This is the sequel to Sea of Shadows, a story about Moria and Ashlyn, 16-year-old twins from the village of Edgewood, abutting The Forest of the Dead, a place thick with spiritual energy from the dead criminals who have been exiled there. Moria and Ashyn have been born with the ability to communicate with spirits, and thus Moria has become a “Keeper” and Ashyn is a “Seeker,” one of four such pairs of specially endowed twins in the Empire. Ancestral Spirits guide and direct them, and each girl is aided by a special beast. Moria has a Daigo, a wildcat, and Ashyn has Tova, a hound. It is thought that the spirits of former warriors reside in the beasts.
At the end of Book One, their village has been destroyed and the children taken away by forces directed by Alvar Kitsune, a man with powers of a sorcerer who seeks to overtake the Empire. Moria and Ashlyn set out for the imperial capital to get help. There, Moria meets Tyrus, the kind bastard son of the Emperor who is interested in Moria. But Tyrus keeps his distance; he suspects Moria fell in love with Alvar’s son, Gavril, before she found out he was working for his father. She felt hurt and betrayed and so turned to Tyrus. But Tyrus, who had been childhood friends with Gavril, can’t believe Gavril is evil like his father. He fears that if and when Gavril would come and explain himself, Moria would give in to her feelings for Gavril, and Tyrus would be hurt.
Meanwhile, Tyrus and Moira set out to find out where the children are, accompanied by Ashyn and Ronan, an exiled criminal who miraculously has survived The Forest of the Dead. They are in extreme danger, especially since Alvar has spread the story that Tyrus and Moira betrayed the Emperor and should be executed for treason; a large bounty is on their heads.
As the tension builds, Armstrong throws in two huge cliffhanger twists, making it difficult to wait for Book Three.
Evaluation: Kelley adopts some standard YA tropes, but she manages to make them fresh and entertaining, with layered characters and always, strong female heroines. This book is not a standalone, however, and it would probably be in one’s best interest to wait for Book Three before starting the series.
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2015