Just a scant 157 residents of Baalboden remain after the devastation wrought by the dragonlike Cursed One at the end of series opener Defiance (2012).
Reluctant 19-year-old leader Logan knows they will soon be beset: by the leader of city-state Rowansmark, whose prized piece of stolen, Cursed One–controlling tech Logan holds, or by the ousted Commander of Baalboden, bent on revenge—or both. Sure enough, the Commander comes knocking, and they all go fleeing in an unlikely exodus that takes them into the Wasteland. Logan’s kick-ass lover, Rachel, with the help of Tree People Willow and Quinn (ersatz Native Americans in this bizarre, post-apocalyptic very-near-future), conducts weapons training along the way. But who is leaving creepy notes and murdering refugees as they go? It must—gasp—be someone among them. Logan frets, and Rachel fights grief, guilt and PTSD; only in each other’s arms can they temporarily forget their current miseries. The plot trudges along with the refugees, narration shared between Rachel’s and Logan’s indistinguishable first-person, present-tense voices. The murder mystery fails to generate enough tension to distract readers from the slipshod worldbuilding (not a whit improved over the opener), but it does provide some opportunity for extra grieving and hand-wringing. Revelations discovered in their hoped-for haven of Lankenshire feel anticlimactic, chucked in to provoke enough angst to fuel the third book.
Only the truly devoted will feel like joining the slog. (Dystopian romance. 13 & up)