Spoilers for the first book in the series and for this book.
Shockingly, I didn’t cry. It was a dark, intense book, and, although it was made very obvious that Kian had sacrificed himself to keep Edie safe, I didn’t expect his end to be the way it was. I’m not going to go into how, exactly, he died. If you read it, you know what I mean, and, if you haven’t read it, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Normally, I’m willing to spoil everything, but, in this case, you just need to read it.
The middle of this book wasn’t as good as the rest of it. At some point, it just got kind of slow, maybe? But slow isn’t the right word to describe it exactly. It wasn’t slow, exactly. It just lacked some of the things the first book had and some parts of this book had. Edie knows a lot more about the Immortal Game now, which is good, since that means that the reader knows more about what’s going on. I always like to know literally everything going on, so I like it, but her not knowing added some suspense to the first book. Part of what I liked so much about the first book is that, although it’s not a suspense novel, it has enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat, and, although it’s not a horror novel, it has enough aspects of that to get under your skin (more on that later). The atmosphere that this creates is amazing, and it so easily pulls you in. This book has some, but not all, of that atmosphere in the first third, and the last hundred pages or so. A good part of what makes me like a book is the atmosphere it has. Obviously there are a lot of other aspects of a book I take into consideration. A book with a great atmosphere can have other things that are terrible, and, in turn, make the rest of the book terrible, but atmosphere matters to me. (Maybe I like a book’s atmosphere so much because it’s almost like that book’s aesthetic, and, if you’ve seen my instagram, you know how seriously I take my aesthetic. I realize, after writing that, that only a few people who read this blog have seen my instagram. If you’re one of the many people who hasn’t seen it, just know that it’s very serious.) Anyway. Since this is the second book in the series, I had assumed that it would feel the same way. Obviously, it makes sense for the second book in a series to not have the exact same feeling as the first book in a series. I didn’t expect it to necessarily have the exact same feeling as the first one, but I hoped it would because I liked that feeling, and I at least expected it to have similar suspense. But it didn’t. It could be that I read the first book in this series at the beginning of the year, and I don’t remember the atmosphere as well as I should. It could be that my mind has slightly altered my memories of the first book to make it seem even better, and, in reality, it could be that the first book has the same atmosphere this has, but I don’t think that’s it. All of that said, I don’t think this made a big impact on how much I liked the book, so it’s more of an observation and less of a complaint.
Something that is still an observation, but slightly closer to a complaint, is that this book lacked the casual creepiness that the first book had. I think part of what’s left lacking with the creepiness in this book is that all those random, evil, supernatural creatures that Edie would run into have almost all been replaced by The Harbinger. At first, I had no problems with him. He was creepy, mysterious, and had descriptions that could just as easily work for some terribly beautiful faerie from one of those old fairy tales I used to read late into the night. He’s so different from the things that had been in the book before, and he was interesting. Not that he stopped being interesting as the book went on, but I’ll get more into it in a minute, and it will all make sense. Part of what made the creatures from the first book good was that they were wantonly evil. There was a man with a sack full of heads. There were horrifying demon children. I am writing this at three minutes ‘til midnight, the weather is seventy eight degrees, and thinking about those monsters sent a chill down my spine and made me check to make sure my blinds were closed and that there was nothing behind me. Those monsters weren’t in your face creepy: They were just creepy enough get under your skin and show up in your mind again when it’s late. My favorite kind of horror is the kind that just gets under your skin, and so little horror you find these days does that. Far too much of what’s written now is trying to sound like something Stephen King would write, and, from what I’ve seen, a lot of that is more monster-coming-to-get-you horror, and less get-under-your-skin horror.
Anyway. A big part of this book seems to be emphasizing the fact that the monsters are monsters because that’s what humans have made them. These creatures have sprung into being because enough humans believed in them, and that has given them the power to be whatever their myth/legend/etc portrayed them as – like American Gods. I like this and how it’s done so well. I like the idea that people spreading urban legends on the internet can create new monsters. Even if all the old gods and monsters die, humans can always create new ones, so the immortals and what they do is never really over. I like this a lot. The fact that this is so prominent in this book isn’t my issue. It adds more depth, and it’s done so beautifully, how could anyone complain about it? My issue with it all comes back to The Harbinger. Like I said before, in the beginning he was magnificent. If I’m remembering correctly, he wore a top hat. Sure, his character didn’t have too much backstory, but neither did the characters of any of the other immortals, so it’s not weird, and it doesn’t leave you wanting more. He’s beautiful and he’s terrible, and it’s all he needs. And then everything starts with how these monsters are only as bad as people have made them. And then The Harbinger is a monster, yes, but he has something else, too. Underneath everything, there’s something small and sad, and not monstrous. He becomes someone that maybe you could sympathize with. He offers to let Edie kill him, and she sees something underneath everything where he’s just a sad creature who doesn’t want to do this, and, in that moment, I feel like I’m meant to feel bad for him. But I don’t know if I can. Up until this point, he gave off creepy, predatory vibes, and I can’t forget those so easily. You can explain the way he acts as being a product of how people saw him, but that’s an explanation, not an excuse. He’s still creepy, and he should still be held accountable for his creepy actions. In addition to that, it’s the brief moments and not the rule where he’s kind or where he’s sad, so, even if, deep inside of him, there’s something that doesn’t want to be this way, he seems fairly content being like this. I may be reading too much into this. If I sound pretentious, feel free to tell me. Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing.
Maybe I’m just in the wrong mood for The Harbinger as a sympathetic character. Maybe, at some other time, I would have no issue with it. I don’t know. It didn’t make me dislike the book, and I see how it worked with the rest of the book. There are reasons for him to have his kind moments, and they’re important to the plot, but I don’t know if I can entirely see it with this specific character. I loved how he was at the beginning, and I think I probably will grow to like this other side of him, too, but I don’t know. With the lack of creepiness, and the lack of atmosphere, I think this small thing I didn’t love was made even more apparent, even though, in other circumstances, it wouldn’t have been something I thought about that much.
I’m interested to see how Edie will be in the last book. Kian’s death seems to have changed her a little, and I wonder how it will turn out.
One last thing before I end this review. Edie travelled back in time to change the events of the past so what happened will never happen. That would mean that she never ended up going back in time to change things because she wouldn’t have experienced the same things, which means no one would go back in time to change things, which would mean that she would end up going through the same things, which means she would go back in time to change things, which would mean that none of that ever happened, and you see where I’m going. She’s creating a paradox. She’s a science nerd, how does she not think about how she’s creating a paradox? She watches Doctor Who. How many times does this sort of thing come up there? I’m also curious to see how that’s dealt with in the next book because it shouldn’t end well.
I plan to read the next book in this series soon so I don’t forget anything from this one before I get to it. I’m giving this book four and a half out of five stars.