Virga: Cities of the Air (Queen of Candesce, Virga book 2) by Karl Schroeder (Tor 2007) [Book Review]

This is the second book in Virga, Karl Schroeder’s fantastic far future steampunk series and it follows the adventures of Venera Fanning, the admiral’s spymaster wife. It starts right after the events in Sun of Suns with Venera adrift in the sea of air.

She eventually drifts close to one of the most ancient nations in Virga and is rescued. Spyre is old, the structure is falling apart and the social system balances on a knife’s edge.

Karl has succeeded well in creating a declining society caught up in rituals whose usefulness has passed. He also reveals more of Virga’s mysterious past, but only so much that you want to learn more. The way it works got me thinking about historical shortsightedness of countries from our own world.

Venera is a delightfully amoral character from the beginning but she grows and transforms as her character develops. She wants to survive and return to Slipstream, but it is not easy. She has to acquire means and to overcome some social and political problems to do so. It involves faking her identity, learning a new trade, causing major disruption of the political and social systems on Spyre, gaining new enemies with old grudges, and inadvertently igniting a revolution.

It is high adventure just the way I like it. The enigmatic society with all its dirty little secrets is the onion Venera has to peel before it eats her alive.

I haven’t said this before but the way Karl Schroeder paints with words is very visual. I find myself time after time loosing myself in my inner view of the sceneries here. Spyre’s spinning wheel, the view from a turret on the outer hull, the elevator on its way to the inner wheel and the view from the tower in the floorless section.

I enjoyed Queen of Candesce, it is a thrilling learning-a-world-and-yourself kind of adventure with ancient constructs, a mysterious society and strong characters. The whole Virga series is one of my best finds this year. I am off to read Pirate Sun now.

This is part Two of my reviews of Virga: Cities of the Air. Read part one Sun of Suns.

Expect a review of Book three Pirate Sun next week.


Title: Virga: Cities of the Air (Queen of Candesce)
Series: Virga book 2
Omnibus: Virga: Cities of the Air (1-2) Part 1 Sun of Suns
Author: Karl Schroeder (
Paperback: 296 (592) pages
Publisher: Tor (2010, First 2007)

Order from: Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

Venera Fanning was last seen falling into nothingness at the end of Sun of Suns. Now, in Queen of Candesce, Venera finds herself plunging through the air between the artificial continents of Virga, far from home and her husband, who may or may not be alive.  Landing in the ancient nation of Spyre, Venera encounters new enemies and new friends (or at least convenient allies). She must quickly learn who she can trust, and who she can manipulate in order to survive. Queen of Candesce is her story.