Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

Queen of the Dead (Ghost and the Goth #2)
By: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 1423134672

About the book:

After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - “helping of others” is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she’d like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will’s “friend” or “more” status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona’s most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She’s only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She’s the first ghost-talker Will’s ever met—aside from his father—and she may hold answers to Will’s troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the “clearly not” column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea.

Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.


Two months have passed since former high school "It Girl" -- now "Queen of the Dead" -- Alona Dare was hit by a bus and ended up not quite dead -- well, dead certainly but not gone, left with only other annoying "in-betweener" ghosts for company and Will Killian, social misfit extraordinaire with a gift for speaking to the dead. Bound to Will as his self-proclaimed "spirit guide," the mismatched (but adorable) pair have been working to help the ghosts they encounter settle their final issues with those they've left behind. This constantly stretches Alona's patience for lesser mortals -- *ahem* I mean beings -- but she finds surprising fulfillment in her mission with Will. For his part Will is alternately frustrated and impressed with Alona's work and her character -- clearly he underestimated the girl when she was alive. With the tentative promise of the unlikeliest of cross-dimensional romantic relationships developing between them, the mismatched but oh-so-couple is discovering the relationship life and class denied them in life. But while on a routine job for a new spirit acquaintance, Alona and Will meet a girl who shares Will's ghost-talking ability, and their fragile relationship comes under unexpected fire. The new girl, Mina, causes Will to question everything he thought he knew about his ability, casting doubts on the future of his work and relationship with Alona. Hurt and ticked, Alona risks everything to regain Will's attention and soon discovers that her rash temper and the new ghost talkers threaten not only her relationship with Will but her very existence... 

The debut novel in Kade's Ghost and the Goth series was an unexpected and frankly delightful surprise. Generally speaking paranormals are not my thing, but interject a healthy dose of angst, a heaping tablespoon of snarky humor, and a simmering romance against the odds? I'm so there. I completely feel in love with the characters of Alona and Will and their sarcastic banter, and was thrilled to learn that Kade was continuing their adventures (the third volume, Body and Soul, releases next month) this sophomore effort lacked a bit of the spark that I was hoping for given my thorough enjoyment of its predecessor. In retrospect I should've seen it coming, but what can I say, I was blinded by my book-crush on Will. *wink* Two months into the Will and Alona relationship, Kade uses this opportunity to develop the mythos of their world, delving into Will's family history and expanding on the idea of ghost talkers and their varied belief systems and modus operandi. While this definitely raises the stakes for Will and Alona, I have to be frank -- the creation of some sort of larger mythology just didn't interest me all that much, mainly because it requires that for a full two-thirds of the novel Will and Alona share no - ZERO - page time. I was reminded of my experience with the TV show Being Human (BBC version) -- I adored the first half of season one as it explored the interaction between the three mismatched roommates and their struggles to be "normal." But when the show took its mythology to a larger and darker scale I lost interest. However, someone with a greater interest in paranormals would probably appreciate Kade's world-building more than I, given my admittedly limited experience in this genre.

The lack of Will and Alona page time is, without a doubt, this book's greatest deficit. Their snarky banter, the do-they-or-don't-they like each other, will-they-or-won't-they kiss tension is what makes these stories sing. The opening and concluding chapters to this second outing are noticeably stronger than the middle because that's when we see the two of them together, trading quips, commenting on the action, and -- best of all -- revealing their attraction and need for each other. My personal preference issues with the plot's format aside, Queen of the Dead is every bit the quick read as its predecessor -- at times shaded a bit darker than I would've liked, but every bit the snappily plotted and well-executed page-turner. Her characterizations are superb -- Kade has a real knack for conveying teenage angst and snarkiness on the page. But all is not witty sarcasm -- Alona in particular, the character you'd least expect to feel sympathy towards, grows a lot over the course of this story. And while I feel Will and Alona spent far too much time apart, I will say I was pleasantly surprised by the twist at the novel's climax, leading Alona to sacrifice herself for the sake of another, and just maybe opening the door to a real relationship with Will. With a novel full of shared Will/Alona banter virtually assured by Queen's end, I can't wait for the third book to release. Thanks to its sarcasm-heavy banter and sizzling romantic tension, this series is a memorable and addictive YA offering. Here's hoping the third book does a better job fulfilling the promise of the first.


Rissi said...

Oooh! Cool, book two. ;D

Heidenkind said...

Hm, sounds kind of boring. I'm not sure I would be that interested in mythology, either. There are ghosts, how much more do we need to know? ;P

Unknown said...

@Rissi - Not quite as good as #1, though...

@Tasha - I'm liking #3 much better and I'm only 20% or so in...