Second books are hard to like sometimes. They just don’t have the pull and freshness of that first book where an unfamiliar world or person is revealed to you, allowing you to experience the joys of discovery. So I always go into reading a second book with mixed feelings of hope and trepidation. Will this book possibly live up to the fist one?
Well, there’s no fearing on this account. Caitlin Kittredge’s The Nightmare Garden, second book in her Iron Codex series, left me both feeling satisfied and wanting more, and I cannot wait until the third book comes out.
Aoife Grayson’s world turned upside down in book one as the world she had always known was revealed to be a lie. There wasn’t a terrible necrovirus, driving people to insanity and turning them into horrible monsters. These being were in fact the fae, come from another world, and through some trickery of one particularly nasty fae named Tremaine, Aoife destroyed the engine that ran Lovecraft and in turn tore open the gates that kept the human world and the fae world separated.
With the help of her best friend — and sometimes-monster –Cal(and his new sweetie), her brother Conrad (who has only recently returned to sanity), and Dean, the lovely boy from the wrong side of the tracks who has stolen her heart, she must try and find a way to set things right. On top of trying to save her mother, who was locked in an insane asylum in the heart of the ruined city. All this while the head of the Proctors, the horrible Gray Draven, doggedly pursues her, and while she tries to figure out who her father really is after he shows up randomly to help them.
Kittredge’s writing didn’t disappoint. One of my favorite things from The Iron Thorn was the way she plays with words, and this was prominent throughout the pages of The Nightmare Garden. Her writing is as beautiful and complex as the worlds and characters she’s created, and it truly was a pleasure to experience what she had to say.
Book one was about discovery, with Aoife learning the truth of the world around her, her friends, and her family. This book was about the journey, getting from place to place, and the experiences gained through that. When people are forced to be with each other, day in, day out, personalities are going to conflict, and Kittredge definitely took advantage of this truth to teach the reader more about her core group of characters. They were always vivid in my mind, well-written, but seeing them interact throughout the pages of this story made them even more real to me. This is especially true in the case of Aoife’s brother Conrad and her father Archie. We only get glimpses of these men in book one, and though Aoife thinks of them often in that story, it is in this one that we really get to see who they are and why they do what they do. There is a particular dream sequence at the end which lends even more truth to their beings, and I am really intrigued to see what happens with them all in book three.
The climax of The Nightmare Garden was hands down my favorite part. The build-up of mysteries throughout the story come to a head in many ways (and in a few different scenes), and I definitely read the last fifty pages with shock and awe. Little clues planted throughout the book jumped to the foreground, and the revelations at one point had me exclaiming “Say what?!” out loud, I was so amazed as the truth was revealed. And what would be a climax without a little tug on the emotional heartstrings? I enjoyed the whole book, but the climax left me breathless with its revelations.
Fans of The Iron Thorn won’t be disappointed with The Nightmare Garden. Kittredge delivers the characters we loved so dear from book one, adding a few new faces to the mix, and the worlds became even more rich and complicated. That combined with the constant Steampunk atmosphere creates a lovely tapestry of a story, and one much richer than most YA out there. I can only imagine the soaring places we’ll go in book three; I’m looking forward to finding out.