A Surprising, Satisfying Sequel: Fractured by Sarah Fine
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 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.
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.
In Sanctum, Malachi was the expert. He knew how to navigate the Shadowlands. Turning the tables and making Malachi the stranger in a strange land made this sequel far more interesting that your average urban fantasy follow up. It also, in many ways, gave Lela a space to prove herself in a manner that wasn't possible in Sanctum.
And while the reader isn't treated to much Lela-Malachi page-time, the glimpses that we do receive reminded me how much I liked this challenging, complicated pairing in the first book. Which makes the introduction of another like-interest (I'm hesitant to call him a "love interest") into the mix strange, and yet, given what happens to Lela and the resulting anguish (intentional vagueness), both Lela and I needed her to have this new character to lean on. And, sweet, every boy Ian (the like-interest), stands in pointed contrast to Malachi--an apt metaphor for the tensions between Lela's two worlds.
As I mentioned in my Sanctum review, the worlds Lela occupies (both the underworld and her "real" life) is full of consequences.
Lela's new life is complicated to say the least. Her responsibilities as a Guardian naturally conflict with her life in Rhode Island, her relationship with her foster mother and her growing romance with Malachi. Author Sarah Fine doesn't flinch from making it very clear that it will be a hard road if Lela is to fine some sort of happiness and normalcy. And she creates enough doubt that while I want Lela to be okay, I'm not sure that's a guarantee.
And I think that's why the longer I think about it, the more this is one of the stronger urban fantasy series running. Nothing feels certain, but that uncertainty is not contrived, it feels right for the characters and the world FIne's created. While the central story is resolved, the ending of Fractured left me wanting the third installment of this series as much as Sanctum did, since it set the stage for Big Things with Big Consequences to happen in the third (and final, I think) installment of Lela's story.
If you're looking for an action-packed, yet uniquely character-driven, series, you really can't go wrong with this series.
If you like rough-around-the-edges adult urban fantasy characters (think Cassie Alexander's Edie Spence or Chess from Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series), but in a YA package, Lela's your girl.
Can you tell that I really love this series?
(FYI: The Kindle editions of both books in this series are currently $3.99--I'd get on that, if you want to try it out.)
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher.