River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh
Published January 2011, Read June/July 2016
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (of 5)
While not as good as Sea of Poppies, I decided to rate this book in its own right. Amitav Ghosh is a master story teller. Every single character, even the minor ones, have lush backgrounds and character development. He devotes the utmost care to every person who passes through his book. The book is less complex than Sea of Poppies in that there are only two narratives or points of view for most of the text: Robin and Bahram. The characters from Sea of Poppies play only a cursory role besides Neel, which is slightly disappointing as not much that is left unresolved at the end of that book is resolved in River of Smoke.
This book delves deep into the morality of the opium trade and focuses expertly on the ignorance and conceit of colonial and imperial minded merchants of the black mud. The chaos that opium brings to China is outlined mostly in the corruption and political turmoil in the higher levels of Canton society and government, unlike Sea of Poppies which focused on the personal devastation of addiction.
In the end, this book is well worth reading. Ghosh set himself an almost impossible task to try to match the masterpiece of Sea of Poppies with Ricer of Smoke, and while he has not quite succeeded, it is still a masterful text, well worth reading for lovers of the Ibis Trilogy.