Rebellion features more absolutely stunning imagery,somehow surpassing its predecessor, solid character development and some fascinating new threads and plot twists. The good guys aren't entirely good and the bad guys have qualities you can admire and agendas you can sympathize, even agree with, even as you hate them for being bad. The main characters grow and change through (some)good fortune and (lots of) adversity becoming more fully realised and rounded, all set against a dark tapestry which weaves itself around them in epic majesty.
While on the subject of character development I believe Ian (if he'll forgive the familiar use of his first name) takes positive delight in giving his heroes a hard time, and I'm sure if he'd written The Odyssey poor Odysseus would have finally got home not a whole man at all! Its clearly meant to make us to get behind the characters. For me it certainly worked, and I have further come to believe that 'all great things come at a price' is a theme Ian likes to explore in his writing. For everything that happens there's very little by way of padding, the story is very clearly going somewhere and does it at a cracking pace, rising through a series of crescendos to a satisfying climax which still leaves you wanting more, a good thing since there's another book to come.
Nonetheless, Rebellion isn't flawless for me. There's the odd thing that happens here and there that grates a little, and some of the supporting characters are a little unidimensional, while others are drawn so large that they're almost manga-esque in their depiction and actions. While this is clearly a stylistic choice, meant to contrast with his more rounded, earth=bound depiction of the heroes, its not one I am entirely comfortable with, but I'm certainly intrigued and want to see where it leads.
This however is a small criticism of a great piece of writing which avoids many of the clichés driving our genre and 28 books in Ian Irvine remains fresh, vibrant and original, a feat which many of his colleagues have failed to emulate. After the almost obligatory cliff-hanger I was left shaking my fist at the sky, yelling 'damn you Irvine! Damn you to hell!' but I definitely want more and will be waiting at the head of the line for the next book.