Hardcover, 480 pages
Published March 25th 2014 by Arthur A. Levine Books
The second in Jaclyn Moriarty’s brilliant, acclaimed fantasy trilogy, THE COLORS OF MADELEINE!
Princess Ko’s been bluffing about the mysterious absence of her father, desperately trying to keep the government running on her own. But if she can’t get him back in a matter of weeks, the consequence may be a devastating war. So under the guise of a publicity stunt she gathers a group of teens — each with a special ability — from across the kingdom to crack the unsolvable case of the missing royals of Cello.
Chief among these is farm-boy heartthrob Elliot Baranski, more determined than ever to find his own father. And with the royal family trapped in the World with no memory of their former lives, Elliot’s value to the Alliance is clear: He’s the only one with a connection to the World, through his forbidden communications with Madeleine.
The Cracks in the Kingdom is everything I like in a sequel. The plot threads are picked up and the characters return with vigor and become even more colourful than in the first installment of the trilogy. This book focuses more on Elliot than on Madeleine and this worked well for me because the action occurs where Elliott is. Madeleine’s character was developed quite thoroughly in the first book and I think because the first book was so introspective, so focused on her growth as a person rather than external action, the pace of it lagged quite a bit. In contrast, this book is chockful of action. Elliot finds himself having to take part in the Royal Youth Alliance which is just a cover for the actual work the group is doing: retrieving the members of the royal family who have been exiled to the World.
The Cracks in the Kingdom has Moriarty’s signature style of wit interspersed with such clever wisdom that I had to read a passage twice and even thrice to soak it in entirely. I love Moriarty’s turn of phrase and with this novel, she redeemed herself for me. Moriarty’s brilliance is character building; she manages to individuate each character so thoroughly that thinking of them as real people rather than fictional people becomes easy. No stock character tropes such as “love interest” for her, no, Elliot is fully realized as a person with hopes, wishes and flaws. I love the conversations he has with Madeleine and how he expresses his inability to comprehend her at times. Their interactions are a highlight of the novel and even when their relationship goes south, it does so in a believable way. All writers should aspire to write their characters the way Moriarty does because I know I do. The romance such as it is finally starts to unfurl. It is a small aspect of the novel though but a welcome one.
The novel is mainly about relationships between parents and children. The themes of loss are prominent and along the way there is a definite flavour of bildungsroman thrown in for good measure. The Kingdom of Cello is wonderfully created and the new characters introduced in the novel are all, as expected, fascinating. I love the twist at the end of the book; it was unexpected but welcome. The book leaves the reader at a good point: satisfied but wanting more. I recommend this series to you, really. Stop reading about sparkly vampires and give this one a chance. It will ask more from you but it gives more in return. Strongly recommended.