An engaging fantasy sequel marred by middle-book syndrome.
Princess Meglynne is already being groomed for the throne of Trelian, despite her youth, impetuous behavior and increasingly volatile temper. Of greater concern is her magical bond with Jakl, since the dragon arouses fear among her people, and ultimatums from rival kingdoms. Meanwhile, Meg’s best friend Calen is also taking on adult responsibilities among the council of his fellow mages. But when their stronghold comes under attack, the Magistratum ruptures into bitter divisions over ominous prophecies that seem to point directly at Calen. Chapters alternating between Meg and Calen’s viewpoints add depth and breadth to a generic fantasy world, as the two young people attempt to navigate conflicts with those they looked to for protection and support. It is a pleasure to revisit two such appealing protagonists; unfortunately, much of the plot rehashes the first novel, without allowing either character change or growth. Once again, Meg chafes at her royal restrictions, and her impulsive choices lead to disastrous consequences. Calen’s excessive caution and frustration at his mentor’s cryptic methods again inspire him to prove himself, with fateful results. The stakes may be raised, but the terms, the villains and even the romantic triangle are all the same. An abrupt magical “fix” and an out-of-character plot twist may solve the characters’ immediate challenges, but they also set up a maddening cliffhanger.
Nonetheless, the likable characters and brisk narrative will undoubtedly lure readers into eagerly anticipating future installments. Next time, though—more Jakl, please! (Fantasy. 11-16)