Abby is still adjusting to her new life as a Touchstone – someone who can help the OtherFolk cross between our world and the world of Faery – and though she is getting the hang of it, it’s not easy. Especially when Moria, the Protectorate, leaves for the Faery Court. With Abby left in charge things go from bad to worse when a spell on Abby backfires and causes the Queen of Faery seals the doors between the two worlds closed. Now OtherFolk on Earth are fading, and Faery is preparing for war with Hell. All Abby can do is travel to the CrossRoads and attempt to override the Queen’s magic, and prey she is strong enough for it to work.
This book continues the dynamic politics and magic system set up in the first book, exploring Abby’s role as a Touchstone and the relationship between Earth, Faery, and Hell. Abby herself is a great urban fantasy character, strong and brave without becoming a stereotype; she admits her fears and doubts but doesn’t let them stop her, and is willing to sacrificing herself to save Faery. However, Abby fails to live up to this when it comes to her first love interest, the incubus Brystion. He turns up half way through the book and does nothing but act self absorbed and arrogant, with no respect for what Abby wants. Sadly Abby never calls him out on his actions, only ever half-heartedly telling him to back off then giving in to him. In book one, Brystion was the classic sweet but tormented and misunderstood hero, but in A Sliver of Shadow has become the other urban fantasy cliche; the self involved jerk who can’t understand the word “no”. This change is hugely disappointing. Also, the descriptions of Faery were very interesting, but few and far between and felt like they could have been much more extensive. This was a missed opportunity, and very disappointing seeing as most of the book is set in Faery.
What saved the book though, other than Abby herself, was the elf prince Talivar and the unexpected cliffhanger ending. Talivar, the second love interest, was much more preferable than Brystion – in fact, he seemed to fill the void of positive male love interest left by Brystion. Talivar is sweet, understanding, charming, and funny; a much more favourable character in general and a better match for Abby. The cliffhanger was a complete surprise, leaving you wanting to read the sequel now, and may be a complete game changer for this series. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best in book three.
Life for fifteen year old Billy Ballard is not easy. He's the kid who everyone picks on, the one who the teachers either overlook or "make an example" of. He doesn't even get a break at home, living with his single mother who's always working to make ends meet, and his Alzheimer’s suffering grandfather, who can sometimes be worse than the school bullies. If it wasn't for his friend, Marianne, he'd probably go mad - though never working up the courage to ask her out might drive him to madness anyway.
Then Death visits Billy. He wants Billy to stand in as Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as the original White Rider has gone missing. Billy agrees, thinking this could be his chance to get back at his tormentors, and takes the Bow which allows him to strike disease. But when he accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis, Billy realises he can't handle this kind of power, and must hunt out the previous White Rider, who is hiding in the memories of his long, strange life. After years of causing death and disease, the White Rider has become insane, and plans on an outbreak more terrifying than any the earth has seen before...
Loss is another excellent book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, which deals with teenagers struggling with different problems who then become one of the riders, and their experiences with their new powers and responsibilities. Though all part of a series, each book can be read as a stand alone, and nothing is lost by reading them out of order. This book's protagonist, Billy, is a very sympathetic character. Watching his life of abuse and pain is moving, especially if you (like myself) have experienced bullying in the past. Even if you haven't, the frustration, anger, and self loathing that Billy feels is written in a clear and very convincing way, and I found myself desperately hoping for a scene where Billy stands up and finally gets his own back. Though this doesn't actually happen in Loss, the battles Billy does win, over his own self doubt and outlook on life, are much more important. This is not a book about revenge, it's about accepting yourself no matter what others think - which can often be harder than getting your own back.
The world building in this book is fascinating and well researched, the story of King Mita tying in very well with the Riders' biblical tale. The character Death and the other horsemen are all entertaining and it is a very good thing they all get their own books, as you cannot help but want to know more about them all. There is also a very funny and cute scene from the point of view of the White Horse, who is excited to have not one but two riders now. Death himself is an amazing character, and though he doesn't get as much focus in this book as I would have liked, this is not his story (thankfully, Death's story is the next and final book in this series Breath).
Billy's story is one of struggles and triumphs, both over other people and yourself. It's moving and very satisfying, and I can't recommend it enough.