I think this second book in the series was even better than the first which is saying a lot because the first book was excellent.
Beth Ryder has discovered a whole new world living right alongside humankind. She is one of the rare people who can see the other worldly creatures called ‘Second Emanations or S-Ems’ who live amongst humans. Some S-Ems disguise themselves as humans and some actually look human and those are the ones who humans can see but because they appear human, nobody suspects they are not. S-Ems come from other realms or what this author calls ‘stratums’ which are worlds layered over the human world with hidden entryways into each.
Humans like Beth who can see S-Ems are called Nolanders. They usually have gifts like healing, making fire, making barriers, tracking amongst others which I would call magical but the author describes them as working essence. Some Nolanders have strong gifts and others have weaker gifts. At first, Beth is unaware of her gift but everyone who has touches her…S-Ems and Nolanders can tell if someone is weaker or stronger than them by touching the other person…tells her she is strong.
The first rule of being a Nolander is to make sure humankind does not find out about S-Ems or stratums. Unfortunately, Beth had no idea she was a Nolander at first and showed a few black and white photographs that she had taken to a bunch of people in a café in her small town of a weird looking foot and a bald man hunched over walking down the street naked. The foot was scaled and looked like a monster’s foot. She hadn’t seen anything while shooting the film but saw it after she had developed it. The townsfolk thought someone had played a hoax on her but another Nolander just happened to be in the café that day which ended up causing Beth to be thrown into a whole new life.
Beth ends up being taken to New York, where a powerful Second named Cordus is in control. It turns out that powerful Seconds have divided up the world into territories and each territory is controlled by one of the powers, even the other stratums have controlling powers. Seconds have gifts also and Cordus’ gift is mind control. Beth watched as he made a Green Man tear himself apart in order for Cordus to get information out of him. Another Nolander named Kara told her that Cordus mind controlled her into having sex with him even though she did not want to and then let her remember it afterwards. Cordus is beautiful, almost too beautiful but in Beth’s mind he is a monster.
Justine, Beth’s sister-in-law is also a Second but she has lost part of her memory. Justine has been married to Beth’s older brother for a long time and has four children with him and seemed like an ordinary woman, albeit very bitchy and who always seems to have hated Beth for no reason, so Beth was shocked to learn she was not human. Beth watched her turn from a deer into weird blue balls and then into a human again. When she turned back into a human, she lost a part of her memory. Cordus believes that one of the blue cloud-like balls may have gotten lost and might be what is causing the memory loss.
Cordus is holding Justine prisoner until she can get her memory back. She’s not in a cell or anything. She is in her own suite in Cordus’ gigantic mansion but her husband and children have no idea where she is or even if she is alive. It seems Justine was formerly married to Limu, the power who holds another territory and one of Cordus’ strongest adversaries, and Limu claims that Justine stole a weapon from him. Justine, of course, doesn’t remember. She thinks she is just an average housewife who is being held against her will. Limu wants Justine back but Cordus refuses.
An unfortunate consequence of Beth’s picture sharing was that the monster whose foot was photographed was killed. Beth had met him. His name was Bob. He was an ice-man, kind of like a Yeti, and he was docile and kind. But because he let himself be photographed, even though there was no way he could have known because usually he wouldn’t show up in a photo, he was ordered to be executed.
One day, Cordus brings Beth into his office. He calls her Elizabeth Joy Ryder which, to me, sounds sexual for some reason. He tells her he needs her to go on a mission for him and that she is the only one that can do it. She needs to go to Fur, the land of the Ice-People, to find out about the sky blue balls that he thinks are part of something called Heaven’s Eye. He tells her that she will live with the Ice Mothers who are the leaders of Fur because they have a huge ancient library where she can study and learn about Heaven’s Eye. It seems Limu is planning on using his weapon…when or if he finds out where Justine has hidden it…to erupt a volcano in Yellowstone Park. The weapon will enhance the eruption and wipe out everything west of the Mississippi which in turn will change the structure of the world, both economically and ecologically. Cordus needs the missing piece of Heaven’s Eye so Justine can remember where the weapon is to keep it out of Limu’s hands.
It is obvious to everyone except for Beth that Cordus has manipulated her mind because she is happy and all gung-ho for going on this mission where she has to travel through many dangerous stratums and it will take her months to get to Fur, a land of ice and snow where temperatures are below freezing. She doesn’t even think to call her brother or niece to even tell them she is leaving. Her friends who she has made since living in New York, other Nolanders, are worried about her but she packs up happily and goes on her trip.
Only one person from New York goes with her on the trip and it happens to be John Williams who she cannot stand. She thinks he is a sadist who enjoys killing and is an asshole but he is strong and can make barriers to protect her. They travel to North Carolina where the first stratum can be accessed. When she looks through her backpack that the staff had packed for her, she finds 52 toothbrushes and thinks someone has played a joke on her but she soon learns that it isn’t so.
After entering the first stratum, she hears someone call her the “unfortunate solatium” which means a thing given to someone for compensation. She is then told that Cordus is giving her to the Ice People because they demanded compensation for the loss of Bob and that she will be living with them for thirteen years. She realizes that Cordus had used mind control on her to manipulate her into coming but there is nothing she can do so she continues on with her journey.
Most of the book is about her journey and the difficulties of the journey through different stratums. It is also about her learning about her own power. She learns that she may be as powerful, if not more powerful than Cordus, and that giving her to the Ice People makes little sense. Why would they get such a compensation when all Seconds know the consequences of being seen by humans? Also why would he want to give such a powerful weapon as Beth away? Her gift is that she can basically irradiate things. She wiped out half a stratum when she was being attacked by weird bones of dinosaurs wrapped in vines. She hasn’t learned how to control it yet and is afraid that if she loses control that she could end up killing millions like a nuclear bomb.
The books was entertaining and kept me reading page after page but I did find the traveling a little monotonous. I think some of it could have been left out but it did help show her grow and it gave me a little respect for Williams. I know he is supposed to be bad but I don’t think he is all bad. I think he is just a slave to Cordus and has to do his bidding and he has had a rough life where he trusts and likes no one.
When I finished the book, I wanted more so I read the little short story called Theriac. It is only about 45 minutes worth of reading and it about another character and gives no clue about what is to come….Dang! The next book is due to come out in early 2016 which seems like a long time to me. That is why I usually don’t start a new series until four or five books have already been published but this one was an exception. I will definitely be getting the next book when it comes out.