Rapture - Kameron Hurley Rating for this book: 3.75+; rating for the series overall: 3.5

After a relatively lackluster second volume in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, Kameron Hurley comes roaring back with Rapture. Seven years have passed since the events of [b:Infidel|11470277|Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha, #2)|Kameron Hurley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317841525s/11470277.jpg|16404567], and Nyxnissa so Dasheem is in exile in Drucia, where she lives with her former comrade Anneka and her family. The situation in Nasheen has continued to deteriorate in the meanwhile: The centuries-long war with Chenja is over, and the boys – the fodder the bel dames and First Families have been sacrificing for all this time – are returning home and becoming a disruptive element that threatens to push Nasheen into outright civil war. Raine, Nyx’s erstwhile instructor, enemy and a man she had left for dead, survived and has become the leader in the fight for men’s rights. When he’s kidnapped, Fatima – another old foe, the murderer of Rhys’ family and bel dame leader – extorts Nyx’s aid in tracking him down and bringing him back to Nasheen. Obviously, things cannot be as straightforward as this, and Nyx rapidly finds herself enmeshed not alone in the machinations of the bel dames, the Queen and the First Families, but also those of the Ras Tiegans, the civilizations of the North and a larger cabal of First Families that revives an ancient conjuror to ensure the “aliens,” who have returned, do not gain a foothold on Umayma.

This thing that makes Rapture such a good read and a very satisfying conclusion to the story is Hurley’s decision to focus almost exclusively on Nyxnissa, who is the heart and soul of the series. Looking back, the weakness of Infidel was that the author introduced too many new characters and their subplots that either didn’t go anywhere or distracted the reader from Nyx. Here, we have brief discursions into what Rhys and Inaya are doing but everything properly comes back to Nyx, who is one of the more interesting characters I’ve encountered in a while.

Why? I have been wondering how to answer that question since I don’t like to leave readers hanging with sentences like the one above, so let me enumerate several of the reasons:

1. Nyx feels very human. That is to say, her motivations are complex, conflicted and not always obvious to herself or to us
2. She’s indomitable. Despite failing – as she see’s it – in everything she’s done, she doesn’t give up.
3. She has at her core an admirable nature (part of which, IMO, is #2). You have to admire her devotion to what she see’s as her duty, to her companions (though they often misinterpret it), and to her ability to cling to her humanity in the face of all the shit (pardon my French) that’s thrown her way.

Another factor in the novel’s favor is that Hurley continues to open up the world of Umayma without info-dumping. We are tantalized with more clues about Umayma’s colonization and its earliest history, the nature of humans and their relationship to the bugs, and the reasons behind Umayma’s xenophobia.

And – finally – I liked the ending’s ambiguity, which immediately brings to mind Frank Stockton’s short story “The Lady or the Tiger.”

A vigorous thumbs-up for this book and the entire Bel Dame Apocrypha series. I fervently hope Hurley continues to write in this universe (as well as branching out; I’d be interested in reading anything she writes).