Please note that this review may contain spoilers for One Wish Away. You can read my review of this novel [here].
Two Hearts Asunder was written by Ingrid Seymour and is due for release at the beginning of next month. It continues the story of Marielle and Faris as they find themselves at the mercy of a powerful djinn. The novel forms the second part of the Djinn Empire trilogy and is preceded by One Wish Away (2017). The final instalment of the series – provisionally titled Three Words Promised – is expected to be released later this year.
Marielle knows that she is being selfish. Ever since she inherited her Grandfather’s magical stone, she’s reunited with her father, helped her loved ones find peace, and gained a loving boyfriend. But something is still missing. Faris can’t say the three words that she most wants to hear or he will lose his powers. With Akeelah still at large, he can’t allow himself to become human. If he did, there would be no one left who could stop her.
Far away, Akeelah is starting to put her plans in motion. The laws of nature prevent her from directly hurting humans, so she’s forced to recruit new assistants from America’s criminal underbelly. Her task for them is simple. They are to pursue Marielle wherever she goes and stop at nothing to kill her. It’s not long before Marielle discovers that nowhere is safe. Her enemies have no trouble doing away with anyone who gets in their way.
Faris knows that he can’t expect his love to spend her life in hiding. He has no choice but to do what Akeelah commands, leaving Marielle in order to assist the djinn in realising her darkest desire. Marielle is devastated, but she’s not about to leave Faris to Akeelah’s machinations. With Abby and Maven in tow, she sets out to find a way to save her boyfriend and stop Akeelah forever…
Two Hearts Asunder has a very different feel to its prequel, and I personally felt that the novel was a little stronger for it. If you read my review of One Wish Away back in January, you’ll be aware that I had some misgivings. While the story did have some neat ideas and a wonderful protagonist, it had issues with its pacing and was – at its core – a standard paranormal romance story. This book moves away from these roots, instead becoming an urban fantasy with horror elements. While Marielle and Faris’s romance is still very much there, they spend most of the novel apart and therefore it takes more of a back-seat this time around.
One of the main things that struck me on reading this book was that the pacing issues have all been resolved. Two Hearts Asunder flows very well and for the most part is pretty easy to follow. The prose follows three different narrators – Marielle and Faris in first person, and Akeelah in third. While multiple narrators aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I did feel that Seymour handled this really well. All three voices are very distinct and so I never felt lost as to who was speaking or where they were. The only real negative that I could see was that Seymour sometimes seemed to get a little fixated physical descriptions. For example, Akeelah’s description was mentioned several times over the course of the story. Yet the plot was immersive and I quickly found myself curious to learn exactly what the djinn had planned.
While this isn’t a novel about wishes as the first one was, its world building was still compelling. In this book, Seymour further develops the nature of her djinn. Through the addition of Faris and Akeelah’s narratives, the reader sees first-hand both their power and limitations. The process of making a half-djinn is also further explored. This was only alluded to in the first book, but this time around we get to fully see how Faris came to be as he is. Personally, I loved this. Djinn aren’t a very common subject for young adult novels and Seymour’s use of them is imaginative and original. I love the way that she balances their godly power with strict limitations that prevent its full use. I’m really curious to discover what new things we’ll learn about them in the final novel.
The only place where I felt that the storytelling faltered was in its climax. While the novel had me curious for the first 85%, I felt that it lost its steam a little during the last few chapters. The climax takes the form of an extended cross-country chase, and the close combat and frequent dimension jumps made it hard to tell exactly what was going on. This was also a problem that I had with the first book, in which Akeelah was only really thrown into proceedings in the final act.
This time, the main drama comes in the form of an abrupt double-cross. I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens, but this just didn’t really come as much of a surprise. The character in question was quite blatantly untrustworthy yet, at the same time, I’m not sure that I entirely appreciated their motivation. I knew so little of their backstory that I’m not actually sure why they betrayed the team. I should also probably note that this book ends on a cliff-hanger. Some people love these, I still unfortunately do not as I felt that it left the story feeling like a mass of hanging threads.
Yet despite my misgivings, the characters are still the strongest aspect of this world. Seymour writes fantastic female protagonists. I would not change a thing about Marielle. Even though she’s not magical, she proves to be far from helpless in Faris’s absence. She outwits thugs and crosses the globe in an attempt to find him. Yet, at the same time, she’s still not above behaving selfishly. The thing I like most about Marielle is that she’s strong-willed without crossing that fine line into becoming a Mary-Sue. She still makes a lot of mistakes along her journey and that serves to make her feel more human.
I also liked what Seymour did with the side characters. One Wish Away had a huge cast and all that really meant was that none of them got much in the way of development. This time, the focus is on just a few of Marielle’s closest friends. Abby and Maven had a lot more to do in this book and it was nice to see their friendship develop as the story progressed. I also appreciated that a lot of time was spent on fleshing out Akeelah’s motivation. Last time, I felt that her sudden introduction was jarring but this book makes clear that’s she’s a force to be reckoned with.
All in all, this novel was not perfect but I did feel that it was an improvement on the first instalment. The pacing issues have been largely resolved and I still adore Marielle. This series is really on the up and it makes me very curious to find out how the trilogy will conclude.
Two Hearts Asunder is due for release on 4th April and is currently available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk