In the second installment of Dabney’s (The Soul Mender, 2016) fantasy series, Riley Dale seems destined to restore stability to increasingly unstable parallel universes.
As the story opens, Riley is relatively safe in her own world after having returned from its parallel version. Each is populated by the other’s moral opposites—good people in one are evil in the other, and vice versa. The history of these universes goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, when a bite of the forbidden fruit split good and evil into separate entities, along with humanity’s soul. Riley is one of the Electa, Eve’s descendants, who’ve been chosen to save the world. She and Gabe, her “Custos” (or protector), cross over again to the other world to liberate her friends—including her opposite, Oz—from the clutches of evil U.S. president Jackson Cain. He’s hoping to destroy Riley’s ring, bequeathed to her by her Electa grandmother, in order to bring about the end of the Electa. Both worlds are on the verge of devastation: Riley’s is threatened by terrorists overtaking America, and the other by an impending world war. In order to save them both, she must hone her mental training and weaponry skills, dodge assassins, and get along with the tougher but less compassionate Oz. Dabney boosts the action in this deftly written second installment, quickly moving the story to Riley’s training with her grandmother’s Custos, Michael Flynn, and swiftly following it with the rescue mission. The tried-and-true good-vs.-evil theme is surprisingly profound here; for example, killing a bad guy in one world means that an innocent person dies in the other, and Riley’s parallel-world ally, Zach Stone, is a serial killer back where she came from. Riley is a resolute protagonist throughout, determined to complete her task despite questioning her own abilities. Her behavior, however, doesn’t always befit her 22 years, such as when she pouts and grumbles when Oz gets more praise than she does. Plenty is left unexplained, but the answers will provide ample material for Dabney’s concluding volume.
A solid, earnest entry with richly developed characters and moral themes.