The Rise of Ransom City is a sequel to The Half-Made World.... sort of. Where the first book was a quest story with worldwide implications, following three main characters, this one is written as the memoir of Harry Ransom, an inventor who appeared only briefly in the prior novel. It’s still a decent book, and the second half is much better than the first, but it didn’t grab me and excite me the way the first one did.
The first 185 pages of this book relate Harry’s childhood and his travels around the West, and I honestly found it a slog and thought of giving up more than once. Like too many fantasy sequels, it lapses into a tedious travelogue, its protagonist hiking about with no particular end in mind. Meanwhile, readers have no prior investment in Harry, whose role in world events during the first half of the book is at best peripheral. While he’s rather amusing, he’s not quite interesting enough to make up for having lost our previous main characters and storyline. Liv and Creedmoor do play a small role here, as seen through Harry’s eyes, but they’re understandably reticent with him and so we see almost nothing of their adventures.
Fortunately, the book does pick up in the second half: Harry stops traveling and becomes involved in world events, and I was engaged and interested again. Even the world seems more alive in the latter part of the book, and some interesting secondary characters step up to play important roles. Gilman displays his writing talent quite effectively, for instance, in a chapter that consists entirely of unattributed dialogue with 5 or 6 people present--and yet the reader can understand who is speaking and what's going on without trouble. And, to give credit where credit is due: I criticized the first book for only having one female character of any importance, but in this installment there are several and they’re quite interesting.
Looking back on the whole work, then, it’s more than competently written and the world is still interesting, but the choice of Harry as narrator is questionable. Not only is it difficult to switch from the movers and shakers to a relatively minor character partway through a story, but Harry’s voice never quite seems to match his personality. He is supposed to be fast-talking and pompous, but comes across as rather too self-aware and regretful, almost ingenuous, as if Gilman had not entirely adopted his voice.
Overall, this one is worth reading if you liked the first book and are willing to push through the first half of this one (or actually enjoy fantasy travelogues). For me, though, while it has its moments, it does not live up to the promise of The Half-Made World.