Where book 1 feels slow and has much talking and introspection, book 2 is quite a different species. After an initial scuffle there is a bit of a lull, but around 40-something percent the pace picks up and doesn't let up again. The last part of the book actually feels more like a Terminator movie or something with Will Smith and a bunch of explosions. Kablooie!
So, expecting the standard book 2 out of 4 of your regular fantasy series, I was not prepared for the rapid pace, the deaths (good and bad) and the grand finale. I was pretty much reeling from the time of Umeia's betrayal until the end. Among the victims, btw, were a good number of my assumptions of how this story would go, not to mention a bunch of fantasy stereotypes that have taken up permanent residence in my head. This, of course, pleased me. I am not often surprised by twists in fantasy story lines.
As for the characters: these books have a great cast. Malick was my favorite in this one, and Shig. Oh, and Husao. Fen spent most of his time in this book either physically hurt, grieving, teetering on the brink of sanity or in shock (and usually most of these at the same time), so unless you're into Amy-Lane-level angst (seriously, it wasn't THAT bad, I didn't roll my eyes once), his chapters aren't the most riveting.
Now, these books are published by Dreamspinner. If you are a regular reader of their books, you are not going to find here what you expect. I would not call this romance at all. There is a tiny bit of sex, pretty much non-explicit, but especially that emotional connection you're looking for between the MCs? Not there. Al least, not yet. (On the upside, the editing is good! Barely a typo in sight) So now that you've been warned, I don't want to see no bitching about how this book sucks because the MCs aren't fucking like rabbits. This book is more Stalking Darkness than Crescendo.
And for those of you waiting for all 4 books to be out before you start: These two books have a complete story arc and everything (everything?) gets resolved. No cliffies and you could stop reading the series after this book, no problem. Not that you'd want to. At least, not me. I'll be moping in my corner, all forlorn, until book 3 comes out.