A teenage heiress with superpowers learns to handle her temper in this YA dystopian sequel.
In the year 2160, “prodigies”—people born with very special talents—live in wealthy city centers called Cores, and rule over “normals,” who live in poor villages of the Outlying Lands. Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent grew up in one such village, thinking herself a normal. But her life was upended when she discovered that she’s actually the daughter of a powerful Core family, the Roanokes, and betrothed to Thess Tiernam, the scion of a rival house. Willow also learned that she has powerful skills—specifically, an often angry presence that she feels in her stomach, which she calls her “tiger,” that gives her intuition, physical strength, and a heightened sense of smell, among other abilities. Willow doesn’t know the cultural rules in her new world, and although she vows to learn “to play the Core’s game,” her stubbornness and temper could cause her problems. She has some allies, such as Cmdr. Reece, with whom she shares a strong if volatile attraction, but also enemies, such as the cold, harsh Cmdr. Kristoffe. The wild card is Tobias “Toby” Cartier, a mesmerizing shape-shifter whom everyone but Willow’s tiger tells her not to trust. As Willow hones her skills and acclimates to the Core, she comes to realize that she, too, can adapt in unexpected ways. Denault (Gambit, 2015) continues to offer three-dimensional worldbuilding in this series installment, including richly detailed clothing and combat and plenty of asides that conjure up the future culture. Willow never learned to write, for example, because in villages, most paper goes to the bank, “where recordkeeping was required for taxing villagers. If supplies were low…they bleached old records to make blanks.” This lengthy sequel is entertaining and full of dramatic episodes, but it doesn’t significantly advance the plot; instead, it focuses on the tug of war between Willow and her opponents. The ending doesn’t offer a clear-cut resolution, but it will presumably arrive in a future installment.
An often appealing series continuation with a well-thought-out world and strong characters.