I absolutely loved C.J. Redwine’s debut post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure, Defiance. It was one of my favorite books of 2012, probably because it’s exactly the kind of story that appeals to me: strong, smart characters battling creepy villains, lots of action, sweet romance, and A DRAGON THAT LIVES UNDERGROUND. Seriously, the underground dragon would probably have been enough for me. Probably. But dragons aside (…did I really just say “dragons aside?” Who even am I anymore?), it’s an amazing story.
So when C.J. offered me an early opportunity to read the sequel, Deception, of course I jumped on it.
I mean…not literally. You shouldn’t jump on books.
And I am pleased to report it totally lived up to my expectations. And this is good for several reasons.
1) Because Defiance is awesome, so it’s good that the sequel is also awesome.
2) Because Deception hits bookstores today, so you can go get your copy right now.
3) Because I’m giving away my SIGNED ARC of Deception to one of you lucky readers!*
So without further ado, let’s talk about Deception, shall we?
The Plot (from Goodreads):
Baalboden has been ravaged. The brutal Commander’s whereabouts are unknown. And Rachel, grief stricken over her father’s death, needs Logan more than ever. With their ragged group of survivors struggling to forge a future, it’s up to Logan to become the leader they need—with Rachel by his side. Under constant threat from rival Carrington’s army, who is after the device that controls the Cursed One, the group decides to abandon the ruins of their home and take their chances in the Wasteland.
But soon their problems intensify tenfold: someone—possibly inside their ranks—is sabotaging the survivors, picking them off one by one. The chaos and uncertainty of each day puts unbearable strain on Rachel and Logan, and it isn’t long before they feel their love splintering. Even worse, as it becomes clear that the Commander will stop at nothing to destroy them, the band of survivors begins to question whether the price of freedom may be too great—and whether, hunted by their enemies and the murderous traitor in their midst, they can make it out of the Wasteland alive.
In this daring sequel to Defiance, with the world they once loved forever destroyed, Rachel and Logan must decide between a life on the run and standing their ground to fight.
If you’re still reeling from the catastrophic ending of Defiance, fear not. Deception picks up very shortly after Defiance ends, with Logan and Rachel trying to figure out what to do with the hundred-plus survivors of Baalboden. It hits the ground running, and the first couple chapters introduce a lot of new characters. At first, I was a little concerned about all the names being flung at me. Defiance was mostly Rachel and Logan alone in the wilderness, so I didn’t have to worry about oodles of secondary characters. But never fear; C.J. Redwine handles her new, expanded cast deftly. Within a few chapters, the glut of new names were fleshed out into fully realized characters. I had no trouble remembering who was who, and I loved so many of the new players. Quinn and Willow, in particular, rocketed up to the top of my Favorites list. Their story was so layered and intriguing. If C.J. ever wants to do a spin-off series about the two of them, I’d read it.
There are two main conflicts in Deception: the problem of what to do with all the survivors, who are still being pursued by the nefarious Commander, and the alarming realization that there is a traitor in their midst. The resulting balance between action-driven tension as they flee the Commander’s army, and internal tension as Rachel and Logan try to suss out who has betrayed them, was masterfully handled, and kept me turning pages long after I should have turned out the lights and gone to bed.
Personally, my favorite part of the book was the murder mystery. C.J. gives the reader enough clues that it is possible to guess the murderer (I did), but you’re never 100% sure you’re right. I think that’s the mark of a well-handled mystery. I don’t like it when the answer comes out of nowhere, nor do I appreciate it being so obvious that it kills the tension. There’s a fine balance, and Deception does it well. The fact that it performs this feat while the characters are fleeing through the wilderness and fighting armies and blowing stuff up and cowering from dragons just makes it that much more amazing. And when you do find out who the murderer is, it comes with a few twists of its own that perhaps a more savvy reader could have guessed, but took me totally by surprise. In a good way.
I also really appreciated that Deception did not fall prey to the common practice to break up the two main characters who spent a good chunk of the first book coming together. A lot of times, it seems storytellers get bored with functional romantic relationships, so they throw in DRAMA and pull the characters (that they spent so much time convincing us were MFEO) apart. Not so in Deception. Rachel and Logan mature both as characters and as a couple, and like most couples who have weathered a few storms, are allowed to get upset with each other and disagree, without it having to mean they CAN NO LONGER BE TOGETHER EVER, OH THE ANGST.
Speaking of angst, Deception does not shy away from high stakes and raw emotion. Much like a certain wagon scene in Defiance, one chapter needs to have a warning label to have a box of tissues handy, or at least change your shirt into one that can double as a tissue. A lot of times in books, and perhaps in YA in particular, it seems that the Strong Female Characters can’t show their emotions. They can’t grieve their losses or feel broken from pain. In these books, I appreciate that Rachel is strong, but also feels so much. Emotions don’t make a character weak. Neither do tears. And I think it speaks so much to the character of Rachel that she can hurt and weep and break, but then she gets up and keeps going. She carries her losses with her, and they make her stronger. But because the reader is in Rachel’s head when horrible things happen to the people she loves, we get to feel all that strong emotion right along with her.
So. As I said. Box of tissues. Change of shirt. You have been warned.
I could go on for ages about how much I love this series, these characters, this world, but I think you’ve got the gist of it. Adventure. Murder. Dragons. Villainy. Romance. Swordfights. Treachery. Anguish. Triumph. All stirred up together in a fantastic, masterfully executed whirlwind of action and tension and twists and emotion. I couldn’t put it down.
And now the giveaway! Enter below to win my signed ARC of DECEPTION! U.S. only, please. Giveaway will run for one week. (And I shouldn’t have to say this, but no cheating. I’ll be checking.)
*You can put it in a place of honor on your shelf right next to the shiny hardcover that I know you’re totally going to buy, right? Because ARCs are cool (especially signed ARCs), but real books are better. And C.J.’s real books are so very pretty.