Escalation of the civil war between the militarized United States and dragon-riding insurgents forces ugly choices on damaged teen warrior Melissa in this savagely violent middle volume.
Reading the opener is a must in order to make sense of the continuing relationships and plotlines. When a failed attempt to escape capture in Alaska puts the child Allie in the hands of Oren, leader of the terrorist Diocletians, dragon talker Melissa sets out—with Colin and James, allies with emotional ties but ambiguous agendas—on a rescue across the devastated, locked-down continent. Oren has gathered a dragon army, as it turns out, and Allie’s unique ability to communicate with many dragons at once is a linchpin in a massive planned attack. In order to infiltrate Oren’s organization, Melissa must not only endure drugged interrogations and torture, but keep her own already-scarred mind intact while battling for mental detente with Praxus, a crazed, powerfully domineering attack dragon. Determined to come off harder than hard, McCune’s Katniss-like protagonist ruthlessly guns down swathes of human and dragon adversaries (with some throat-slashing for variety). All the while, she is so ridden by guilt and self-loathing that the inner and outer wounds inflicted on her by others come off more as temporary setbacks than serious obstacles. Her staccato present-tense narrative ends with a bid to derail the already-launched attack that is just as likely to shatter her own fragile sanity.
Standard, cheerless fare for Divergent fans, though the sentient dragons are a definite wild card. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)