Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc is desperate to escape the madness that has followed her family for a century. She’s struggling to adjust to her new-found power and to stick to the pact that protects her sanity.
But an innocent little boy is being hunted—by Madeleine’s half brother and her great-grandmother, Chloe, and by the demons they control. The boy is a threat to their bloodline, to their very nature, but Madeleine cannot let his young life be callously destroyed.
Thrust into an age-old battle of dark versus light, Madeleine dives deep into the history of her family and into the vast paranormal underworld of New Orleans, a world seemingly controlled by her great-grandmother.
The only way to stop Chloe lies past the tangled bridge that could lead to great power…or total destruction.
I read the first book in this series, The Twisted Ladder, earlier and needed to let it sit and percolate for a bit before I was ready to move to this one. It was a long book, jumped around between timelines and introduced a lot of information – it was a lot to take in. The good news is that things have settled down somewhat, this second book expands on the first and adds new things. The bad news? You have to have read the first book to understand a lot of what’s going on and there are places the second book feels like it’s bitten off a little too much story to tell.
In The Twisted Ladder, Madeleine learned that the psychosis that her family seemed to suffer from was really a paranormal ability to control other people’s minds and bodies (pigeonry) and enter the briar with their river devils in an out of body experience. I was just a tiny bit fuzzy on all of it, I have to say. I thought the river devils answered to or were only with the people in Madeleine’s family, but there were more running around wreaking havoc here. My scalp started begging to be itched as I dived into the story.
Madeleine was forced to use pigeonry against her half-brother Zenon in a kill or be killed situation, leaving him in a vegetative state. He isn’t dead though and can still use his evil mind to walk the briars, seeking river devils to use in his quest for revenge against Madeleine and a bid to grab control over all of them away from his grandmother. He’s also hunting Lumens, the light to the briars’ dark. A young blind boy who’s a Lumen has been found and Zenon challenges Madeleine: kill the boy and he’ll leave her alone, knowing her briar-born nature will wear her down eventually and her river devil will take over. She swears to protect him instead, asking her grandmother for help, not knowing Chloe is treacherous and never should be trusted.
Why Barbara, you say (go ahead), that sounds like a pretty good story! It really would have been enough. The river devil thing is creepy. Madeleine’s is named Severin and she’s a scary-looking little girl who keeps popping up and acting all sweetly menacing. Picture an all-gray Zombie Suri Cruise who floats around talking about murder and laughs as she leaves a slimy blood trail – that’s Severin. The Lumen boy Madeleine is sent to kill/is trying to protect is a smart blind boy who is quite aware that there’s bad stuff out there and he’s not going to just lie down and be taken. The story is loaded with potential for things to make me wince, jump, cringe, drop my jaw, frantically page forward and frantically page backward over.
But there were 500+ pages to fill again so there’s more stuff and I floundered a bit again. The story shifted in time between the current day and the 1920s, when some young ancestors of Madeleine’s fled their rural home to get away from their mad mother and make their way to New Orleans, there’s romance with her continuing, ever suffering boyfriend Ethan and oh yeah, Madeleine’s brother fathered a little boy before he killed himself and this baby is the last of their familial line so he needs serious protecting. Along with the shifting time, the shifting to Zenon, shifting to the boy, the increasing things Madeleine had to learn about how to control her pigeonry and river devil if she was going to go up against Zenon and that he could inhabit absolutely anybody meant I was overwhelmed.
Maddie is a good, likable character. She’s got the best intentions when she starts things even if they end up a little sideways by the end. I liked that she didn’t want to succumb to her briar tendencies and start to look “crazy” like her dad but that she trusted Ethan enough to let him see her that way when it happened. He was a nice guy, but after almost 1,000 pages of story, I still didn’t have very strong feelings about him beyond that. He was a nice neurologist with a limp.
The story was exciting enough, full of all sorts of action and bloody death and a lot of shivery moments. When I was able to just get into a scene and not think about the story as a whole, I enjoyed it a lot especially the flashbacks to the family in the 20s or the life of Bo, the blind boy. Zenon was a horrible, delicious villain and his pursuit of Madeleine and her plans to outwit him are thrilling and kept me paging through, even when I had no idea what the heck was happening.
My Summary: The second book is as big as the first and it’s packed with story. I’m a little torn about how I felt about that when I closed the last page. I thought there was too much mythology introduced when I was just getting the hang of the basics. There just felt like too many different places for the new information to go, from storyline to storyline and rather than concentrate on a few where I could really enjoy myself, the author added a couple too many and I ended up spread too thin and by the end was just exhausted. Hawk is extremely talented and this has such brilliant ideas – too many of them right now.