Picking up immediately after The Book Of Koli, its sequel The Trials Of Koli sees our not-so-merry gang heading on a long journey from Calder Valley to London – where the mysterious Sword Of Albion signal is transmitting from. The group consists of Koli who has been banished from his village of Mythen Rood after stealing coveted tech; Ursula and her medical four-legged machine the ‘Drudge’; and Cup who has been left homeless after the aforementioned two burned down her cult home and its cannibalistic founder. Joining them is Koli’s stolen tech the DreamSleeve – the portable musical device that houses a sentient AI named Monono Aware.
Set in a dystopian future that has been ravaged by a devastating war and complications from climate change, their world is a perilous place and being exposed to it results in a number of ways Koli and co can be killed. So why are they making the trip? After finding out that humans are slowly dying off due to small, isolated communities producing dangerously low birth rates, Koli has a plan to entice people to London to mix up the gene pool. Meanwhile, Ursula is hoping the Sword Of Albion could lead to new tech that her Drudge can use to save the dying infants. And Cup? Well she’s a begrudging tagalong – taken hostage after trying to kill Koli in revenge for the murder of her cult leader (though perhaps she’s starting to realise that may have actually been a good thing…).
With the aftermath of these catastrophic events pushing humans back to a more simplified race (we find out that literacy had been banned for some reason), the voices in the Rampart Trilogy are unique. Where it may have been tough to pick up in the first novel, now readers are well-versed in the characters’ basic language, we can spot small nuances of where they are slowly becoming more knowledgeable as their worlds open up, which is a joy.
The Trials Of Koli is split into two narratives. We see things from Koli’s perspective again (like the first book), but this time he’s joined by Spinner – Koli’s love interest from The Book Of Koli who is still in the village of Mythen Rood and facing a whole new bunch of dangers of her own.
By mixing up the points of view, author M R Carey has ensured a fresh feel for the second book in the Rampart Trilogy (the last of which is due out next March), as the narrators are very different. Both halves of the narrative are as engaging as the other – you’ll simultaneous begrudge finishing Koli’s chapter as you rejoice in re-joining Spinner.
Also, by incorporating the world outside of Mythen Rood, readers get to explore more of this fascinating, if deadly, future. Which basically seems to just want to kill them. From killer trees, to terrifying creatures, to other people, our characters are really never safe.
Though this future world is a forbidding, grim place, The Trials Of Koli is anything but. The main characters have been given the chance to grow from their small seedlings in the first novel, to complex journey-mates in Trials – their personalities branching in varying directions and compelling you to invest in their fates. This is a bold, unique world – be prepared to be engrossed and to not look at that conniving Oak tree the same way again…
The Book Of Koli and The Trials Of Koli are out now. The third book in the trilogy, The Fall Of Koli, is out March 2021.