All of Our Demise - part 2 of the duology
All of Our Demise #2 by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Published 2022; 468 pages
First Sentence: "The Thorburn family had always played the heroes in their town's ancient, bloodstained story, and no one resented that more than the Thorburn sisters."
This book picks up right where All of Us Villains left off - in the middle of the tournament to the death. Remember that? Seven families each send a representative (16-17 year old) to battle to the death; the winner claims the power of high magic for their family for the next 20 years. This town curse has existed for generations.
This time, some of the teens decide to try to end the curse forever which means breaking the spell. That means they have to work together. But, none of them are REALLY sure it can even be done, so trust is a bit shaky. Once again there's plenty of action, magical battles, and shifting alliances. Because not everyone thinks the curse can be broken, there are still plots to kill the opposing members. One of the first signs that the curse is damaged is the magic enclosing the battleground is weakened so townspeople (reporters!) can go onto the grounds and champions can go into town. That opens new plot possibilities that are interesting as the teens try to find spells that will break the curse.
Like before, each chapter focuses on a single character in first person, so actions, thoughts, and decisions are from the character's perspective. I think that's a good choice in structure for this book. It helps move the story forward at a steady pace while giving the reader plenty of background and understanding of the characters.
All of Our Demise is a little on the long side which made it drag a bit through the middle. I think some of the battles and worry about breaking the curse drug on a little too long. However, I do think the strength of this series is the magic system. It's clever and just complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex that it's incomprehensible. I like that the magic is about knowing and casting spells - some that take unusual ingredients and some major effort; some that are a snap.
The character development of the four main characters is very good. They go from nervous, somewhat timid teens in the first book to people with backbone and beliefs. They suffer setbacks in magic and in love and friendship. They learn to define their own desires not just live for their families.
I found the characters of Alistair and Gavin maybe the more nuanced. The girls, Briony and Isobel were sometimes a bit too whiney or something for me. Of course there has to be some romance to throw another monkey wrench in the plot - it's a bunch of teens after all. So there's all the angst about whether they can kill someone they're attracted to. I can't imagine having to REALLY make a choice like that, and it was handled fairly believably.
All in all, it's a strong conclusion to the duology and would definitely recommend the series. I strongly recommend reading the books in order (easy since there's just two) because SO much of the characters' history and world building basics are covered in the first installment.
COYER challenge: 27/54 (challenge complete)