The Ships of Air, the second book in The Fall of Ile-Rien, builds upon the strengths of the first while also improving several of the first book’s flaws. As in The Wizard Hunters, the main character’s depth and likeability is a major strength. Tremaine is a complex character, displaying a variety of emotions and pursuing a variety of actions, some of them not so clearly understood by those around her or even herself. Several of the side characters from The Wizard Hunters whose characterization suffered a bit from shallowness deepen into more three-dimensional creations here, enriching the overall flavor of the novel and allowing Wells the luxury of dipping into several enjoyable side-stories. The writing moves along crisply and often humorously, another positive carried over from book one.
Where the first book suffered somewhat from repetitive plot, villains painted in too-shallow pictures, and an over-reliance on Tremaine’s sphere as a deus ex machina, Ships of Air suffers from none of these. The villains, the Gardier, are explained more fully from inside and out. The storyline finds excitement though expanding existing tensions and adding new points of contention/crisis rather than simply repeating a pattern of capture/escape/capture/escape. And the sphere plays a relatively minor role to the advantage of both character and plot.
Some of the foreshadowing from book one is resolved here and, as is expected of a bridge novel in a series, new questions arise to tantalize the reader. If anything, these new questions are more intriguing than the old ones. This, combined with the improvements in plot and character, make this not only a better written book than Wizards, but also a much stronger lure into continuing with the series. A good recommendation.