Sunday, June 28, 2015

Early Critique: "Undying Legion (Crown & Key #2)" by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

Disclaimer: I was given a free advanced copy of this book from NetGalley/the publisher (Del Rey Spectra) in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

To Be Published: June 30th

My first impressions of this book were that it was notably heavier than its predecessor, The Shadow Revolution, but mostly because of the events of the ending of that novel. Malcolm gets more of the spotlight in this book, and although Simon and Kate do continue to have consistent scenes, the focus is on the characters as a group rather than individuals.

As the title would suggest, we do have some zombie action in this book, which then reveals the larger plot. I was unable to predict many of the twists this book took me on, which is always a plus for a plot-jaded reader such as myself. The storyline starts out on a small scale and never stops building, leading to a grand finale.

The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'With a flood of dark magic about to engulf Victorian London, can a handful of heroes vanquish a legion of the undead?
 'When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.
 'But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.'

As was the case with the first book, the characters of Undying Legion are what keep you reading long into the night. While the characters were excellent in the first book, it was nice to get to know a few of them better and find out their true motivations for hunting paranormal phenomena. I was lukewarm about Malcolm in the previous book, but now that I've seen his inner workings his actions suddenly made a lot more sense. Imogen's character continues to evolve, even though you would assume she'd remain more static after the events of The Shadow Revolution. We also get to see more of Penny Carter, who is one of my favorites due to her mechanical inclinations- which I may or may not have myself.

The first half of this book wasn't really at the level I felt the first book had reached as far as interest... until the end came and changed my mind. It was a prolonged ending that connected so many dots I hadn't even noticed were there and made me wonder if I had been really (really) paying that close of attention to the first part of the book- usually I'm good at seeing things coming. Luckily the ending for this book tops The Shadow Revolution's, which makes me eager to dig into Conquering Dark as soon as possible.

Undying Legion starts out slow, but keeps building, and building, and even building some more when you think it's the final page. The characters continue to drive the pacing of the book, improving with every scene despite the fact that they were all wonderful in the first book. I recommend the Crown & Key series to anyone who enjoys quirky character-driven steampunk.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a sequel with a kicker of an ending!

Content: Ages 16+ for violence, black arts, and the occasional abuse of a firearm.

Page Count: 384 pages

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