3 out of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this book
Contains spoilers for the first book
This is the second book in a series that takes place in a world where an impersonal force called Story forces people’s lives into fairy tales, both good and bad. This is not a new idea, both Mercedes Lackey and Seanan Mcguire have the same basic plot, but it remains a good premise. Disney has convinced us that all the fairy tales end happily and deserve a G rating, and it takes books like this to remind exactly how bloodthirsty and disturbing some of them really were.
This installation takes place a generation after the first book. The city has realized that fighting story should probably be a priority so all stories are outlawed, curses are removed, and Watchers patrol the streets waiting for anything that looks too convenient or story-ish. After the first book, this seems like it would be a good idea, but they have gone a little too far and now everything is dreary and bleak without any sort of imagination or narrative to liven things up. After her guardian dies, Rose makes her way to the city where she is arrested for being cursed. The underground rebellion helps her escape, but Story is closing in and they cannot find a way to uncurse her.
I really like the way the author took the premise from the first book (maybe we should not let everything turn into stories), extended it to its logical conclusion (let’s make sure stuff does not turn into stories) and then have that turn out poorly too. Too many books make large, societal changes seems easy (see most dystopian fiction). The society is messed up, but once everyone realizes it, there is a rebellion and everything is fixed. I admire Prineas for being willing to say “you know what, sometimes we try and fix things and we end up making things worse. Doing stuff is hard”.
The weak point of this book is probably the relationships. They seem to be made and broken very easily. In general, this is a flaw of most YA, but it was particularly bad. The author may have expected the “fall in love instantly” fairy tale trope to cover some of it, but I just was not feeling any of the connections in this book, whether romantic or friendship.
This is a really cute series and it does some interesting things with the premise. I found though, after the initial escape from the city, we were back to the plot of the first book, where someone is being turned into a fairy tale character and everyone is trying to stop it. It felt like a rewrite of the first book. So I would rate the first half of this book 4, the second, 3.