As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool suffers a bit from the middle novel syndrome. While I enjoyed the story, it does not contain that special something that made the first book so spectacular. We know the world, the characters, and the catastrophe they want to avoid. In my mind, As the Shadow Rises is simply more of the same.
This time around, I struggled with the characters and their additions to the story. This is especially true of Ephyra, who spends much of the novel analyzing her behavior and questioning whether her previous actions make her good or bad. In spite of this self-evaluation, she then continues down the same path. Her single-mindedness makes all of that analysis a frustrating hobby rather than an exercise in self-improvement, which means it becomes nothing but a waste of time for the reader.
At the same time, one of the main characters has the ability to see the future. When that occurs, the story becomes less about what will happen and more of how the foreseen future will happen. The distinction is slight but it certainly impacts the overall tension when you already know what will occur. In addition, it tends to disrupt the idea of free will versus destiny because the visions of the future always come true regardless of a character’s choices. In this instance, destiny and free will appear to be the same thing.
As the Shadow Rises also has a tendency to include what I would consider to be plot twists of convenience. While I am sure Ms. Pool plotted the entirety of the trilogy arc, some of the bigger reveals in this middle story feel contrived. There are less shock and awe and more eye-rolling at the expediency.
I still enjoyed As the Shadow Rises and think Ms. Pool has a unique story to offer readers. However, I also think Ms. Pool had to meet a certain word quota that did not match where she needed her characters and the story to be at the end of it. As such, there appears to be a lot of unnecessary filler in the form of character self-analysis that does not go anywhere and a story that includes too much tell and not enough show. My hope is that she got all this out of the way so that the story’s finale can shine. Time will tell.