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Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne eARC (2 stars)

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On the bright side: my evil plan worked and I read this duology in less than two weeks. On the dark side, they were both squarely in the 2-star zone. I didn't hate them, but I didn't particularly like them either. If you haven't read the first book, there may be spoilers in the synopsis and review below. Feel free to check out my review of Midnight Thief instead. :)

This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne
Series: Midnight Thief #2
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on August 4, 2015
Published by Disney Hyperion
Final Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis:
After learning the truth about her bloodlines, Kyra can’t help but feel like a monster.

Though she’s formed a tentative alliance with the Palace, Kyra must keep her identity a secret or risk being hunted like the rest of her Demon Rider kin. Tristam and the imprisoned assassin James are among the few who know about her heritage, but when Tristam reveals a heartbreaking secret of his own, Kyra’s not sure she can trust him. And with James’s fate in the hands of the palace, Kyra fears that he will give her away to save himself.

As tensions rise within Forge's Council, and vicious Demon Rider attacks continue in surrounding villages, Kyra knows she must do something to save her city. But she walks a dangerous line between opposing armies: will she be able to use her link to the Demon Riders for good, or will her Makvani blood prove to be deadly?

In this spellbinding sequel to Midnight Thief, Kyra and Tristam face their biggest battle yet as they grapple with changing allegiances, shocking deceit, and vengeful opponents.


Review:
Daughter of Dusk picks up a few months after Midnight Thief and is, to a large extent, The Last Samurai meets Dances with Wolves/Avatar with a dash of Disney's Pocahontas and Congress.

As in the first book, there are a lot of little conflicts, but with a slightly clearer antagonist. However, for the first two-thirds to three-quarters of the story, it just feels like a lot of angsting--which I'm almost never a fan of. I wasn't compelled by the characters' problems, and I'm a fixer--so too much brooding with too little done to fix it gets on my nerves quickly.

The characters felt like missed opportunities. James had the potential to be so much more, and Kyra is trapped in an identity crisis cycle that gets old really fast. And poor Tristam, instead of having his own life and plenty of scenes showing him at his best as a soldier and tactician, is pretty much reduced to romantic angsting. Flick gets a lot more screen time this round (and even his own perspective); he brings a bit of humor and drive to the table, but is soon reduced to John Smith...with less leading/fighting.

Aside from the identity crisis, Kyra spends most of the story in a state of stagnant indecision, dissatisfied with her city and its power structure, but unable or unwilling to do anything to change it. When she does plunge ahead, she usually makes some flat out stupid decisions--or fails to consider other options, which still results in stupid decisions.

Kyra's preoccupation with the troubles of society, while remaining unsure about how to fix it and failing to do or say anything productive, is very relatable and speaks to the difficulty of maintaining a peaceful ethic when the alternative seems the only way to accomplish anything; but it didn't make for an engaging book. I'm not a fan of political intrigue to start, and this was essentially Washington, D.C., complete with leaders who think the government should do and control everything--but with shapeshifters and armies and war on the doorstep. I like the fantasy world, but the story was too focused on the politics and personal angst for me. However, I can see it working well for other YA readers who enjoy a protagonist slowly growing into herself and finding love.

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