It’s summer in Emmett’s Bluff, and the ice is spreading. Six months after confronting an enemy from the future, Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert have returned to their normal teenage lives. Or, they’ve tried to. During the battle to save their town, a mysterious force awoke inside the twins. Time calls to them, and it’s growing too strong to be ignored. When warriors from a mysterious ancient kingdom appear, they bring warnings of an unstoppable foe—one whose control of the ice is powered by Time itself. But ice is far more than the Black Tempest’s signature. As the twins uncover the truth behind it, they realize their town is only the beginning. If the Black Tempest is not stopped here, his corruption will threaten the very course of history. As cold advances and doom draws near, the twins’ only hope lies in learning to wield Time itself, and in trusting their strange new friends—even if those friends have secrets of their own.
While The Year of Lightning had straddled the line between science fiction and fantasy, The Black Tempest moves over to fantasy, directing the plot towards a world where there are people that can manipulate time at will, and an eternal kingdom that protects the timeline. Though most of the story still takes place in Emmett’s Bluff, a significant part of the plot comes from that kingdom. Asha and Thorn, princess and prince of the Everwatch, are transported to this current time, and are fighting a villain named the Black Tempest, who is coming to this world. This review will be a bit spoilery, because there is really no other way for me to discuss it, so be warned and proceed at your own risk
Now, normally I would like the expansion of the canon universe, but in this case every addition of an element to the canon felt like it was there only to solve plot problems. Let me start with the whole concept of Chronauri – while it seems like the Year of Lightning is now setting up the origin story for the twins and their powers, there are a lot of things that don’t fit right in with the theme of the book. It was about time travel, the ability to go back and forth in time, and yet a key element – time paradox – was used only once in the plot. I really tried to keep up with every new information and bit of confusing canon being constructed on the fly, but honestly, after the mid-way mark I stopped trying to make sense of it. This book took me 5 long days to finish, and that was not because of any lack of time (pun intended); rather, I kept getting distracted and was wishing for it to be over the whole time.
The whole mystery of the identity of the Black Tempest and the Frost Hammer was overdone, too. I could guess the Black Tempest because duh, it was obvious, and I have read too many mystery novels to not suss that out (and it was a good arc), but the Frost Hammer was more frustrating. Partly because there is a red herring thrown in, but mostly because when it was revealed, it was done so without any indication whatsoever in the story previously. It was a shocker precisely because that character was literally on the sidelines, and had shown no relevance to the plot. Also, it seemed to raise questions on that person’s existence for all this time in Emmett’s Bluff. And then there is an addition of another kind of manipulator at which point I was like so done with the messy world-building.
What makes me truly sad that this was nowhere close to the continuity of the original. For a plot filled with action, the pace dragged on tortuously. There were no real stakes because Malcolm and Valentine always were just instinctively growing into their powers and dropping miracles like Beyonce’s new album. Over on the science part, Clive and John were crafting up new tech like nobody’s business – which raised the question of how? I get that those goggles were helpful but it takes months to understand and develop machines? Not days, especially when it comes from a technologically advanced time? Are you telling me all the parts in those tech were available in Emmett’s Bluff just like that? It was like a sequel had to be written and this was thrown in just to further their story. Even at the end of this book, in Marvel Cinematic Universe fashion, there is an after-epilogue-ish scene that is supposedly setting up the plot for the next book.
Basically, I was disappointed in this sequel and rushed through pages to finish it. Never have I resented a book’s length more than when it was for this. For all the magic, action and wonder in this plot, it still fell short for me.
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