Everything goes from horribler to horriblest for Faris Locke in this sequel to Shimmer and Burn (2017).
The title begins in media res, with her beloved North—now revealed as the bastard Prince Corbin, doomed to kill his insane father in order to halt the magical plague rotting Avinea—contracting a political marriage with the vicious Princess Bryn, who ensorcelled Faris in exchange for the latter’s little sister, Cadence. Alas, Cadence now loathes Faris, as does everybody else except the inexplicably smitten North. With Faris and North slowly dying from corrupted magic, there’s only time for one last desperate gamble….This convoluted tangle of intrigues and counterintrigues, reluctant alliances and sudden betrayals unspools against a confusing backdrop constructed from intriguing details that don’t quite gel. A plethora of unlikable characters, all apparently defaulting to white, range from nobly suffering to annoyingly bratty to actively sociopathic. Faris, narrating in an awkwardly poetic present tense, remains foolishly headstrong and mired in self-hatred, but her flat despair here also inspires determination and even kindness. Major plot arcs and themes from the previous entry are hand-waved away or simply dropped, while others are introduced only to be abandoned. Still, the rapid pace carries the story through the unrelenting dreariness and gore until everything suddenly explodes in a blood-splattered crescendo.
For those readers (and they are legion) who find emotional depth in a miserable wallow. (Fantasy. 14-adult)