Guardian of the Gate Michelle Zink
352 pages, Hardcover
Series: Prophecy of the Sisters (#2)
Summary (from GoodReads):The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.
Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.
My Thoughts:This ended up being an odd read for me. Through the first quarter of the book, I had the odd feeling that I'd read it already. I remember reading the first book in 2010 and really liking it; I did give it 5 stars, and apparently read it in under 2 days. I didn't have this book even on the TBR list, so I don't think I ever tried to read it. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book as much as I remember enjoying the first one.
I really love the idea behind this series, but there's really not much excitement, conflict, or movement in this book. For someone who is supposedly under constant mortal threat from the Souls (powerful beings that reside in the astral Plane), there is very little suspense. If this book were to made into a movie, I suspect there would be a lot of close up shots of people giving intense looks (a la R-Patz in Twilight), but not much actual action.
The love triangle: This could have provided at least some interesting internal conflict but was sorely underdeveloped. In order to protect James (the love interest from the first book) Lia leaves him behind to travel to London to work to end the Prophecy. Although James writes her letters, which she can't help but read even knowing the pain it will bring her, she never responds to him--even when she learns that her evil twin, Alice, has begun to show him undue attention. She hopes that by cutting him off, she is protecting him.
Enter new love interest: Dimitri Markov. Suddenly, James is all but forgotten as Lia falls quickly for Dimitri. Oh, how Zink missed so many possible moments for internal conflict. Lia rarely thinks of James once she meets Dimitri and when she does it is only in passing with a vague "when this is over, I'm really going to have to deal with this mess". But what mess, Lia? She does nothing to resist Dimitri and she stops at acknowledging what little guilt she feels about her flippant feelings. This is a BIG problem for me with this book and with other YA books with an element of romance. She meets Dimitri and BOOM she's in love and nothing else matters. I find this so annoying because (1) this is so typical of romance that it bores me and (2) life SO. DOES. NOT. WORK. THIS. WAY. I suppose you could argue that it's a book and therefore doesn't have to be true to life, but I would argue back that the best books out there show us an image of truth and ask us to reflect on that image through our own experience. If love at first sight is real, or at the very least I'm supposed to believe it in this book, then you're going to have to do a better job than this:
The current becomes stronger as the sky darkens toward night, and I feel Sargent trying to keep a foothold on the rocky riverbed as Dimitri reaches out to take the reins from my freezing hands. He looks into my eyes, and I feel that we have known each other forever. "It's all right. Just trust me, and I'll get you across." There is tenderness in his voice, as if something unspeakably intimate has passed between us since our meeting at the Society, though we have not seen each other once from that moment to this.Sigh. "as if something unspeakably intimate has passed", except that it hasn't yet. Let's call this what it is ladies, it's a rush of hormones, it's lust. Does that mean that she can't begin to love Dimitri? No it doesn't, but at least give me some build up to that, instead of just announcing it. We have met. We have locked eyes. We are soul mates. I'm not buying it.
Flat B-cast: Where to start with this? To start, give me more Alice! I want more of the bad sister! In this book, Alice has grown so powerful that she flaunts the Grigori's rules of traversing the Plane without fear of repercussion. She appears in solid form to Lia, though she is on the Plane. Oh please please pleaaaaase, tell me more about what she is up to! What are Alice's motivations? It's hard to maintain suspense when you're never shown (only told) why Lia should fear Alice. The keys, Luisa and Sonia are also very flat characters. I was totally taken aback by developments with these girls (I don't want to spoil anything), but not for the right reasons. The twist was out of no where, and made little sense at that moment or to further the plot. Overall, Zink gives us little of the b-cast's motivations.
Wrapped up: Despite these complaints, it's not a horrible book. It's just that the series has a solid premise, but I don't feel that Zink took any risks and squandered this moment. Despite being a little heavy on the "tell" side, the language and tone of the book sets a very hauntingly Gothic background that I appreciated. Now that this rather boring middle step in Lia's journey has been dealt with, I will give Zink another chance to redeem the series as Lia makes moves to confront Samael and end the prophecy.