Yes. This was an Empire Strikes Back kind of sequel, i.e. the perfect kind. The characters go through these painful, disfiguring transitions, and begin to gain awesome powers and develop deep relationships with one another. They make big mistakes, but they do so knowingly. They want to be heroes even though they don’t really know yet what that means, and they jump into the void and come out the other side of the ensuing disaster by the skin of their teeth.
This is two stories, really. It’s the story of Julia, and it’s the story of Quentin. Julia’s story is heart-rending and yet full of hope. It’s truly a woman’s story, and i think Grossman did a great job of telling it. I think he’s sensitive to women’s issues, and although the first book made me raise an eyebrow as a feminist, i totally forgive him now. It was Quentin who was the dick in the first book, not Grossman.
Quentin has totally redeemed himself in this book, too. From the outset, he’s a much more mature person than he was in book 1. He is learning how to actually care about people. He’s somewhat reluctantly becoming a much better person. He’s still trying to figure himself and his place out, but he’s doing a lot better than he was before. He’s gone from spoiled, self-centered, worthless piece of teenage crap to flailing would-be hero young adult. He’s getting there. I really do care about him now, and i’m ready to root him on in book 3.
The other characters took a back seat in this book, which i was grateful for. Janet was hardly even in it, and she tends to bring out the worst in the other characters. Some fun new characters were introduced, and they were less into the debauchery than the Physical Kids were in book 1.
I love Grossman’s humor. He gets me completely. It’s crass and well-written like British humor and silly like a TV show and nerdy to the max. I giggled a lot while reading this book, right up to the end. It just amazes me how he can be funny and fantastic and realistic and smart and poetic all at once. What a good writer.
I’m so glad i came back to this series. I swore it off after the first book because i hated the characters, but two things brought me back. The first was an article called Would You Want To Be Friends With Humbert Humbert?, and the other was A Discovery of Witches, which put me over the edge of tolerating shitty characters. I can’t put my finger on it, but the characters in that book were just so inhuman. And that happens in a lot of fantasy books. They just don’t react like real people would to things, and it’s annoying as hell. Grossman knows how to write real people, and i love that. Even if they usually start out as dicks.