The second entry in a grand epic fantasy tackles the dilemma of “[h]ow to stop being the Chosen One.”
A girl and boy awake in the middle of the Sahara Desert, injured and bereft of memory but wielding awe-inspiring magic; they reluctantly join forces to elude capture by the Atlantean tyrant. Weeks earlier, in a parallel narrative, Prince Titus and Iolanthe Seabourne, aka Archer Fairfax, return to Eton College in a “nonmage” Victorian England, preparing to hone Iolanthe’s elemental powers to destroy the Bane. Their partnership falls apart when a dramatic revelation completely overturns the meaning of the prophecy that guides their plans. This sophomore outing offers more unexpected twists, spectacular magic, witty banter, hairsbreadth escapes, star-crossed romance, angst-ridden choices—more of everything except significant plot advancement. While the previous volume established the complicated geopolitics and various magical systems, Thomas’ ravishing prose now delves deeper into the tortured, bittersweet relationship between Iolanthe and Titus and (to a lesser degree) their school chums. For all their gifts and responsibilities, they are still just 17, prone to all the moodiness, melodrama and occasional magnificence that adolescence entails. Themes of identity and memory, destiny and choice tie together the two stories, told in alternating chapters with ubiquitous cliffhangers. When the storylines finally intersect, the resolution is so abrupt as to be almost anticlimactic; but the dramatic, defiant conclusion will stoke anticipation for the next volume.
With all the strengths and failings alike of the first book, only ever-so-much more so, this aims directly at its fans and will not likely pick up new ones. (Fantasy. 12 & up)