Sorry (to my ten-year-old) I really tried, but this series is just not for me. My daughter said the sequel was even better than the first book, so I agreed to read it, even though I wasn’t terrible keen. All the things that make this more exciting for her- the continual uncovering of new secrets, cryptic messages, threats from kidnappers, mysteries to solve that lead to more mysteries- just bore me. I don’t know how to explain it, but mysteries and exciting action-packed crime films usually bore me in the same way. In this book, Sophie finds out more about her past, but it’s also disturbing. She’s discovered (spoilers if you haven’t read the first book) that she has so many special talents and exceptional abilities because basically she was genetically engineered by some secret entity, for an unknown purpose, but they’re obviously manipulating her life. She’s starting to resent this, and also has reactions to things that don’t bother others- bright lights, intense headaches (not related to her telepathic abilities), passes out a lot- starts to think there’s something flawed in her makeup because she thinks ought to be able to solve all these problems and heal people from mental breakdowns caused by a kind of telepathic interrogation- urgh, it gets so complicated and I don’t even care.
What got to me was the inane way people talk to each other in these books. The kids act like kids- though full of self-importance and Sophie in particular keeps leaping into dangerous situations to save the day even when adults repeatedly warn her not to- which is fine, but the adults all talk in this immature, snarky way too. There’s so much eye-rolling and biting remarks and then buckets of tears over things nobody can even bear to say out loud I just got tired of it. Around page three hundred I started seriously skimming. Was able to glean enough of the storyline to have a brief conversation with my kid (who was thrilled to repeat jokes from the book to me) about it, without letting her know I hadn’t actually finished. I did force myself to read the last two chapters in their entirely.
One original idea that stood out to me, was the special trees planted on the elf graves- that each manifest a unique characteristic of the deceased. Really liked that. Except creepy that Sophie and one of her friends have their own trees already planted, because after the kidnapping in previous book everyone actually thought they were dead and had a funeral. I keep wondering if something will happen with her special tree later on in the series. A lot of the other ideas in these books seem repetitive from other fantasy worlds already out there, but this was different.
I really wanted to like the winged unicorn (excuse me, alicorn) better. Nice that the alicorn, in spite of being beautiful and majestic, didn’t smell like roses and speak wisdom to Sophie’s mind (they have a telepathic connection). Instead, the alicorn can only use a few words and mostly puts images or feelings into Sophie’s head. And she’s stubborn, has bad breath and splatters sparkly manure on people. Which made me laugh. But Sophie was supposed to be training the alicorn (to accept captivity, mostly) and there was really very little of that. So even that aspect of the story was boring.
Don’t get me started on the disturbing trends in the elves’ society that nobody comments on, or how many secrets everybody is hiding, or how the teachers in the school torture their students (as part of a lesson?) and nobody cares, or how many times Sophie nearly dies but then bounces right back ready to fight the next bad guy who might actually be on her side after all, or how annoyingly Sophie’s three friends who are boys glare daggers at each other and vie for her attention all the time- sigh. My ten-year-old found the “romance” (feeling heart-throbs and holding hands) in the story thrilling. It’s just the right kind of book for her- and I’m glad she’s enjoying them- but I’m just too old and this isn’t my type of adventure fantasy anyway.
Borrowed from my kid.