Map of Blue Book Balloon

17 October 2019

Review - The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson

Cover design by Charlotte Stroomer
The Rosewater Redemption (Wormwood Trilogy, 3)
Tade Thompson
Orbit Books, 17 October 2019
PB, e, 373pp

I'm grateful to Orbit for a free advance copy of The Rosewater Redemption to consider for review.

I'm excited to be able to review The Rosewater Redemption, published today.

Viewed from one perspective, reviewing the final volume of a trilogy is hard verging on pointless. Unless the author is way off their game (spoiler: Thompson is as sharp and focussed as ever) readers who have got this far will want to finish, and Volume 3 will reward them by delivering more of what they love and tidying this up.

All that is true of The Rosewater Redemption, and I could stop here and just say "read this if you enjoyed the other books, read them first if you haven't already".

That would do the trick. There's a BUT and an AND though.

BUT. That feels like shortchanging my follower.

AND. There is something more about Redemption.

So I'll see if I can tease that out... beware, there will be spoilers for Rosewater and The Rosewater Insurrection.

What Redemption does, I think, apart from giving us more time with with beloved (and frustrating) characters and tying off plot strands, is to give a new perspective to the whole story. Not just more story. This is something that - with hindsight - I can see in Insurrection too, but is more obvious here. In Rosewater, the nature and intentions of the alien - "Wormwood" - that has settled in Nigeria are obscure. It heals and provides power but exactly how and why isn't clear. That book is very much about how Nigeria - and the world - are adjusting to this presence, including the remarkable character Kaaro who has with others been gifted a kind of psychic ability by the incursion. The politics of Rosewater the city are backgrounded, it's about Kaaro and his lover Aminat.

Insurrection focusses, as the name suggests, on mayor Jack Jacques' drive to have Rosewater become independent but introduces the m motives of the aliens more clearly - fleeing a disaster they wish too use reanimated human corpses as hosts. There desire to do so gives Jacques leverage for a bargain which achieves independence for Rosewater. It also shows the aliens as potentially vulnerable, helps us see things from their perspective and appreciate the realpolitik that might look for a deal (despite the colonial echoes in a country that had been subject to the British Empire). It's a quite different approach from the usual SF one of humans vs aliens.

Throughout these books we do though get a dizzying series of different perspectives and characters, and in particular Hannah, Jacques' wife, opposes the "grand bargain" as condemning living humans to a form of slavery. That point of view comes too the fore here in The Rosewater Redemption which - among many other things - allows this point to be debated in various ways: political, philosophical, utilitarian and - in a heart rending scene involving a character we have come to love - emotional.

Having read Redemption, I don't think it's putting it too strongly to say that it made me see the previous books in a whole new light. As I said above, it's not just "more plot" it's that these three books make up a tightly bound whole which has to be seen as a single entity. Contributing to that we see some familiar characters here from new directions - for example Femi - and also a lot more of several who have appeared teasingly and briefly - for example "Bicycle Girl" Oyin Da, regarded as a fugitive and a dissident but about whom I think we knew little, gets a lot of time and I think once you see the part she plays you'll realise how much was - designedly - missing previously, and want to go back and reread the earlier books with that knowledge in mind.

There's much more I could say about The Rosewater Redemption but I think that's the essence, without the previous stories aren't complete, not just in extent, but in essence.

The whole thing is a magnificent achievement and deserves to be seen as whole. It isn't one of those trilogies where you can read out of order, or skip the middle book; and given Thompson's gorgeous prose, you oughtn't to want to.

Just read them. Read them now. Read them in order. Then you can thank me.

For an excerpt from the book see the Orbit website here.

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