*Warning: there are some spoilers in this review*
The Deck of Omens picks up where The Devouring Gray left us. Lives have been changed forever and the small town of Four Paths has been rocked by a waterfall of revelations. The Founders and their kin don’t have a moment to gather their thoughts as a new danger seems to be seeping from the Gray into their world and it is infectious. The five Founder teens must put aside their differences and emotions to work together in solving this new supernatural mystery.
Christine Lynn Herman has given the town of Four Paths a slightly different feel in this sequel. Where in the first book it felt very much to me like a place that we needed to get to know, in The Deck of Omens the reader can’t help but see past the gentle autumn foliage and glimpse a town that is rotten. Some of my favourite moments in this book came from the continued bond between Harper Carlisle and Violet Saunders. The latter of which does the classic “post coming out” cliché move of dying their hair a wild colour. A nice realistic and relatable touch. We can see them working through their personal problems as well as the town’s problems in their close, intimate chats. They give the book a nice strength that feels like not only the characters but the readers have something to keep them steady as the plot evolves.
I loved Isaac Sullivan’s character arc. His constant inner turmoil had me rooting for him to find some sort of inner peace. It was great to learn more about the enigma of the Sullivan family. I could have read multiple tombs of what Isaac, his brother Gabriel and Violet found in the archive and the vaults. Their discoveries gave the series a new layer of depth. His developing relationship with Violet was handled in a way that felt very tender. However, I did have a few moments where I was worried that Violet might be attracted to Isaac because of how broken he is. As if she wants to glue him back together like some sort of smashed urn.
Another couple that we watch progress is Justin and Harper. Christine Lynn Herman does something wonderful in regards to Justin Hawthorne in this book. In The Devouring Gray, he was very much one of the main players. However, he eventually falls from grace as the town finds out that he doesn’t actually have any of the Founder’s powers. In The Deck of Omens, Justin is shunned by the town and is no longer one of the popular kids in town. Now, what Christine Lynn Herman does in this novel is that when Justin is part of the plot he never gets to hold the spotlight for too long. She makes him feel like a side character to the storylines that develop around him. His sister, May, has her own storyline with their father to occupy her. Harper is struggling to control her new found power. Violet seem to consider him only really on his birthday or when advising Harper. In Isaac’s tale he is barely a footnote yet, the four all have moments where they recognise his worth to them. It is very cleverly done.
Harper’s storyline is messy and emotional. She wants to be with her family but cannot forget the way her father betrayed her in The Devouring Gray. She keeps away from her siblings and mother by living with Violet’s family to keep them and herself safe. It is something that she is always struggling with. She spends a lot of time trying to decipher what is in her heart when it comes to Justin and she is desperate to control her new powers like the other Founder children can but it seems like it is something just out of her grasp. Harper seems to be the personification of a “Tug ’O War” and the only thing she is sure of is that she can weld a sword like a master.
May Hawthorne’s storyline is absolutely mind twisting. For so much of this book I couldn’t decide whether I sympathised with her or I absolutely hated her. She is complete consumed by jealousy despite her brother’s turn of fortune but she is still being overlooked by her mother. She finds comfort in her father’s return but she still appears to be out to hurt someone, anyone just for spite. There are moments when she feels like she is entirely consumed in the pursuit of power and her quest seems to be making a fool of her. I did have moments where I genuinely wondered if the ‘Big Bad’ is this book was going to turn out to be May, right up until the very end.
Overall, this book was a joy. The way that the Gray is described and the monstrous plant that grows from it as it seeps in the town of two path is just fantastic. Christine Lynn Herman did ramp up the YA romance elements which made their presence felt without overwhelming the plot. I get that I am not the target audience for this book but I still really enjoyed the sci-fi romp that I experienced. If you have read The Devouring Gray then you need to read this and if you love YA fantasy/sci-fi then you need to read both books.