I was enchanted by the first instalment in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series and had the second book waiting on my TBR since then. This is the year of finishing trilogies (Sanderson, Rachel Aaron, I’m looking at you) so I dove right in. After some initial troubles, I found my footing again and got some enjoyment out of reading. Just not as much as I’d hoped…
Published by: Angry Robot, 2013
Ebook: 400 pages
Series: The Split Worlds #2
My rating: 6/10
First sentence: Sam knew it was a terrible idea, but once he realised he had to go back to Exilium his course was set.
Cat has been forced into an arranged marriage with William – a situation that comes with far more strings than even she could have anticipated, especially when she learns of his family’s intentions for them both.
Meanwhile, Max and the gargoyle investigate The Agency – a mysterious organisation that appears to play by its own rules – and none of them favourable to Society.
Over in Mundanus, Sam has discovered something very peculiar about his wife’s employer – something that could herald a change for everyone in both sides of the Split Worlds.
Fairies aren’t cute, that has been well established. The worst thing they can do is grant you three wishes. While Between two Thorns subverted fairy tale tropes in a fun, entertaining way, this second book in the trilogy feels… well, very much like a second book in a trilogy. You know what I mean. It doesn’t really advance the plot, but instead spends its time setting up what I assume will be the big show-down in the next book.
The writing style is easy to get into, so this was still a quick read. But instead of using the time between first and last book to establish her characters a little more, to have them grow and change, Emma Newman jumps back and forth rather frantically between view points. I connected with none of the characters, least of all Cathy who was so much fun in the first book.
Most of Cathy’s chapters are spent with heavy-handed lectures on feminism. She is now stuck in a marriage with stone age values, where she is supposed to take care of the house, organize her new servants, and attend social events without bursting into lectures on why things are bad for Fae-touched women. Look, I can get behind the message (hell, I wouldn’t want Cathy’s life!) but it was done so obviously, with so little dexterity, that it felt like a hammer coming down on my head over and over again. Stop with the ham-fisted preaching, I’m already on your side!! I would have preferred to be shown Cathy’s dire situation, read about her feelings, and then come to my own conclusions.
Max, the Arbiter, the most intriguing character of the first book, didn’t get nearly enough time or development for my taste. What bothered me the most was his lack of agency. Yes, he is soulless, but he does have his gargoyle sidekick (containing his soul) – the pair of them could have made for great comedy. Now they’re just more unused potential…
Sam is going through a troubling time with his wife. The events that occur and the new villain/source of danger came very much out of nowhere, as does Sam’s stupidity right at the beginning of the novel. Really, Sam? Going to Exilium by yourself? No matter how good your intentions – you, sir, are an idiot! These actions do have repercussions but I suspect that the ripples Sam has set in motion will only show their true effect in the next book.
I liked Will well enough in the first book and at least his mistakes in Any Other Name can’t be attributed to stupidity. He is fooled, he is manipulated, but from his point of view, everything makes sense and he is acting valiantly. Still, he creates a mess of epic proprtions that – again – will have to be cleaned up in another book.
So a lot of plot strings are set up, involving the Fae, London politics, the mysterious Agency, and Lord Iron. But nothing is resolved or even advanced in any meaningful way. I suppose I’ll eventually read the conclusion to the trilogy, if only because now I’ve ploughed through all the set up, but I’m in no hurry to return to the Split Worlds. This book left me with a very distinct feeling of meh.
MY RATING: 6/10 – Okay
- Between Two Thorns
- Any Other Name
- All is Fair