Title: The Unfailing Light
Author: Robin Bridges
Series: The Katerina Trilogy #2
Genre: Paranormal YA, Historical Fiction YA
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Release date: October 9, 2012
Source: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Summary: Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She’s about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia’s arch nemesis–who she thought she’d destroyed–is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She’ll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina’s horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.
THE UNFAILING LIGHT, the second book in the Katerina Trilogy by Robin Bridges, brings some more of the best things from book 1, THE GATHERING STORM, and—for me, anyway—ironed out a few of the bothersome aspects as well. THE UNFAILING LIGHT continues the story of necromancer and Tsarist Russian noblewoman Katerina while adding one of my favorite settings: BOARDING SCHOOL. Boom. If I’m being honest, though, there were still a few things near the end that made me make a cringey face, but we’ll get to those. They weren’t the worst things, just little bummer things that got to me. But overall, THE UNFAILING LIGHT kept me interested and invested.
In THE UNFAILING LIGHT, Katerina is dealing with the aftermath of the bananas stuff that happened at the end of book 1, in addition to some new dramas: for one, Katerina experiences some weird/unsettling visions while she’s on summer vacation with her family. Basically, the bad guy from the first book is still hanging around, so as a protective measure, the Queen (who, you remember, also happens to be the faerie queen of the Seelie court) has placed an enchantment on Katiya’s school preventing anyone from getting in or out, and Katiya’s family has told her that she has to hold off on going to medical school in Switzerland. Of course, the queen’s spell has some other side effects on the paranormals on campus: Katiya’s cannot use her gifts to see other people’s cold lights, her vampire friends can’t shift and feed, and any time a creature gets too close to the spell’s boundary, they get a nasty jolt, like an electric fence. UNFORCH, this means that all the girls at the school are trapped with a GHOST who hates everyone and is PISSED ALL THE TIME. Bad news. And one of Katiya’s roomies starts to hate on her a little bit and is clearly hiding something. AND! George, Katiya’s maybe-sorta bf, is off in Paris to train with some shady magical group where he’s in danger but she can’t reach him. WAH!
As usual, the history in these books is on point. I love Russian history, especially Tsarist Russia. It just sounds so glittering and fancy and special. I know I mentioned in my review of THE GATHERING STORM that the history in this series is great, and Robin Bridges continues that in THE UNFAILING LIGHT. I sometimes wish we could get a little hint of what life was like for the average person in Russia during this time, but what makes this period so enjoyable and gripping to me is the nobility, and there’s good stuff here.
The paranormal aspects of these books are good as well. I was overwhelmed a little bit in the first book, where there were tons of names for things and lots of balls in the air. That’s not so much an issue here, where most of the action takes place at Katiya’s school. Keeping track of the things and the people was much easier. It helps, I think, that the focus is really on Katiya as well. There are still lots of secondary characters who affect the story in THE UNFAILING LIGHT, but Katiya is really on display, and it keeps things focused.
The one thing that I think could be better—and this is the same for THE GATHERING STORM—is that sometimes things feel rushed or not explained very well. For example (minor spoiler ahead), that magical enchantment around the school that I mentioned? Katiya and another person manage to break it. In one tiny paragraph, with no explanation of HOW the way they did it worked. And the things near the end were action-packed and interesting, they felt really fast to me. Like they were crammed in to a set amount of space. Which really sucks because the end is pretty chock full of drama and STUFF.
I can’t talk about THE UNFAILING LIGHT without chatting a bit about George and Katiya’s slowly—SLOWLY—building relationship. I usually love a slow build, but–and this is probably because for most of this book George is in Paris and Katiya is stuck at school behind the Queen’s spell (and so unable to have George, with is half-fairy blood, hear her thoughts)–I found that whatever relationship they had could have had a little more foundation. They hardly spend any time together at all. But I’m still invested and interested in what happens with them. And, of course, I’m invested in whatever happens next for Katiya and her friends and family. More and more, there are layers peeling away and revealing all kinds of other dramas in the woodwork, and THE UNFAILING LIGHT keeps things moving and introduces some new betrayals and things to worry about. EXCELLENT NEWS, friends. I have a feeling that book three is going to be NUTS.