First-person stories rely on the protagonist evolving, just as sequels must balance action and plot, and on both counts this installment fails to live up to its predecessor. Mare, now fully aware of her powers, is extremely unlikable in this installment. She's egotistical, angry, and cruel, calling her best friend "nothing" and constantly ruminating about her superiority as the "lightning girl." She immaturely swings from suspicious to hateful to disappointed in everyone and lives by the oft-repeated motto, "Anyone can betray anyone."
While Mare's character development stalls with her constant self-aggrandizing mixed with bouts of insecurity and selfishness, the plot itself is quite thin for the 400-plus pages. It's basically a road-trip story of Mare, Scarlet Guard Captain Farley, and the rest of the crew going from place to place (they all have names, but there's no map to help readers figure out the layout of the kingdom) finding the newbloods with extraordinary abilities. The abilities read like one convenient way to get the band of misfits out of trouble, and except for a couple of standout characters, it's hard to keep track of all the newbloods. The romance continues to move at a glacial pace, and Cal emerges as one of the few characters to elicit empathy from readers. For a Big Bad villain, Mare's presence is barely felt, but at least the last 100 pages ramp up the action, proving the author's strength is closing a story with fireworks. Otherwise, readers will feel betrayed by this rushed and uninspired second book.