119. Feudlings in Flames, by Wendy Knight
I really wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I think Knight has a great writing style: clear, interesting, good action sequences. But for some reason, I'm not connecting to this series. The first one bothered me because it was quite violent and the main character seemed indifferent to the violence (that is, she was powerful enough to casually kill lots of people when the occasion demanded--as it frequently did, since she had been raised as a weapon for her people). At least, until she isn't indifferent. There's an odd sort of vacillation in Ari where she doesn't seem to hesitate or think about blasting people out of the way in her quest to rescue her good friend Charity (or on other occasions), but then she thinks of herself as a monster. I'd like to see the two aspects integrated more in her character: more struggle with killing, less self-loathing after the fact.
There's less killing in this second book, but Ari still has that sometimes odd callousness about killing that I find disturbing. I suppose most of it can be explained by her background--but still. In this book she faces off against the family that raised her, and it doesn't seem to bother her as much as it would bother most people. The relationships here were a little odd, too--they didn't have the nice arc of the previous book, because most of the relationships were established. But her relationship with Shane seemed artificially strained, to me. Shane seemed jealous of things without even talking to Ari about them, and Ari wasn't as forthcoming as she could have been. The ending, too, was a little disappointing. After a great build-up, the actual end was a little flat. (I wonder if Ms. Knight herself knew that, because at one point she has Ari quote T.S. Eliot: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.")
Okay, now this review sounds mostly like griping. There were some great things here. I liked watching Charity struggle to be strong, and her story arc was one of the strongest in the book. Some of the secrets revealed here were interesting, and, as mentioned above, the action sequences are all fast-paced.