So The Lazarus Gate is the predecessor of The Iscariot Sanction. These 2 books as it turns out are nearly stand-alones. If I’d read them in the correct order, I’m not sure I would have liked book 2.
The Lazarus Gate takes place in the better of the two alternates; for the details of the bad one, you’ll need to read Iscariot Sanction. When the bad universe that’s falling apart with demons etc is described in The Lazarus Gate, there isn’t much detail, so it’s hard to feel bad for those characters. Reason 2 it’s hard to feel any sympathy for those characters is that they plan to murder all their doubles, effectively enslave the native population of the ok world, and take over. They’re not nice people. If I’d read the second book second, I don’t think I would have been able to adjust to the somewhat sympathetic characters, because they’re pretty awful in book 1.
One big difference in The Lazarus Gate though is that there is a more clear hero (John Hardwick), a more clear villain (Lillian), and a few ambiguous characters who shift between good and bad but end up clearly on one side or the other (Ambrose and The Artist). I am glad we got to see more of the Artist though because he’s a pretty interesting though mysterious character in Iscariot Sanction.
Some characters don’t change much between stories, but you do get a lot more of some than others. I didn’t much care for Lillian in either novel. I did like getting to see more of Arthur in book 2, although his connection to Lillian still needs explaining, as in what happened in the bad universe’s past between them. I was hoping for a little presence from him based on how important he turns out to be in the second novel.
I liked the different versions of John. The problem is though that the two John versions never get to meet, and I wanted to see that to see how they would react. John of Lazarus Gate only finds out what happens to his double at the very end of the story, and assuming any kind of parallel between the two is hard because of what bad universe John was likely doing in the ok universe, which would have been out of character for him. Sir Toby doesn’t change a whole lot, but we do get to see a lot more of his personal interactions with agents in Lazarus Gate, and we also get some interesting detail to contrast the 2 Lords Cherleten by the end of Iscariot Sanction.
I’ve got to wonder if there will be a book 3 and what might happen there, since both Lazarus and Iscariot have pretty definite conclusions with a hint of possible continuations.