This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There aren't many authors who can level up the second book in a trilogy and make it better than the first. Emily Suvada is one of them. This second book in the Mortal Coil series has smoothed out the bumps from the first: strengthening the characterizations, de-emphasizing the romance (it's still there, but there simply isn't time to dwell on it for very long), deepening the worldbuilding (I appreciate that the author has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a data scientist; this makes her world feel that much more grounded), upping the stakes and keeping the breakneck pacing. There are twists galore in this book, but they fit into the context of the series as a whole. (In fact, that's the only quibble I have--this book won't make sense if you haven't read the first, as it takes up the story only days later.)
I particularly enjoyed the characterizations. All the characters are given fascinating shades of gray, and even those who might be classified as villains have believable backstories and motivations. That doesn't make what they're doing right, which is also addressed, and the protagonist struggles with her situation and what she needs to do to protect others. No one's hands are clean in this. This book is naturally doing double duty in setting up the story for the final volume, and the last chapter ends with a twist guaranteed to set the reader's teeth on edge for the next book.
As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best YA series out there, and you're missing out if you don't read it.
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