Twins Moria and Ashyn may have left the Forest, but they aren’t out of the woods yet in this romance- and politics-filled sequel to Sea of Shadows (2014).
With Edgewood destroyed by shadow stalkers, Keeper Moria and Seeker Ashyn are reluctant guests at Emperor Tatsu’s court. No longer tasked with settling ghosts in the Forest of the Dead, they wrestle with their own restless spirits. Moria eagerly accompanies bastard prince Tyrus to negotiate with the disgraced Alvar Kitsune, hoping to rescue the missing children of Edgewood, and Ashyn reluctantly follows, fearing further separation from her sister. But Alvar is crafty like his namesake, and the trio and their traveling companions soon face political intrigue, ruinous rumors and legendary monsters. Martial, feminist Moria trades narrative duty with her studious, sentimental sister, yet political maneuvers often render both powerless. Obligatory romantic entanglements abound, with Moria dueling with double-agent Gavrila Kitsune and playboy Tyrus, and Ashyn confused by thief Ronan and scholar Simeon. Animal companions Tova and Daigo and unruly spirits provide comic relief and frequent rescues. Armstrong’s foray into noncontemporary fantasy via a vaguely Japanese world and mythology develops unevenly but with brio.
Cliffhangers and morbid humor balance out too many plot twists and slow pacing in this unnecessarily complicated sequel. Readers will have to wait for resolution. (Fantasy. 14 & up)