“It was a reminder of what we’d lost—and also that my senior year was rapidly coming to a close. I’d barely noticed. Prom was in three weeks, and graduation was only a month after that. It was hard to believe that a few months ago, I’d assumed I’d be here with Nadia, enjoying all of this. Now that Nadia was gone, I had nothing to look forward to except the hope that I could prevent a bunch of evil spirits from overrunning Rhode Island. ”
Sarah Fine's Sanctum was a real surprise when I discovered it earlier this year. It had all the things I love about adult fantasy--grit, flawed characters, adventure, big consequences--in a compelling young adult package. Needless to say, I eagerly anticipated the sequel, Fractured.
[Tiny spoilers for Sanctum ahoy, though I've attempted to be as vague as possible.]
Fractured picks up shortly after Sanctum ended, which narrator Lela back home in Rhode Island. We find the power dynamics between she and love interest and Shadowland Guard Malachi have shifted. She's the boss, with a crew of guardians under her command. They're battling the demon-like mazikin, as in Sanctum, but this time they're on Lela's home turf, and the few people she's allowed to become close to her are all in danger, making the stakes even higher than before.
“Life as it was now: a weird intersection of normal and crazy, of life and beyond-life, afterlife, undead, whatever. I put my hand to my heart and felt it beating, remembered feeling Malachi’s pounding through his shirt as he kissed me. Were we alive? Were we here on borrowed time? Did we have a right to live or only to serve as Guards? Did we have a future, or were we headed back to the dark city when we were done? Did anything we did here, apart from eliminating the Mazikin, matter? Could we keep anything for ourselves?”
Second books in a series are a tough thing. In a lot of ways, when a first book is good, the second book's role as the second act in a three-act series (as in the case of a trilogy) can feel more like a bridge to the conclusion rather than a gripping story. Fortunately, Fractured avoided this fate, and is--in many ways--a stronger book than the first.
Shifting the setting from the Shadowlands to modern-day Rhode Island was a bold move, since it radically altered the character dynamics, and it really paid off.
It's no secret that Molly O'Keefe's novels are my favorites in the very crowded contemporary romance genre. Her books, which on their surface follow the norms of romance novels (since that's what they are), are brilliantly subversive. All of the novels I've read by this author riff on romance archetypes and conventions in a deliciously satisfying manner. Molly's latest, Wild Child, is no different.
Wild Child focuses on Monica Appleby, famous reality television teen wild child, who wrote a bestselling tell-all memoir of her raucous and destructive formative years. She's alone, her closest friend having recently died and not having a relationship with her mother, and has returned to the town of Bishop, Arkansas to write her follow-up book, this time chronicling the events of her parents' tumultuous relationship and her father's subsequent death. Monica is all hard edges and walls, unwilling to make even casual connections with anyone.
Monica ignored Jackson as he slid into the booth across from her. First the Cracker dude and now Jackson. Good Lord, weren’t the headphones a giveaway? Did she need to make a Do Not Disturb sign? This was why she so rarely went to coffee shops to work, preferring her own company and her own music.
The mayor of Bishop is Jackson Davies, who dropped out of law school and returned to his hard-luck hometown to raise his younger sister, Gwen, after their parents were killed in a car accident. Jackson never wanted to make Bishop his home; the town is dying, with an empty factory gathering dust and many of the town's residents struggling in the blighted economy. His father was mayor of Bishop as well, and his goal at the town's leader is the turn the economy around, make sure his sister is safely away at college and then get out of town.
Skulk’s anything but a typical paranormal teen fiction. Shapeshifters in Rosie Best’s novel consist of foxes, ravens, rats, butterflies and spiders—no wolves need apply to this world. And, Skulk is urban fantasy in the truest sense of the term, with a rich city-focused setting of London, complete with graffiti and urban wildlife that’s not what it appears.
At the center of this story is sixteen year old Meg Banks, a teen girl who appears to have it all. Her mother’s a highly-respected member of Parliament and her father’s a genius with money. Meg attends an exclusive school that churns out students headed for only the best universities and the brightest futures.
Meg’s perfect parents, perfect school, perfect life is nothing more than a tarnished cage locking in an unconquerable spirit who struggles to find self expression, individuality and ultimately freedom from her cruel and demanding mother and her aloof father.
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