The Brink of Darkness: The Edge of Everything, Book 2

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Brink of Darkness: The Edge of Everything, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Gripping, romantic, edgy fantasy sequel does not disappoint.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Brief mention of Jews who survived the Holocaust by hiding in a cave, including the name of one young girl, may encourage kids to learn more about them.

Positive Messages

No easy answers here, but lots of food for thought about love, loss, justice, hope, and more. Killing someone who's evil is justified, but those who do are still punished. Asks whether harsh punishment is fair for someone who killed to escape an abuser. Loss is part of life, but family, love, and justice are worth risking even more loss. Hope can be a dangerous thing, because it makes people take risks, but ultimately it's what keeps you pushing until you bring about the changes you want.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zoe, 17, jumps into things without thinking, but models bravery, loyalty, taking decisive action. She's a devoted and loving daughter and older sister. She's quick-witted and funny, and learning how to be a better friend. X is a tremendous role model for unfailing kindness, empathy, thoughtfulness, dogged determination. Supporting characters include a few pure-evil villains, lots of loyal friends who help Zoe and X any way they can.

Violence

Fantasy and real-world violence, with brief descriptions and mentions of blood and pain. Horrific fantasy violence includes torture by peeling skin from a live victim, eating the skin, and cutting deeply into the victim's feet. Other fantasy violence includes a slightly gory description of a dead animal that rises back up and attacks, attempted drownings, some fights using magical powers. Real-world violence includes lots of fights with punching and kicking, a sexual assault briefly described, throat slitting and other attacks with knives, and bludgeoning to death.

Sex

Sex implied but not described between older teens Zoe and X. Some kissing, making out described briefly. A few brief instances of teens in hetero- and homosexual relationships talking about sex, like mention of a past hookup later defined as making out in a public bathroom, or offhand comments about sex being enjoyable.

Language

"S--t," "damn," "bitch," "ass," "hell," "pr--k," "WTF," "goddamn," "d--k" (name-calling), "whore."

Consumerism

A few food, retail, clothing, and car brands mentioned for character, mood, or setting.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Brink of Darkness is the sequel to the popular fantasy The Edge of Everything. This sequel can stand on its own, but it'll be a much richer experience if you read them in order. There's lots of fantasy and real-world violence, including some horrific but not overly detailed descriptions of torture, plus lots of fights, stabbings, a past sexual assault, and a couple of murders by blows to the head. Sexy stuff is light; it's clearly implied that older teens Zoe and X have sex a couple of times, but nothing's described. Otherwise, there's some kissing and caressing, and teens talking about sex -- for instance, mention of past hookups without detailed descriptions. Zoe and X are both great role models: Zoe for taking action and for her bravery and loyalty; X for kindness, empathy, and determination. There aren't any easy answers here, but lots of food for thought about love, loss, justice, hope, and more. Best for high schoolers and up who can handle the violence.

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What's the story?

THE BRINK OF DARKNESS picks up shortly after the events in The Edge of Everything. X is back in the underworld called the Lowlands. Zoe's trying to keep herself together, but it isn't easy. Missing X is like a physical pain, and she and her family are mourning the deaths of dear friends and neighbors Bert and Betty, who were like grandparents to Zoe. Oh, and since her house was destroyed by the villain Dervish, she, her mom, and little brother Jonah are staying in the cabin of their super-mellow, chainsaw-artist friend, Rufus. X is determined to find his mother and free them both from the Lowlands so that he can return to Zoe, but finding where Dervish hid her is proving to be nearly impossible. Zoe learns there's a small way she can help X by tracking down her father, who's alive in the regular world. But Dervish will do anything and everything in his vast powers to keep X in the Lowlands and keep them all suffering for as long as he can. If X and Zoe are going to find answers, they'll have to rely on friends, some quite unlikely, and each other to face down Dervish and the even worse Countess. When Zoe takes the ultimate drastic action, she ends up leading X right into Dervish's trap.

Is it any good?

Despite the darkness of this gripping fantasy, author Jeff Giles brings a breath of fresh air to the genre with humor, suspense, surprise, and sometimes even sweetness, too. The Brink of Darkness showcases Giles' real talent for deftly creating characters that are immediately fully realized and fun to relate to. He's also got a real knack for unexpected twists and turns that keep the pages of this action-packed blend of fantasy, romance, action, and adventure turning.

Lots of appeal here for a wide range of readers, except possibly the very squeamish. The book seamlessly picks up where previous events left off. It can stand alone, but will be enjoyed more fully and deeply with the first of the series under your belt. Older teens will relate to themes about love, family, leaping into the unknown, and more. The satisfying ending feels pretty final, but readers will be eager for more from just about any one of the colorful, sometimes hilarious cast of characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Brink of Darkness. How much is too much? Does it matter if it's real-world or fantasy violence? Why, or why not?

  • What are Zoe's character strengths? What about X? What do you like about them? What do they still need to learn?

  • Did you read The Edge of Everything? Which book do you like better? If you haven't read it, would you like to now? How does either book compare with some of your other favorite fantasy series?

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