Seven years after the events of Heroes Die, Hari/Caine is paralyzed from the waist down, chairman of the studio he detests (basically the carrot half of what keeps him in line), his only friend is Tan'elKoth/Ma'elKoth, the captive man-god who took his legs and his career, and his marriage is once more slipping away from him. The only really good thing in his life is his step-daughter Faith.
In addition to milking Overworld for profitably violent entertainment, the studio is now stripping it of its natural resources, dumping slag and waste in their place. When the studio unleashes a devastating plague to stem native resistance, Caine comes to life once more, launching a plan to save the natives of Overworld. But his accumulated enemies conspire to take his wife, his father, his daughter, his reputation, and his life. Caine is utterly broken. Like, Cool Hand Luke-broken.
The second half of the book sees Caine directing an insurrection in the Ankhara dungeon, believably winning fights in spite of his paralysis, and ultimately leading a national rebellion while trying to save the world from the horrors of pandemic and--worse--colonization. Stover does not think small.
It's a substantial shift from the first book of the series. Where Heroes Die was an adventure story, a test of will, Blade of Tyshalle explores theology, genocide, the consequences of overpopulation. It's no longer just a story about one man, what he wants, and how far he'd go to get it.
It's maybe a little blasphemous how Stover turns monotheistic religion (Christianity) on its head. Ma'elKoth is 7 feet tall, inhumanly beautiful and articulate, powerful beyond belief, a natural leader..."God", by every indication. Caine is snide, brutal, terrifying, yet he's the one trying to save the world. It reminds me of To Reign in Hell: maybe God just had better PR.
There's some excellent backstory taking us to Caine in Actor School and introducing an old friend/ally. There's a neat little mythology overlay: each chapter is preceded by a short story about a mythological character who corresponds to someone in the story. Caine/the dark angel, Shanna/the part-time-goddess, Ten'elkoth/the god who was a man, etc.
At times I was head-over-heels in love with this book, but towards the end I felt like some of the mystical stuff got away from the author. Like he was making it up as he went with little regard for the amazing world he'd spent so much time building. Still an easy 5 stars though.