Continuing the story where City of Golden Shadow left off, River of Blue Fire follows our band of heroes as they jouney through the enigmatic Otherland, unable to leave.
Abandonded by Sellers, the adventurer's are left with his last words: find Paul Jonas. With no other clues, they wander the Otherland, following the River of Blue Fire, which links all the separate worlds together. They are split up at the beginning, and reunited at the end. Worlds they travel through include one of Giant Insects, a rendition of Wizard of Oz, and even a cartoon world featuring a cartoon Indian, who Orldando and Fredericks must assist as he battles through the huge kitchen in search of his papoose. All the various worlds are beautifully described, and William's excellent writing brings them to life with a vivid clarity.
Meanwhile, Paul Jonas continues his search for the meaning of his existence. He is aided by an organization called 'The Circle', which is opposing the Grail Brotherhood. Still fleeing from his pursures, acutally a malicious program in the system searching for him, he travels from world to world, learning more about who he is, and who opposes him.
Which brings us to the Grail Brotherhood. Through the course of the novel, we get a closer look and understanding of the Brotherhood. Wrought with dissension and discord, it is led by Felix Jongleur, and ancient man alive only with the help of machines, who seeks to live forever in the Otherland. William's portrayal of his villains is strong, we can only wish he had graced the pages of this gigantic novel with a little more.
Some of the best parts of 'River of Blue Fire' are those dealing with 'Dread', Jongleur's henchmen. A larger portion of the book is devoted to him, and the reader can't help but await the next chapter dedicated to this mysterious character. The whodunnit in fact concerns Dread, who manages to send one of the heroes offline, and take their place, unknowingly to the others. The surprise unmasking of the villain however, is a surprise only because Williams drops strong, explicit hints as to the indentity, and then turns around and points the finger at someone else. Certainly confusing, and a little annoying.
River of Blue Fire wanders at times (excuse the pun) but there's still a strong story lurking in there. The novel comes across as disjointed, not simply in the frequent switching of storytelling from one group of characters to another, which is commonplace enough, but from the sheer changing of worlds which our characters travel in. It seems much of their struggle is pointless, as they are cast from locale into another. At least the end of this novel offers a little (but not much) in the way of resolution.