After having absolutely loved the opening salvo Three in the Legends of the Duskwalkers series by Jay Posey, I had my hopes sky-rocketing for the second book, Morningside Fall.
Truths be told, after having set such a high-bar with the testosterone-filled opening featuring one of the most enigmatic heroes and having masterfully built up a suspenseful post-apocalyptic world with its own set of twists and horrors – It was always going to be a really tough deal for Jay. To surpass the stratospheric expectations. Three was a surprise debut for me last year. Delightful and punchy.
Alas. Morningside Fall is a weak addition to the series. It's not really a series bridger - in the sense, we still are in the dark about the Legend of the Duskwalkers. I would like to place my bets on certain aspects, sure but things are still clouded and hazy. The dust hasn't settled yet and we await the conclusion to this series – that still retains its originality and brilliance.
Jay – who writes screenplay for games for a living – brings about his vast experience of the wonderfully weird in having invented this post-apocalyptic world – chocked up with creatures like the Weir (An electronic zombie of sorts?), people whose souls can be loaded up into a central system, who can “pim” others over long-distance and the armory – mouthwateringly delicious inventions for those inclined in that direction. Who appreciate the guns and weapons.
All this ain’t new. We are introduced to all this and more in the series opener – along with the enigmatic mysterious hero, Three who becomes the reluctant savior to Cass and Wren. But sadly for us, Three dies at the end of book one and we have contend with an entirely different set of “heroes” in book two.
As the name suggests, the book chronicles the downfall of the great city of Morningside – where Wren and Cass had taken refuge in and Wren, being the son of the previous governor Underdown, becomes the natural choice for taking over the reins of administration. Too young a shoulder to bear this burden, Wren is obviously under a lot of duress. In spite of a bevy of councilors to advise him and guide him. Including his mom – Cass – who is the first of the Awakened. Brought back to her humanity by Wren’s powers. The city though is a cesspool of milling conspiracies – the shadow games for power get under away – ultimately forcing Wren and his mother out into the wilds for a second time. This time without Three to look out for them. But with them are a completely new set of trained militia unit, completely loyal to a fault for protection.
The action unlike book one, takes time to build out. The initial parts of Morningside Fall is set within the walls of the great city – where Jay builds out the suspense and gives time for the power-play conspiracies to play out. And more importantly, introducing new characters into the milieu. Chief among them being Painter – another of the Awakened beings, torn by the fact that his own sister rejected him when he came back from the folds of the Weir and now is slowly nursing a hatred towards the section of city that hate the Awakened. The militia team is a motley mix of experienced soldiers – professional and all duty personified. Gamble, the de-facto leader along with Sky – the scout, Able – the mute but extremely loyal and efficient bodyguard to Wren, Mouse – the team doctor are some that stood out but they ultimately are pale caricatures of stereotypes we’ve encountered before. The only enigmatic character who would have been interesting is this blind old man with his own set of mysterious agenda armed with a wicked set of blades ( the bad-ass on the gorgeous cover!) who calls himself “Justice”. Sadly he gets pigeon-holed into becoming yet another soldier for Wren’s cause of justice. The characters introduced are many but none of them get enough justice to stand out.
Jay’s writing is confident and measured and the pacing of the book is flawless. Slowly building up the tension and escalating into explosive action sequences through the latter half of the book. I have no qualms about the same but the plot by itself, was underwhelming. Sure – there are revelatory moments of surprise through the book that really hit you between the eyes. I am not letting them out here. But ultimately all of this doesn’t make up for the fact that Jay has restricted the scope of this book two to the downfall of Morningside. The tone of this book is completely different from that of Three. I was seriously hoping there would be larger hints of around the duskwalkers perhaps and the world-building would get a boost. Sadly the action is restricted to the areas we know and there weren’t too many new things added to the narrative.
It's not secret - I found Wren exhausting and annoying in the first book – and that fellow now is the “hero” of the book. * groans * But by the time I finished the book, I realized he is much better in this book. But I cannot get adjusted to the fact that an eight-year old has to play savior to the rest. He is destined for greatness but he is still young – and all the uncertainties and vulnerabilities of a youngster comes to fore many a times. And his choice of actions that determine the end of this book smacks of the inexperience and foolhardy unthinking bravado of youth.
I have to say, that am ultimately a bit disappointed by this book and I really hope Jay does a turn-around in the series ending to redeem himself. But the series still remains one of my favorites for the sheer scope of originality and the hard-hitting game-like action sequences peppered throughout. Looking forward to the ending now.