by Rachel Hawkins
'Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.
Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or make her more powerful than ever.'
*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Even though the first book in this trilogy was weak, I did enjoy it enough to go ahead and read this second book. In some ways I liked this one even more than the first, but once again, the storytelling is weak in many areas.
This book picks up several months after the events at the end of the first book. Our superhero trio of teens is without guidance now and have decided to use David's oracle (see the future) abilities to see how their lives and the lives of their friends and families might turn out. They've started running interference on things that his visions have shown will be problems in their lives. For example, one of their ditzy classmates will have her life ruined by a drunken frat boy she meets. Well, at least the vision shows that. So of course paladin Harper is going to crash the party where these two meet and put a stop to it all. You know, that kind of stuff. David is unhappy with this new 'hobby' though and suggests to Harper that they might not be stopping or changing anything, but just altering the path that the events are destined to play out on anyway.
We do finally learn a little bit more in this book about who they are supposedly protecting David from. The ancient and powerful Ephors are a group of men who have always owned the oracles and used the visions to get ahead in the world. Male oracles are extremely rare and much weaker than females, which is why they originally wanted David dead, so the next (and hopefully female) one could be born. But a mysterious ritual had been performed on David in the first book, and he's potentially the most powerful oracle ever now. So of course the Ephors have changed their minds and want David alive and back under their control. Aaaah, well that makes sense and I'm glad it was finally explained.
But then we get back to the weak storytelling. It seems that Harper isn't a paladin after all. She has not passed this series of tests yet, to prove her worthiness. Uh, what? They learn this after being drawn to a mysterious house and meeting one of the Ephors. He says she will face three trials in the next month but won't know what they are or when they're coming, and is not allowed any help. If she fails at any point, she will die. Ooooh, dramatic. Or not. It just all sounded dumb to me right from the get-go. Oh, and by the way, best friend Bee became a paladin in all that chaos at the end of the first book so she's a handy spare if Harper should happen to fail/die. Also, mage Ryan doesn't have to go through any of this because, well, a mage is a mage as soon the powers are passed on to him. Well isn't that convenient? And why is Bee a fully eligible paladin but Harper is not?
The strong point of this book is again in the way the relationships are written. All of the paranormal or fantasy stuff is very weak and barely explained or delved into, but everything else is quite well written. You feel for Harper as she goes through confusion and jealousy of seeing her recent ex-boyfriend with someone new. And you see the troubles brewing in her relationship with David. Harper is not so perfect in this book, yet you can't help but feel for her and see why she's insisting on making these seemingly wrong decisions.
The relationship between David and Harper is falling apart because she refuses to let him go. He realizes now that he can never be normal and wants to go with the Ephors and be trained to learn to live with his crazy new powers. Harper is trying to hang onto their normal teen lives and refusing to admit that it just can't be done anymore. David becomes more confused about things when he realizes he's been betrayed by more than one person, and puts his powers to the test in an attempt to break away from everyone who wants to control him. Like before, you feel his pain as he struggles with these realizations, but the actual supposedly dramatic events are just cheesy and never really explained or explored deeply enough. There are inconsistencies too, just like in the first book. At the end of the book the mysterious man from the Ephors says he is the only one. I got the impression he meant he is the last of his kind, but a couple pages later he's talking about "we" and "us" and I was wondering if he meant he's the only one at this particular location, the only one on this particular mission? He also explains that if David manages to get away, their (Harper, Ryan, and Bee) powers will eventually fade and they'll just be normal teens again. What the heck? What happened to this deep, soul binding connection they supposedly all had now?! If David had accomplished something with his new powers that no one had done before, how does this Ephor guy know what will happen with their powers? And again, the passage of time seems odd and disproportional in this book. In one part, after some rather dramatic events, the next chapter mentions how a week had passed since then but it leaves the reader wondering why. If life is just normal and absolutely nothing happened for one week . . . why? Why not make the next round of events the next freakin' day to really make it seem like things are troubled?
So yes, a lot of weak points in this book but just like the first, it was still quite an enjoyable read, and I will go ahead and read the third when I get my hands on it. I *think* the third is the final one since it came out in 2016 and I see no mention of a new one coming out.
I actually own the book Debutantes & Daggers, which is a compilation of Rebel Belle and Miss Mayhem, and looks like this . . .