Delaney, Joseph. The Dark Army (Starblade Chronicles #2)
September 20th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
ARC from Young Adult Books Central
Because of the nature of A New Darkness, which includes a plot twist that has made me and most of my students want to fling the book across the room in anger, this review contains spoilers. Do not continue if you haven't read the first book in this trilogy!
For many magical reasons, Tom is returned to the realm of the living, and Prince Stanislaw is determined to immediately press him back into action. He decides to attack the kulad (tower) at Valkarky, but Tom would much rather go home. To assure he doesn't, Grimalkin kidnaps Jenny and sends her off with Prince Kaylar. Things go badly in a battle, but Jenny manages to escape and get back to warn Tom, but he and Grimalkin are attacked. They are saved by a welcome but unexpected person from Tom's past, and find that Lukastra is dead but Lenklewth is still a major force to be reckoned with. While the battle is raging around them, Tom and Lenklewth get transported into another dimension where just the two of them can battle it out, and even though a vartek comes with him, Lenklewth is defeated and Tom makes his way back to Chippenden. He and Jenny hope that they can return to their regular life of dispatching boggarts and witches, but when a local farmer is killed by a Golgoth, they know that the battle is coming their way. Luckily, Tom has his returned ally to help him, even though he loses another one.
This series is much more gruesome that The Last Apprentice, and the monsters that Tom and Jenny encounter are vicious and deadly. Even the ghosts that Jenny tries to neutralize at Prince Stanislaw's castle are more demon than ghost! There are constant battles which frequently end in substantial wounds being delivered to main characters, and also several violent ends that fairly main characters meet. Still, the violence is predominantly performed by supernatural creatures whose sole purpose is to destroy, which makes it seem less horrible than if other humans were purposefully inflicting harm on each other!
I was glad to see that even though most of the effort expended had to go toward defeating the Kabalos and the god Talkus as they made their way closer and closer to Chippenden, there were still some nice turns where Jenny got to learn about ghosts and send them on their way.
The best part of these books for me is always the relationships. Tom's long lost ally just about broke my heart, even if Jenny wasn't the biggest fan. There were also some nice touches with the former spook's love, Meg, returning to Chippenden to spend time with John Gregory. There's a lot of discussion about what makes individuals good or evil, and how no one is all of one with none of the other.
While devotees of the first series certainly must pick this up, and there is a lot of crossover interest from fans of John Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice series, the inclusion of so much fighting will appeal to readers of Nielsen's The False Prince or Spradlin's The Youngest Templar series.
Lore, Pittacus. United As One (Lorien Legacies #7)
June 28th 2016 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
John, still reeling from the death of a loved one in The Fate of Ten, is holed up with his crew at Patience Creek, an outdated military bunker with decor from the 1970s. His main mission is to find the other teenagers around the world who have manifested special abilities, and train them to fight the Mogadorians. Also very important is killing Setrakus Ra, who apparently did not die in the last epic battle. The teenagers are not all that pleased with Lawson, the military commander who works with them, but life on Earth has become so impossible that they know that everyone needs to work together to finally conquer the Mogs.
Since this is the final book in the series, it's not too much of a spoiler to say that the group finally accomplishes this, after much fighting, blowing things up, and the unfortunate deaths of some major characters. I was gratified to see that I was right about John missing an opportunity to kill Phiri in previous books-- she comes back with a vengeance and almost manages to get the better of John.
Exactly how the Mogs are defeated is something you will need to read the book to find out, but United As One is a satisfying read for fans of this series, packed with teenagers wielding powers, awesome spaceships, and a shape shifting Chimaera who most often manifests itself as a beagle, Bernice Kosar.
This is definitely a young adult series, but given the popularity of the franchise it should be noted for more sensitive readers that there is a lot of killing, and a surprising amount of vulgar language.
Readers who are sad that the series is finished would do well to check out some of the supplementary, interstitial novellas in the Lost Files collection. Many of these are collected into sets of three in volumes such as Secret Histories, Hidden Enemy, Rebel Allies, and Zero Hour.