I wrote a pretty extensive review of the first book in this trilogy, so I'll try not to re-tread old roads too much in my review here. Okay, so I was luke-warm on Behind the Throne. I felt like it had a lot of debut novel writing issues. So did Wagers step up her writing game? Was I glad I read the next installment? I'm happy to report: yes!
While the writing is still not world-shattering fantastic it is much stronger in this installment than the first. The melodrama is down, the characters feel more consistent and dynamic, and the story gets out of its repetitive rut by leaving the palace and hitting the road. Hail actually feels like much more of a badass, and when she falters it feels sympathetic rather than frustrating. The secondary characters continue to take center stage for me, and have plenty of opportunities to shine. (Team Zin & Emmory! Team Cas!)
The world-building expands as we get to see more worlds and more sides of the conflict. And hey, we actually get some sci-fi space opera action. The scope gets much bigger in this book, and the series benefits significantly from the expansion. Put simply there's a lot more action, and a lot less hand-wringing. This trilogy feels like it finally hit its stride, and is telling the story Wagers wanted to tell from the beginning (but had to get some pesky backstory out of the way). I'm still really on the fence about the first book, but this second installment has me excited to read the third book. Wagers, you won me over.