one large arc spread over three separate novels, which I particularly appreciate in a second-world setting as grand in scope as that of the Eternal Sky. Released from the constraint of wedging in a stand-alone plot for each novel, Bear devotes all of her considerable craft to weaving one dense, affectively powerful story. The result is well worth the gamble. In fact, I’d argue that the tension ratcheting up toward the conclusion of the overarching plot makes this one of the most gripping middle novels I’ve read in a long time.
Truly, as a whole, The Red-Stained Wings is exactly the sort of fare I expect from Bear at top form: a tight, engaging, richly-described novel that maneuvers with precision through a broad cast of characters spread over an even broader field of action, rife with mythos and intrigue. And it’s got a bit of humor to it, too. While it’s impossible to sketch out the twists and complexities of the developing plot in this space, suffice to say that it’s executed with skill from first page to last.
As with the first book, the part-two-of-three structure of The Red-Stained Wings leaves me grasping for more story at the last page. Bear’s pacing and plotting are superb; the characters are engaging, witty, flawed. It’s impossible not to feel drawn along with the tight flow of the narrative from one person to the next or one immense vista to another, such as the dragon’s dead city or the volcano-and-sorcery ravaged Ansh-Sahal. Grandiose second-world fantasies in this vein are rarely done so well and so accessibly. I’d recommend reading The Stone in the Skull and The Red-Stained Wings one after another for the greatest possible effect—and I’ll probably reread them again before the last book, too, to gulp it down as one big, breathtaking tale.