Four out of Five Stars
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Warning: Do not start this book if you have a full day of classes ahead of you. In a fit of impatience and naivety, I attempted just that — only to spend the rest of the afternoon with fingers fidgeting towards my book bag and the new release inside. Instead of, you know, taking notes or even doodling in the margins of my notebook. If college could have conveniently dropped out of existence for the day, I honestly think I would have spent the entire day, cocooned under my covers, reading.
Endless Knight, the second novel of Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, picks up right from where the first book left off. Rather than jumping forward even a few days, Cole brings the reader right back into the thick of the aftermath of Evie’s fight with Arthur – her emotional distress, her growth, her confusion. And, of course, Jack’s reaction. In other words, slow as Poison Princess might have been in the beginning, Endless Knight follows no such formula. Still, the first half or so of Endless Knight reads fairly similarly to the second half of Poison Princess – very dark, very action-heavy, and very sexy. The second half, however, (while still dark and, at times, blush-inducing) took a turn into slower pacing. And possibly Greek mythology.
I’ve seen a lot of young adult books advertised as retellings of the myth of Hades and Persephone. Endless Knight – to the best of my knowledge – has never been promoted as such; yet it was by far the best adaption of the tale I’ve read. Possibly because it’s a sequel; nothing felt forced or rushed about Evie’s abduction. And, better yet, we got to know Evie long before she was stolen away to Death’s domain. Poison Princess gives scarce few hints that its sequel would mold to the familiar shape of Hades and Persephone, but they’re waiting for you when you look back.
Nor does it hurt that Endless Knight isn’t actually all that much of a young adult novel (a genre to which the darkness of Persephone’s story has never seemed all that well-suited to me). Evie may be a teenager and the style of Cole’s writing may occasionally twist – unnaturally in my opinion – into teen slang and such, but the latest Arcana Chronicles installment reads much more like a New Adult novel. Partly because of the dark nature of the novel. Mostly because of the sex. Hint: there’s no convenient “fade to black” when clothing moves into heaps on the floor.
Sorry. Tangent. Anyhow, I don’t think I’ve gotten around to saying this yet, but Endless Knight was amazing. I had absurdly high expectations of it, and it completely met every last one of them (well, except for the one where Evie and Jack stay together forever and never part and live happily ever after in the second book). The world was still beautifully and terrifyingly written – dark and unique and overwhelming. I didn’t think it was possible for Cole’s post-apocalyptic world to turn into any more of a nightmare, but lo and behold it did. Probably because of the cannibals.
The character development was equally wonderful. I’ve always loved Evie as a protagonist, as she has always been believable and relatable even in – especially in – her brattiest moments. She’s at her best so far in Endless Knight. Cole paces out Evie’s growth, both in terms of strength and personality so wonderfully that, even as she rises into clearly non-human territory, she’s still as relatable as ever.
I was also glad to see more development of the minor characters. Selena was much more understandable than I ever found her in Poison Princess. Finn was still hilarious. Matthew was still – I don’t actually know quite what the word for Matthew is, but he, nevertheless, is as crazy, confusing, and well-written as ever. Jack, much to my pleasure, is still aggravating, believable, and utterly sexy. Even better, Cole reveals two major secrets that he’s been keeping, both of which helped the reader – or at least this reader – to understand him better. I have mixed feelings over how this was revealed and how Evie responded, but, for the most part, I found this twist fairly well executed. Do I wish Jack had more of a presence during said twist? Well, yeah. I pretty much always want more Jack. Cole does manage to include a scene though, despite his separation from Evie, in which we see how he takes the news that Death told her what he was keeping from her. Glimpses like that of Jackson strengthened the narrative a lot; without them, seeing him again in the next book could easily have felt sudden, and the reveal of what he was doing while apart from Evie info-dumpy.
As much as I’d love to continue raving about Jack, I should probably mention the new main character introduced in Endless Knight — Death. Given his backstory with Evie, Death (also known as Aric) actually makes a believable love interest. Cole fleshes him out and – thank goodness – gives him more development than a mere shell of mystery.
Overall, if you liked Poison Princess, I’d highly recommend picking up Endless Knight when you got a chance (by which I mean right now). If you didn’t, then, I wouldn’t rush to the bookstore to grab a copy. The same things that bothered you about the first novel will likely still be an issue. And if you haven’t read either novels, but have a preference for novels of the paranormal, dystopian, or romantic sort, I’d definitely give this series a try.
More spoilers ahead… I can’t help it. This love triangle is going to kill me. Read on if – for some incomprehensible reason – you want to see my rambling about Evie/Jack versus Evie/Death.
Hades and Persephone retelling or not, I’m ignoring the ending. I’ll be shocked if Evie doesn’t end up with Jack. Here’s why:
1) Evie’s love scene with Jackson provides a clear parallel with her later love scene with Death, and the former definitely comes out on top. In both scenes, she had the other man on her mind – yet she was able to drive Death out of her mind by looking at Jackson. Death had no such success. Admittedly, the circumstances were different; she hadn’t truly even met Death before she slept with Jackson. All he was at the point to her was an enemy with an inexplicable vendetta against her. Still, the scenes are too similar to ignore.
2) Choice is seriously lacking from Evie and Aric’s relationship. He says that he loves her, but there’s really no one else he could love without condemning himself to a miserable, lonely (well, more miserable and lonely) existence. Evie is the only girl he’s been able to touch in centuries, and it’s clear from her memories of their past lives that he wanted her for no other reason than that. He told her that she will marry him, gave her no choice in the matter. And Evie has little agency when she’s with him. He forces her to stay with him. He literally blackmails her into sleeping with him. Jack has never been a saint, or even above acting openly hostile to Evie for turning him away, but he has also never coerced her. Which he could easily have attempted, as, for the majority of the first book, he was her only source of protection. When they do finally make love, however, it’s Evie’s choice. It’s even her who instigates it. Is Jackson eager as hell when she not-so-subtly asks him to “check the perimeters” with her? Without a doubt. But so was she. As attracted as she might be to Aric, the same cannot be said in the final pages of Endless Knight.
Just a bit more on this, and then I swear I’m done. Unlike Aric, Jackson has other options. Selena has never tried to hide the fact that she wants him. Who does he still choose? Evie. And, no matter what Death claims, that’s not because of any rivalry with Brandon at this point in the story. It’s because he loves her for who she is, not what she can give him.