THE SHIPS OF AIR is the second book in Martha Wells' Fall of Ile-Rien series and takes place immediately after the events in THE WIZARD HUNTERS. I think this book can be read as a stand-alone, but your enjoyment will be greatly enhanced by having read the first book.
After destroying the island base of the evil Gardier who are trying to conquer the country of Ile-Rien, Tremaine Valiarde and her companions board the Queen-Mary-type ship Ravenna to return to their home world. They forge an uneasy alliance with the primitive Syprians and start their journey back to Ile-Rien. Unfortunately, there is at least one spy hidden on the ship, complicating their plans. On the voyage, Tremaine and her friends unexpectedly encounter more Gardier and they take an unexpected side trip. To say more would be spoiling the book, but just like the first book, the action just did not stop. It took unexpected turns and kept me on the edge of my seat. I had to take a half day of vacation to finish reading it.
I particularly enjoyed the relationship between the main characters: Tremaine, Ileas, and Giliead. They had an instinctual understanding of each other and complete trust that the others would be there in times of trouble. And, best of all, there is a romance -- won't spoil it by saying with whom! It's quite understated, but there are a couple of cute scenes as they adjust to each other.
I really liked this book. It's got sympathetic, likable characters, clever dialogue, good word-building, a fast-paced plot, and seamless writing.
I think my enjoyment was enhanced because I'd been reading the chapters as Wells posted them online, which kept me in touch with the world she created. I usually don't bother with trilogies until all the books are out because I forget names of secondary characters, places, and politics and it's just too much work to try to remember it all. I think it's a great marketing tool for authors of trilogies to post chapters online to keep their fans interested. I do think the pace should be a chapter every month instead of the niggardly chapter every two months. Honestly, if a person is bothering to read a chapter at a time, they really will go out and buy the book when it comes out even if they know what three-quarters of it is.--Edith (15 Jun 04)