This book picked up a few months after the last one left off, but it was pretty slow. It dealt with a lot of vague magic and cryptic communication with the gods. There weren’t really any consequences yet from what happened in the last book, or it was kind of unclear what they were. Because of this lack of much happening, I feel like the book depended on the reader already really caring about the characters. But I only had kind of moderate feelings toward them, so I struggled a bit to get into it.
It was when there started to be a little more about the relationships and feelings between characters (maybe about halfway in?) that I started to get more into it. There were some cute and funny quippy moments. There was an adorable oblivious Serefin moment. I was especially glad when the whole crew came together (about 2/3 in) because it created such a great mix of friendships, romances, enemies, allies, and even some mix-n-match relationships (e.g. characters who were both enemies and friends).
Near the end, the plot finally picked up a bit, and things got a bit chaotic and intense. By the time I finished, I was more into the book and more invested in the characters.
There was still a lot of the reader being told, “He’s just an anxious boy! But he’s also a monster! But he’s just an anxious boy! But he’s also a monster!” when it came to Malachiasz. I want to be more interested in his character, but we were still given such small tidbits that showed what he’s like and mostly just told things. On the one hand, if that’s just how Nadya sees him and how her thoughts work, then it’s not necessarily poor writing, just writing from a kind of frustrating POV. On the other hand, if I never have to hear the words monster or boy again in this series, it’ll be too soon. But the way he constantly had eyes and mouths opening on random parts of his body was both horrifying and kind of funny to me.
Nadya still had her emotional turmoil over her faith and her feelings and her powers.
Serefin was still a mess. Even more of a mess, actually. That boy was just a wreck. I feel like he lived in a fugue state 90% of the time. When he wasn’t drunk, he was paralyzed with helplessness or indecision, or he was stumbling around at the pull of the gods in his head. The other 10% of the time was when he surfaced long enough to make some dry, sarcastic remarks. He’s proven to be the most complex and interesting of the three characters for me.
There were more POVs this time. A couple small bits from Malachiasz, Parijahan, Kacper, and a new character. But still mostly from Nadya and Serefin.
Some of the things I was confused about in the first book were cleared up, in a way. I may not understand the specifics of certain things, but I feel like I at least did get some answers or clarification. There was some confusing stuff in this one too, but more in the sense of, “I don’t understand what that character is talking about or I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I understand the outcome.”
I listened to the audiobook for this, and the narration was great. It was dual narrated (Natasha Soudek for Nadya’s chapters, Tristan Morris for Serefin’s), and both did a great job at making the narration sound natural with accents to fit the Polish- and Russian-inspired settings, doing different enough voices for characters that I could always tell them apart, and doing voices for different genders. They also fixed the pronunciation of Malachiasz’s name, which was apparently pronounced wrong in the first book.
Overall, this one was a bit slow with not too much happening until near the end, but it found some sort of stride eventually and ended with a bang. It managed to make me feel invested by the time I finished, I enjoyed it well enough, and I do want to keep going with the series and see what happens to these characters.
Fans of Book 1 in Emily A. Duncan's Something Dark and Holy series. Anyone who likes high fantasy, magic, fictional religion, teenage characters who are broken and sometimes monstrous but also soft, and lots of blood.