In this second installment of a trilogy, a teenager battles demons across multiple planes of reality.
Emily Alvey is the Ovate of the First Realm, able to channel both Keen (male) and Blaze (female) Fae energies. She’s also a 17-year-old girl of the Second Realm—the real world—where she was sexually abused by her father, Drake, a decade ago. After overdosing on sleeping pills near her Uncle Ian’s Northern California vineyard, Emily finds herself in a detox center. Once she recovers, she falls for her childhood friend Kaillen Raidho. Aunt Nancy also teaches her self-hypnosis techniques so she can visit the First Realm on her own. This helps when her father decides to move Emily, along with her mother and siblings, back to their home in Dallas. In the First Realm, Emily can marshal her Fae powers—with the help of her Shield Maidens—and battle Drake in the Third Realm, a place of his own creation. But the High Queen isn’t pleased with Emily for breaking the seal between realms. A plague has destroyed the Seventh Kingdom, leaving countless Fae citizens disenfranchised in hovels. Emily must find the Champion to stop Drake from taking control of her family and abusing anyone else. Following the events of her previous novel, Harris (Riven, 2016, etc.) once more brings to bear a formidable imagination as her heroine seeks healing. While there are elves, goblins, and giant spiders, this isn’t a traditional quest narrative. Concepts such as sexual consent and self-forgiveness dominate the foreground. Nancy says that the majority of abuse victims “never speak their secrets because they’re so afraid of how people will react.” Emily further learns that her “self-worth is so intertwined with being desired that sometimes I fail to distinguish between friendship and something more.” Valuable as these explorations are, Harris allows a large cast to languish while focusing on the protagonist. Emily’s emotions are kinetically realized, but characters like the High Queen and even Kaillen feel undervalued by comparison. Fans may crave less introspection and more concrete plotting in the final installment.
Heavy emotions outweigh adventure in this energetic sequel.