Title: Of Darkness and Crowns (Goddess Wars #2)
Author: Trisha Wolfe
Released: 20th March 2014
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Spoilers for those who haven't read the first book.
It was a long wait for this book. And when it finally came - imagine me staring in shock and then clapping manically when I saw Trisha Wolfe's name in my inbox at this point - I did a very silly thing. Rather than spreading it out, savouring it, as I should have done, I devoured it in a matter of hours.
Totally worth it, though.
Bale, the dark moon goddess, is still in Prince Caben's body, and Kaliope, leader of the Nactue Guard, is even more determined to track him down and save him. But it seems as if the odds are stacked against her. Bale's influence on Caben is destructive, both in terms of the literal war he is now waging and on his mental state. Kal is now a weakness to him. On her side, she's struggling to bear the responsibility of the kingdom that Caben entrusted to her, and the traitor in their midst. Her link to Bale is greater than she realised, and her determination to defeat the goddess through whatever means necessary is clouded by her feelings for Caben. If she hopes to destroy Bale, she may have to destroy Caben, too. It's a choice that may prove to be impossible, but either way it'll come with unbearable consequences.
As soon as you start this, you are plunged into war, with the sound of sword meeting sword and heads being chopped off. Not a bad way to start. This set the tone for the rest of the book, with armies and fighting and politics taking the focus. Depending on your preference, this isn't actually bad. Of course there were emotional moments interspersed throughout - this is Trisha Wolfe, after all - but I thought for this middle instalment, it was quite appropriate for these things to be only complementary, seeing as they were in the middle of a war. Those emotional moments were further well placed, breaking up the tension at just the right times and creating tension of a different kind. I also quite liked that, because this is dual PoV, we get to see both sides of the war. (Oh, hush. I don't just mean that we get more of Caben.) It was good to be afforded extra insight into how the kingdoms work, improving my feel for the world I became part of. Not only that, it was interesting to see Kal and Caben actually fighting against each other.
The first book left me with the pain of Bale possessing Caben. The pain increased here, where it was only too clear how much Bale's presence was destroying his mind. The darkness was one thing. Playing host to such a dark being was sure to have a corrosive effect, but to see him try and struggle with Bale, only to be severely punished for it, was not easy. And having two minds in one head is never conducive to sanity. This Caben, unlike the confident yet charming prince that we meet in the first book, is truly quite dark, his heart and mind filled with all sorts of shadows. His battle with himself and with Bale was not easy, and I'm glad in this Wolfe made him a combination of weak and strong.
The same was with Kal, although her strength dominated, which I approved of. She has different battles going on, not only with Caben and Bale, but also within the political structure she thought she knew and could handle. I could appreciate her struggle to cope with all the responsibility that had been placed on her; I certainly wouldn't know what to do with it, being just as afraid as her of letting people down or making things worse. She had to confront her relationship with her father, the empress...and herself. Since Caben became part of her life and Bale was brought back, everything changed, and now, for her, everything is being challenged once again.
Of Darkness and Crowns was a highly satisfactory sequel. Perhaps one of the things that might have made it better was if it was longer. While the pace was good, I was expecting to be in for a longer haul. Nevertheless, it didn't fail to elicit all those feelings that reading a Wolfe book usually creates. Yet again, this author delivers, and it goes without saying that I'm front in line waiting for the next book.