Author: Sarah Fine
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands, book #2
Publisher: Skyscape/Amazon Children's Books
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Source: ARC received from publisher, also received via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
In the week since Lela returned to Rhode Island as Captain of the Guard with Malachi as her second in command, local news has been dominated by chilling sightings of human-like creatures running on all fours. Lela knows there’s only one explanation: the Mazikin have arrived in the land of the living.
Needing to maintain the appearance of a normal life for her foster mother, her probation officer, and her classmates, Lela returns to Warwick High along with Malachi. At night they secretly hunt for the Mazikin nest. To assist, two new Guards from very different parts of the Shadowlands are assigned to Lela’s unit, including the bad boy Jim, who repeatedly challenges Lela's authority. Lela struggles to keep all her Guards on the right side of the law, but their mistakes come at a terrible cost.
As one painful revelation follows another and the Mazikin start targeting those closest to her, Lela finds herself more vulnerable than she’s ever been, wanting a future more than she ever has. With an enemy determined to separate soul from body, one question remains: how much is she willing to sacrifice to protect those she loves?
Holy evil cliffhanger, Batman! Why you make my heart hurt so much, Sarah? Whhhhhhhyyyyyy???
I was late to the Sanctum party last year, but once I did discover the book, I was head-over-heels for the story...and Malachi. Not only is the romance in this series swoon-worthy, but the world-building is absolutely phenomenal. It is so easy to immerse myself in this world and let reality fade away, and that's really saying something considering the awful things waiting for me in these books. But this world and the characters...there's just something addicting about them.
This sequel started off exactly where I was hoping it would: with Malachi and Lela deeply entrenched in their love for each other, preparing to seek out the Mazakin who had escaped the Shadowlands. And then things get complicated. To say that the romance took a frustrating turn is putting it mildly. Malachi, being the capable, duty-bound guy that he is, decides that his job must come first and thus begins pushing Lela away. I'm usually not a fan of this approach, as it's usually for the protagonist's "own good". But in this case, Malachi is making the decision to turn off his feelings for Lela for the good of humanity and the safety of the other guards on this mission.
Naturally, this is hard on Lela, who cannot understand his decision. She's been rejected and felt unloved her entire life, and for the one person who'd admitted he loves her to push her away, too....it's almost more than she can handle. But the more desperate the situation gets with the Mazakin, the more Lela realizes that maybe their relationship was distracting them. It's almost painful to read, but she and Malachi each seek comfort elsewhere, though the dreaded love quadrangle doesn't really feel solid. Although we don't know Malachi's heart, it's easy to see in his actions and mannerisms that he very much still cares about Lela, and we know Lela is having a hard time overcoming her feelings for Malachi.
But they have responsibilities. Both guards have a duty here on Earth, and with Lela as Captain, they seek to destroy the Mazakin who are running amuck. Even if Lela wasn't sure she deserved the title of Captain, she really proved herself worthy. She is even more lethal, more dangerous, more fierce in this second book than she ever endeavored to be in Sanctum. But that's probably because there's even more riding on the line this time around. She's not fighting for the future of just one friend but all the new friends she's made, plus the whole of humanity. Besides the formidable Malachi, she's got backup from Jim and Henry, both of whom are from different sectors of the afterlife. It was easy to empathize with each of the guards and their backstories, and it made it that much more difficult to watch the hard decisions Lela was forced to make on their behalf.
In addition to her guards, there are others who help Lela...maybe not in the same way, but they give her a little dose of normalcy in her otherwise chaotic life, and she soaks it up. I appreciated that this novel highlighted some of the social stigmas that Lela was facing and focused on her overcoming some of them. It was also nice to see Lela reflecting on her typecasting of Nadia's old group and coming to realize that not everything or everyone is black-and-white.
All of the story in this sequel occurs in our world, away from the dark and terrifying Hell we witnessed in the first book. But that doesn't mean this book is any less intense. This story was fraught with danger and high emotions, and those were reflected in every aspect of the setting and characters, from the would-be crack den Lela finds herself trailing a Mazakin to, to the homeless ex-nun swinging a baseball bat at Lela in the midst of a Mazakin attack. The situation seems hopeless, but I guess that's one of the reasons I find myself so invested in this series: no matter how dire everything seems, these characters never stop trying.
That being said, even *I* wanted to give up hope when I got to that ending. There are cliffhangers and then there are "just toss me over the cliff because there's no way we're ever coming back from this" cliffhangers. The ending in Fractured was the latter. I want to remain hopeful, but in the face of all of this devastation, I'm not sure that's possible.
A sequel should leave you balancing on a precipice, begging for more while fearing the worst. And that's exactly what Fractured did. This book is full of twists and turns, some you see coming and some that completely blindside you. It's raw and exhilarating and everything I hoped it would be after such an impressive start to this series. I wish the next book wasn't another year or so away, but I have no doubt it'll be well worth the wait. This sequel definitely was.
About the author:
I’m the author of the Guards of the Shadowlands urban fantasy series (Skyscape/Amazon Children’s Publishing), including Sanctum (October 2012) and Fractured (October 2013). My gothic young adult novel Of Metal and Wishes will be published by McElderry/Simon & Schuster in August 2014. In May 2014, Putnam/Penguin will publish Scan, the first of two thrillers I co-authored with Walter Jury under the name S. E. Fine. When I’m not writing, I’m psychologizing. Sometimes I do both at the same time. The results are unpredictable.
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