My disappointment in this sequel is palpable. The first book Raybearer (which I reviewed on my goodreads here if you are interested!) was an absolutely wonderful, bright, and fun ride of a novel so imagine how absolutely disappointing it was to see its sequel seemingly fail to grasp what made the first one great.
In this sequel, we follow Tarasai as she navigates her new position in the empire with new challenges and a totally new cast of characters. The plot is not uninteresting but I think a lot of it highlights what was great about the first one and what is missing in this one.
First off, characters. I was not kidding when I said an entirely new cast of characters is introduced. Unfortunately, the way they are introduced is almost an exact replay of the first novel. One is an intriguing older sister type (though different personality wise, the niche Kira and (oh gosh I forgot her name which kind of speaks to my investment in her) BLANK fill are the same) and a new love interest. The steps followed are the same, Tarasai has to realize she all of her is worthy of love to gain it from the others which I thought she did in the last novel but here we are.
Its really frustrating that the book doesn’t seem to connect us with the characters that are already established. Most of the characters I loved from the first book disappeared for 90% of the book on a mission that had little to no impact on the storyline.
Add to this that it just seems kind of crazy that Tarasai is absolutely so isolated. For most of the book she is being tormented by a kind of ghost and the 11 people connected to her brain don’t…notice? It makes their connection seem so unimportant even while they talk about how absolutely ingrained and into each other they all are.
Most importantly I think this novel lacks a compelling villain. In the first novel, the villains are so interesting and multi-faceted. They are deeply connected to our main characters so we were connected to them as well. You understood their origins and how they were created and why they are doing what they are doing. In this novel, the villains are…straight up demons and some moustache twirling Elites. It really lost something there. There is a last minute ‘GOTCHA’ plot which feels cheap and unnecessary.
Tarasai immaturity really shows here as well. It felt like starting at zero in character development after the first book. While it is YA, and she is young, Tarasai is supposed to be a leader and she just genuinely does not seem fit for it. I should probably not wonder if the main character really should be in charge.
The pacing of this book was so odd that I thought it was book 2 of a trilogy. I even wrote “second book syndrome” in my notes.
Overall, after reading this I genuinely feel like I got so little out of it, that the conclusion of the plot and characters added so little that I would recommend just skipping this and treating Raybearer as an individual novel.