By the way, there are some minor spoilers ahead for those who haven't read Book 1.
It's been a quiet summer for Atticus Higginbottom (Tick), Paul, and Sofia, but the latest message from Master George changes everything. The Realities are in danger... and from something more terrible than Mistress Jane and the mutated Chi'karda of the Thirteenth Reality. People from all Realities are unexplainably going insane. Worse, some Realities are fragmenting, disintegrating into nothingness. Master George has learned that Mr. Chu from the Fourth Reality is working on a mysterious new weapon called Dark Infinity. But no one has any idea how to stop the weapon or even if it can be stopped. To make matters worse, Tick and his friends have been kidnapped, forced to wink from Reality to Reality, solving impossible riddles in order to survive the deadly traps surrounding them. Mistress Jane and Tick find themselves in a race to reach the weapon first but who will destroy it-- and who will become its master?
I'm going to keep this as short as possible, but I'll say this: The 13th Reality-- The Hunt for Dark Infinity is one of the best sequels I've read recently, right up there with the newest Erec Rex book. The plot keeps you on your toes, and this was something I'll have to admit I was worried about. With all of the possibilities The Journal of Curious Letters opened, it was impossible to see where Dashner would go next. The answer: up. Up in quality even from Book 1 (which I loved). Up in scope. Up in tension. Up in character development-- but don't get scared off by that. The first book was dependant on clues and riddles, which culminated in the reveal of no less than twelve variations of our world to explore. But a lot of what kept the pages turning in the past had been that air of mystery which was now more or less gone. How was Dashner to top his previous installment, keeping things fresh?
The answer: there are still more riddles, and the Realities themselves are sort of like puzzles for Tick and Co. to solve. Tension is really great here, and the new characters who are introduced are a lot of fun.
And James Dashner was daring to try something a lot of fantasy books overlook and which impressed me to no end. He developed the villains. He did a good job of it, too. Mistress Jane is no longer just an eccentric evildoer. Now she's a fleshed-out character, who does everything she does for what she thinks is... well, I won't spoil those details for you. And I won't tell you about the really horrible things that happen to Tick, especially when he... In the immortal words of the late Robert Jordan, Read And Find Out.
If you're still holding out on this series because it's in hardcover, I urge you to reconsider. It's more than worth the price, for I think these are the sort of books you might find yoursef wanting to give to your children to read. And they do look quite pretty on your bookshelf, as all Shadow Mountain publications do. I can't wait for Book 3-- The Blade of Shattered Hope. Is it just me, or do these titles get darker and darker as they go?
My rating (a really rare one for the second book in a series): 10/10
Coming Soon: Green and... drumroll, please... Catching Fire.