In the second book of her YA paranormal fantasy series, Terrien (The Rampart Guards, 2016) pits her 14-year-old hero against the insidious forces of authoritarianism.
Over the last year, Jason Lex has already come to terms with a lot: the existence of cryptids on Earth (not-so-mythical creatures, such as Encantados and Yeti); his own newly discovered fire-wielding powers as a Rampart Guard; and his mother’s death after she turned evil and tried to destroy the world. It’s a lot to cope with, and just when Jason’s life seems as if it might be settling down, a new threat emerges from within the League of Governors, which regulates interactions between humans and cryptids. After following his father and sister from the United States to London, Jason is attacked by a man in a ski mask. When he wakes up, he’s in a strange hospital, run by members of a conspiracy that threatens not only to topple the League, but also to take away everyone Jason holds dear. Adult readers may initially find Terrien’s delivery lacking in weight, as her prose contains little description and little sense of place, and events unfold more with subsequence than consequence. The lack of emotional impact, however, is quite in keeping with its young-adult characters’ worldview. Jason sometimes appears to be naïve, but he is, in fact, merely trusting and unprejudiced. When he seems indifferent, he’s really just showing a 14-year-old’s distinct form of resilience. Jason is the only character who has a fully developed voice; he’s a disinterested, angst-y, yet clearsighted and determined teenager. The other characters blend into a homogeneous cast of not-Jasons—but that’s the point. As the story’s paranormal element remains largely in the background, Jason fights against the League’s oppressive demand for conformity. He carries the dual burdens of feeling powerless and responsible, and his struggle is the perfect metaphor for teenage isolation. The book is relatable on this fundamental level, and its creepy setting and end-of-chapter hooks will entice many YA readers.
A strong continuation of a teen fantasy series that doesn’t shy away from life’s darker side.