In the second installment of Rials’ (Ascension, 2016) YA paranormal series, a uniquely powerful human-vampire hybrid must decide her part in an imminent revolution against dominating vampires.
Seventeen-year-old Cheyenne Lane and her bestie, Anne Lacroix, both human-vampire Deuxsang, are prisoners. Their own families have restricted them to Anne’s room for a couple of weeks until classes begin at Clandestine. The college for Deuxsang students offers academics as well as physical training to aid the Deuxsang in mastering a specific ability. While most hone one ability out of a possible four, Cheyenne is already capable of two—compelling and inflicting—and may be able to learn them all. She’s miserable at Clandestine, however, separated from Anne and constantly monitored by her personal guard, Hugo, not to mention having no contact with her witch love interest, Eli. Cheyenne soon infers her family wants her at the college for critical training. If she masters all four abilities, she can be a weapon in a revolt against the vampires and its ruling Council. It isn’t long before Eli and his witch kin manage to get a message to Cheyenne. As it happens, they are likewise invested in overthrowing the vampires but want to protect her from the vamps, as her potential power rivals that of the Council chairman, Lamia. This incites Cheyenne into further training so she can join the fight even as the witches and the Deuxsang are at odds. She’s thrown, however, by startling new information concerning both the Deuxsang’s origin and the real reason the vampires are interested in Cheyenne.
At the outset of the second installment, Rials plunges right into the action, making readers’ knowledge of the series opener a necessity. This establishes a steady pace from the beginning. Moreover, interesting surprises abound, like the identity of “the most powerful vampire in history.” The novel’s highlights are scenes of Cheyenne training, mostly inflicting, which is easily her most intimidating skill: She breaks noses, pulls bones out of sockets, and wills someone’s “skin to squeeze his bones.” There are unfortunately few particulars on another stellar ability, dreamwalking. But Cheyenne’s difficulty in mastering this showcases Rials’ subtle humor; when she steps into one of Eli’s dreams, she’s just as shocked as he is. In fact, Cheyenne spends much of the story in a bewildered state, which the author perfectly captures. Readers, for one, will understand her growing sense of distrust: Her own family forced her into Clandestine, and it seems that everyone wants to exploit her gifts. Though the novel has unmistakable shades of Twilight and Harry Potter, there are also nods to popular fairy tales. Cheyenne’s first meeting with her boyfriend’s mother, for example, is via a magical mirror, while the teen, in lieu of evil stepsisters, must contend with evil brother-in-law Thomas. The inevitable confrontation among vampires, witches, and Deuxsang leads to an exhilarating ending that sublimely sets up a third installment.
An exceptional sequel courtesy of driving plot and remarkable protagonist.