This review was originally posted at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog on April 6, 2012.This book is one of those rare second-in-a-trilogy books that’s actually BETTER than the first book. The first book suffered from boring characters and an uneven pacing; this second book has FABULOUS characters and really excellent pacing. All the problems from the first book were resolved, and I think it basically redeemed the entire series for me.The best thing about the Griffin Mage trilogy is the characters. Even Kes, who I didn’t enjoy reading about, is an interesting character. All the protagonists have layers upon layers, and even the secondary or tertiary characters have some depth to them. They’re just really neat people, the sort of people I enjoy following around for a few hours at a time. The only people who didn’t have any depth were the slave owners, which I think makes a definite point since mainly every other baddie gets at least some humanization/redemption thing. The slave owners? Did not.Griffins have a much reduced presence in this book, which I personally liked since it meant I could read more about the people I wanted to read about. Still, since this is the Griffin Mage trilogy, they do play an important role in the plot. Unfortunately, I think that role wasn’t as developed as much as it should have been.Because neither the griffins nor Kes have a POV, none of the characters really know wtf is going on re:the griffins. They speculate, and they wonder, and they spend the majority of the book running around trying to fix something they’re not even sure is broken. The griffins’ contribution plot is finally revealed at the end of the book, but it almost felt like it was just stuck on there wily-nily. I think I would have liked the reveal better if we’d gotten more hints about it throughout the rest of the book, so it’d be more like a mystery than…whatever it actually was.Still, despite that whole thing, I liked Land of the Burning Sands a lot more than the first book. The characters were fantastic and even though I think some people might be bored with the plot, I really enjoyed it. We got more details on the Griffin Mage world and the people who inhabit it, and the magic system got explained a bit more. And even though I think the absence of Kes was slightly damaging to the overall story arc, I was happy I didn’t have to plod through her POV again (although since, at the end of the first book, she wasn’t technically the person she was when her story started. So it might have been more interesting, who knows).