[I received a copy of this novel through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]
I’ve had the three novels of Crown & Key for quite a while, but only got to the second one now. Better late than never, I suppose.
I admit I still can’t reconcile the writing style in this trilogy with what I read a couple of years ago (The Vampire Empire series). Granted, I received Advanced Reader Copies, so there were likely changes in the published novels, but I’m not sure either there were that many between my copy and the final result. In general, the style felt more like a first draft’s: unedited, with a lot more telling than showing, including during fight scenes.
There are, again, good ideas and concepts here. Imogen’s need to accept her fate, even though her appearance shall ensure she cannot be easily accepted. Charlotte’s desire to find a home and be the little girl she is, to desperately use her “evil” nature to help her new “family” in spite of all the risks. Malcolm’s dilemma about her: can the hunter accept the beast? Penny’s inventions and the overall steampunk mood she brings to the story—she doesn’t get that much screen time, unfortunately, but her pistol and her bullets are fun. Necromancy (I’m always so partial to necromancy). Gruesome, bloody rituals, whose aim may be evil, or may not be: does the end justify such means?
But then, there are a lot of inconsistencies, too. Fight scenes made even weirder, as two characters do OK for instance against several werewolves, and it kind of makes you wonder what the fuss is about Charlotte (she can’t be so dangerous then, can she?). The use of necromancy: it’s cool in a creepy factor way, but doesn’t really seem to be that important when it comes to the rituals themselves, which in turns makes the use of a necromancer a little pointless (any “dark magician” can go about performing ritualistic murders). The uneven pace: a really strange combination of fast-paced action and lulls. A couple of decisions that didn’t make a lot of sense once you think about them, their only actual point being to drive the plot forward.
I’m not sure of what I should make of Kate’s and Simon’s budding relationship. The banter didn’t have as much appeal as I thought it would have; at times I just wanted them to go on with the plot and stop wasting their time. And yet, we don't learn that much about the characters, and I would have liked said plot to focus on them in less trivial ways than it did. (So Malcolm has read Blake... Great, it still doesn't make me feel a lot for him. What about more Malcolm & Jane, so that I could get more interested in that for the last book?)
Conclusion: 1.5 to 2 stars. Some fun scenes, fun inventions on Penny's part, Charlotte is cute in her own ways, but I can't bring myself to really care about the main characters. I’ll still read book 3, since I have it; I can't promise I'll enjoy it, though.