Up Jim River by Michael Flynn (The January Dancer 2)

Up Jim River is the quest of a daughter for her lost mother and it continues the story from The January Dancer 20 years later. I loved the first book, here is my review of the second.

Title: Up Jim River
Series: The January Dancer 2
Author: Michael Flynn
Narrator: Todd
Genre: Space Opera
Hardcover: 336 pages
Audio book: 15h 56min
Publisher: Tor books 2010 | Tantor Media 2010
Excerpt: from chapter 1
Copy: Bought by my
Order from: Audible | Tor | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

There is a river on Dangchao Waypoint, a small world out beyond Die Bold. It is a longish river as such things go, with a multitude of bayous and rapids and waterfalls, and it runs through many a strange and hostile country. Going up it, you can lose everything.

Going up it, you can find anything. The Hound Bridget ban has vanished, and her employer, the Kennel (the mysterious superspy agency of the League), has given up the search. But her daughter, the harper Mearana, has not.

She enlists the scarred man, Donovan, to aid her in her search. With the reluctant assent and financial aid of the Kennel, they set forth. Bridget ban was following hints of an artifact that would “protect the League from the Confederacy for aye.” Mearana is eager to follow that trail, but Donovan is reluctant, because whatever is at the end of it made a Hound disappear. What it would do to a harper and a drunk is far too easy to imagine.

Donovan’s mind had been shattered by Those of Name, the rulers of the Confederacy, and no fewer than seven quarreling personalities now inhabit his skull. How can he hope to see Mearana through safely?

Together, they follow Bridget ban’s trail to the raw worlds of the frontier, edging ever closer to the uncivilized and barbarian planets of the Wild.


To clarify one thing, Up Jim River refer to a saying on Dangchao Waypoint and not as I thought when I read the blurb a mysterious and maybe extra dimensional river they where going to explore in this novel. The river they eventually will explore comes about three quarters into the book. I kept thinking are they never going to get to the river this is about? I am not spoiling the book in any way because at no time do the character believe they are chasing any such river. Maybe it is just me but I think they should fix that blurb.

I listened to the audio book from Tantor Media read by Todd McLaren. He is Ok but not as good as Stefan Rudnicki (The January Dancer), that narration blew my mind.

The protagonists are Mearana and Donovan (the Fudir from The January Dancer). Compared to The January Dancer, Up Jim River is more of a traditional story told by the persons in it. The story begins 20 years after the main events in The January Dancer and the day after the scarred man finished his tale to Mearana.

The Author

Michael Francis Flynn is another new author for me. I feel like trying the other series he has written like the Firestar series. According to Wikipedia he is an American statistician and science fiction author. They say that most of his works fall under hard science fiction but The January Dancer series is beyond hard science and touches more on mystery of science forgotten long ago. Much of his short fiction has appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

World Building

The world building continues from The January Dancer and we learn more about the rugged and wild worlds of the frontier and even more about the distant past and the truth behind legends. We learn what we learn as the characters learn in their quest to find Bridget ban in an non obtrusive way.

I had to check out my sense of disbelief a couple of times concerning the worlds and some of the characters they visited but this is space opera and they where funny so it worked for me.

One thing that has captivated my imagination is the world Michael Flynn built. How did the old civilization crumble? How was the legendary war fought? Was the ancient enemies of Iron & Sand artificial intelligences created by man or an alien race? I find myself getting back to his world and the mysteries in it again and again.


Mearana goes looking for her mother together with the reluctant Donovan. First they get the kennels support and then they continue towards the frontier and the mystery that swallowed Bridgit ban. Their journey touches old acquaintances from The January Dancer that come and goes; it touches ancient legends and mysteries. The whole thing reads as a mystery quest up until the end when it gets a bit more like a high tech Indiana Jones all in beautiful prose of course.

It is as much a personal journey for both of them. For Mearana it is about her and her parents. Donovan is the one to make the greatest inner journey split as he is into multiple inner personalities like the Fudir, inner child and such. He has to find himself.


The characterization is vivid, warm and compelling as I come to expect after The January Dancer. Some of the supporting characters are a bit stereotypical.

As in The January Dancer Donovan/the Fudir was the most compelling and well developed character with his inner personalities at constant war with each other over weather they should help Mearana or go back to safety. I liked him a lot here too he is like the body of the story while Mearana is the soul. It was easy to root for her to finish her quest.

My View

The January Dancer blew my mind, it is hard for a second volume to live up to that. Where January Dancer was an epic Saga Up Jim River is more of a good mystery quest. Some of the turns feels a bit to easy and could have been more of an obstacle for the characters to overcome but it is a good book to listen to. The ending gives closure but is also a great setup for a third book. It is possible to read this as a standalone novel but I would recommend that you start with The January Dancer as they are parts in one story.