I haven't been this stressed out by reading a fantasy novel since Holly Black's TITHE. Tension simply sings in this second book in the Twixt series. While not exactly a standalone - it does help to know a little about the world and its denizens - even the protagonist is still flying blind, unsure who to trust, so new readers can get up to speed quickly.
Summary: To recap, in the first novel of The Twixt, INDELIBLE, Joy accidentally sees what she shouldn't - that is, the Fae. Normally they put your eye right out for that, but the scalpel wielded by Invisible Ink -- slipped, leaving Joy with a flash across her vision that is Ink's magical signature. Through this mistake, Joy's had to become his lehman - his servant, his... woman, and they'd best hope nobody guesses Ink's not infallible and screws up sometimes, or else they'll both die horribly. The Twixt has RULES, yo. Fortunately, Joy and Ink learn to get along - deal with each other - and have even fallen a lot into like... and at the conclusion of the adventures that happen in INDELIBLE, The Twixt decide that Joy's going to be allowed to live... except, in INVISIBLE, one old knight hasn't gotten the memo. He shows up everywhere - in rusting armor, at Joy's job, in the woods on the way home, in terribly ordinary places ... waiting to kill her. He's undying, unstoppable, unkillable -- but Joy CAN'T do what will get him off her back: give up Ink and the Twixt, and all of her power. She can't. She won't. She has tasted of both love and power -- and surely, surely, there's got to be a way to have it all?
Peaks: Many times, sequels disappoint -- and while I didn't read the first book in this series, I can't imagine this is one of those "slumpy sequels." From the first page, there's action, and the character's emotions are ping-ponging off all over the place, as thoughts and choices and reactions are on go-go-go frequency. There's not a lot of time to stop and mope or to stop and ponder -- which eventually kicks her in the butt, because sometimes Joy is NOT thinking, and the reader will want to give her a sharp slap. (Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often.)
There's drama and danger and tension and cheerful creepiness throughout. It's a novel which is hard to put down, even if you're new to the whole thing. I was surprised by how well I liked it -- truly surprised. I was also surprised (and maybe I shouldn't have been) by how physical the novel was, in terms of the relationship -- not necessarily physical in a whoa-hawt-sexytimes way (though they are officially trying to date), but physical in terms of description. The author worked hard to make everything - light and shadow, the brush of skin against skin, even an innocent brush of fingers - hugely descriptive, in just the way a young heart categorizes every. single. moment of a first love... All that innocent discovery is really intense, and there are two more books in this series -- ! I can see readers looking forward to that.
I like that the question of this novel is a bigger question that people face - how much happiness, of what we want -- are we allowed to have? How much should we hold onto, when what we're clinging onto with a death grip could ruin everything? Joy tugs away on the threads of a world, and could be the instrument which unwinds... or the one who ties everything back together.
Valleys: The pacing is, for the most part, swift and revelatory. I was surprised by how little I found with which to quibble - there are times, as mentioned, that readers will want to SMACK Joy, but they're rare - my suggestion is that you READ INDELIBLE FIRST. You *can* get into this one without background, but it'd be easier to understand exactly what's at stake if you read them in order.
I received this copy courtesy of the publisher. After September 30th, you can find INVISIBLE by DAWN METCALF online, or at an independent bookstore near you!