Book one of the Mongoliad ended on a cliffhanger with several characters in imminent peril and all of its story lines left twisting in the wind. Instead of picking up where book one left off, after a half-decent but forgettable short story (Dreamer), book two gives readers a snarky middle finger by starting off with brand new characters in a brand new (and utterly superfluous, IMO) story line. Kudos to the authors for trying to make a papal election thrilling and action-packed. Alas, their efforts were wasted on me. When the imperiled characters finally make their appearance in chapter seven, all momentum is lost and it's like trying to start your clunker of a car in subzero temperatures. You turn the key, you pump the gas, and for the longest time all you get is a halfhearted stutter until the motor sluggishly sputters to life. And then you have to clean the snow off the car while the engine warms up before you can get anywhere.
By the time I finished this book, I still didn't feel like I'd cleaned all the snow off the car. Which is to say, it plods along, slowly advancing the main and sub-plots, killing off another character or two (and no, I didn't even feel a twinge), and then grinds to a halt after a couple of characters are finally allowed to accomplish something. Sort of. It was a total non-ending. Another stay tuned for the next episode deal, only minus the imminent peril. I would be stopping at this point if I didn't already own the next two books in the series.