After reading some other reviews, I went into this fully prepared to be confused as fuck. I ended up being far less confused during this book than I was for most of the first book. I was definitely confused about some things that the author purposely kept the reader in the dark about, but I already had a grasp on the world and magic, there were far fewer characters and names to remember, and the plot was much easier to follow. You really do have to just go with the flow though—no, you didn’t miss anything—and trust that you’ll get an explanation for everything eventually. This book is a wild ride. Kind of slow, but then it picks up at the end with a bunch of battles, revelations, and explanations. It was confusing and convoluted, which is not my favorite kind of reading experience for the most part, but it was a choice to write it this way, I understand the reasoning behind it, and I respect it. Also, it’s kind of fun to speculate and come up with theories about things that have been hinted at but still not explained, especially if you have someone to discuss with. That actually adds some enjoyment to the book for me.
The thing about this book, and this was another bold choice on the part of the author, is that it’s VERY different from the first. Different POVs. Different characters, aside from a few. Different main location. Different vibe. Different sci-fi/fantasy elements and concepts introduced.
But, somehow, it was also the same in a lot of ways, as well as good in its own ways. The few new characters are just as weird and unique as all the rest. (Augustine is kind of awful, and yet I kind of love him?) Their dynamics are just as interesting. (I suppose that would happen if you spent thousands of years with only a few people as constants in your life.) Harrow is very different from Gideon, but just as well-written. (I thought I’d dislike a book about her since I disliked her in the first book, but she turned out to be just a kind of sad and broken person I felt bad for more than anything, but also very smart and skilled.) The necromancy and bone/flesh magic is just as gory and gruesome, and the new ghost/afterlife stuff is interesting. There are lots of fun, little hidden references to modern media and memes. (Which was a little strange, but I just rolled with it. I’m always down for a “none pizza with left beef” reference.) There are bits of humor scattered here and there. *SPOILER* Honestly, one of the funniest things comes after you finish the book and think about how Harrow called Gideon Classic “Ortus” the whole time she was with them, and no one said anything. They all just thought she was weird and accepted that that was what she was going to call him. But this was also a standout quote: “When three people start kissing, it is always a cue. A cue to leave.“ *END SPOILER*
The one thing that did frustrate me was that the author gave us all these great characters in the first book, then kinda took them away for the second. And it seems like that might happen again in the third. Here’s a list of characters and whether or not they’re in this book, in case anyone wants to know: *MAJOR SPOILER (mostly for Book 1, some for this book)* Most of the characters died in Book 1. But of the ones who lived, we really only got time with Harrow and Ianthe. The other survivors (Coronabeth, Camilla, and Deuteros) made a super brief appearance. Palamedes—my main reason for wanting to continue the series, I love him that much—also made a super brief appearance, despite being dead, and might still come back to life because, as Harrow put it, he “found the idea of dying inconvenient.” A few other dead characters (Dulcinea, Protesilaus, Ortus, Dyas, Abigail, Magnus, Isaac, Jeannemary) helped Harrow out for a small portion of the book in this sort of afterlife realm that you’ll understand more when you read the book. And Gideon—along with full Gideon voice POV—made a reappearance near the end. *END SPOILER*
I listened to the audiobook for this, and the narration by Moira Quirk is fantastic. She’s great at doing all different voices and accents (though there are occasionally times when it’s hard to figure out who’s speaking until you get a dialogue tag, because there are a lot of characters to do different voices for) and bringing the story to life in a way that really embraces the weirdness and quirkiness of it. I think I might’ve enjoyed these books less if I had read them myself, but Moira’s narration makes them more engaging and entertaining.
If you haven’t started the series yet, I recommend reading some reviews of the first book. If you’ve already read the first book and are on the fence about this one, as I was, I say go for it, because I liked this one a bit more. I’m not as wildly into this series as everyone else seems to be, but I’m hooked now and starting to care about the characters more. This was another super weird, unique, complex book, and you just have to go into it knowing certain things aren’t going to quite add up and trust that it’ll make sense in the end.
Trigger/Content Warnings: Lots of mentions of vomiting. Lots of blood and gore.
Fans of Book 1 in Tamsyn Muir's The Locked Tomb series. Anyone who likes necromancy, space, mystery, gore, twists, and possibly f/f romance.