You know, one of the worst things that I can say at the end of a book is "I didn't see that coming." I remember co-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Kate and I were on opposite ends of the living room, reading from midnight until 7:50 a.m.) and being slightly exasperated by her frequent jaunts to her bedroom. She would be checking a reference or revelation against a previous installment of the series. One of the best "reveals" was when we witnessed a young Severus Snape telling Lily Evans about dementors and finally understood that Petunia's comment about hearing about dementors from "That awful boy" was not a slight against James Potter.
I love a mystery as much as the next person, but I love a mystery with antecedents. When it gets to the denoument, I expect to be nodding and smiling at the cool logic and clear presentation.
All of that goes to say that, yes, I quite enjoyed the second book in Lauren's series. I developed a theory about the ending about 50 pages in and spent the rest of the time finding things to back up my theory or to throw me for a loop. When it came to the climax and I found myself nodding and smiling and saying, "Of course! That makes sense!", it was with fondness. So my first recommendation is that this is a great mystery with an indeterminate audience.
Let me take a moment to talk about the characters. While I half-expected to see the story of the first book continued, having it told from the point of the antagonist was a master stroke. It made me question everything that we knew about him from the first book. I was never quite sure if I liked him--he was a man with good intentions and a really screwy way of working with them--but I never thought of him as an unrealistic character.
For its subtitle, the Little Red Riding Hood story didn't play as much of a part as I anticipated. I loved that the Gradmother is a bit of a criminal mastermind and the Wolf reminded me of Ras Al-Ghul at times. As someone who knows of Lauren's fixation with Japan, I enjoyed seeing this second book set in the culture and some of the customs of that country. It amused me that every person of consequence in the book seemed to have ninja training, but that again can be attributed to either the Japanese influence or the Ras Al-Ghul factor.
As I recently said to Kate, the highest compliment I can pay this book is "There HAS to be a sequel." If the story is left there, I will feel cheated and a little bit resentful. So, until that comes out, please join me in becoming fans of the series.
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