Teenagers exiled to an endless labyrinth prowled by mythological monsters struggle to survive in this gruesome and gripping fantasy sequel.
The unnamed 17-year-old narrator resolves to imitate the steely indifference of her mentor, the Executioner, but a brutal attack on Fates—the group that rescued her, then abandoned her to die—ensnares her in the bloody rivalry between the all-male Kleos and the all-female Harmonia, undermining any hope of escape. The protagonist’s affected namelessness (and egregiously symbolic nickname, “Fey Bell”) quickly palls; otherwise, her capable, decisive, almost-legendary prowess represents a stunning transformation from her passive helplessness in the previous title in the series. Much to her own confusion (and sometime annoyance), she even gets a taste of romance, cueing the inevitable love triangle. Still, the plot is mostly driven by a complex tangle of interactions between various factions. Gender dynamics (and threats of sexual violence) constantly simmer underneath but never as graphically as the danger from marauding predators or the even more appalling savagery of fellow humans. Glancing references to hair and eye color suggest a default white majority while hinting at another, darker-skinned ethnicity.
Nuanced characterization and crackerjack pacing make this an addictive page-turner for fans of the first, but it’s unlikely to hook any new readers. (Dystopian fantasy. 12-18)