the standing dead
The Standing Dead: Book Two of the Stone Dance of the Chamelion by Ricardo Pinto Tor Books; 1st edition (March 2003) ISBN: 0312872097
This is the second of a three-part story. I was given Part One (The Chosen) as a gift, and was thoroughly impressed with the imaginative world created by Pinto. The depth of the culture (blood-taints, flesh tithes, a robust caste system, The Wise) were all fascinating, and the world-builder / role-player in me went wild. I was caught off-guard by the -- at first suggestive, and ultimately outright -- homosexual content, but quickly moved past that. (Clive Barker's Imajica was a good preparatory book, if this kind of thing bothers you.)
On the whole I enjoyed The Standing Dead, but not as much asI had enjoyed The Chosen. Perhaps it was because some of the novelty -- indeed, some of the awe -- of the the world of the Masters had worn off. Mostly, though, I think I just grew weary of the story: the suffering, the heartache, the helplessness. Having finished it, I realize the necessity of such laborious explication as a means to establish the action in the third book.
The protaginist, Carnelian, is excused much of his ignorance in the first book due to his upbringing with his exiled father. We the readers share his revulsion and horror as he is exposed to the brutality and wanton disregard for life exhibited by the Masters. But Carnelian's poor choices in The Standing Dead grow tedious, and their rationale / motivation contrived. At several points I was ready to throw my hands in the air and just say "Oh, come on!"
Having made that complaint, on the whole I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the depth of attention given to the lifestyle of the barbarian clans, and appreciated the contrast it presented to the society of the Masters (brutes living in dignity versus the dignified living in brutality). The contrast was at times a little heavy-handed, but most of the character development was plausible and well executed. One of the things I most loved about both of the books is that Pinto doesn't give you patent explanations for much of the world. He'll present a term as used by the characters in their world, and leave you to figure out what it is through contextual clues (raveners, earthers, and heaveners are all examples of this). Personally, I love this style of story telling. It makes the unravelling story that much more rewarding.
Ricardo Pinto's website contains a wealth of additional information.