If you've read Nevernight then you have an idea of what to expect from this book. (And if you haven't, then you should really go do that.) As with the first book, the language remains florid and snarky. As soon as I began reading I found myself grinning - it was so fun to revisit this particular voice. There's plenty of all the things you have come to expect from this series: blood, action, sex, sarcasm, sneaking through shadows, and intricate plans that always seem to have wrenches thrown into them. You know, assassin stuff. Then this book also surprised me by digging into new depths I didn't expect. Issues of slavery and social injustice. Examinations of sexual orientation and identity. Weighty stuff sandwiched in between the ill conceived plans and vengeance. It was a nice surprise.
The world and characters continue to be intriguing and well developed. If the first book had a dash of Hogwarts (as the initiates trained in the Red Church) then this one has a healthy dose of Hunger Games. The central focus of this book is on the gladiator arena, which makes for plenty of drama, battles, and high stakes. When the whole idea going in is for Mia to be the last one standing, and you start getting to know the other gladiators, well, it leads to pretty fertile emotional territory for both Mia and the reader. The only reason I'm not giving this book 5 stars is because it has a bit of a middle book syndrome - it sets up a lot of threads for the conclusion of the trilogy, which makes the ending of this volume a bit less satisfying. I can't wait to read the third installment. This series has become a solid favorite.