I didn’t enjoy Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma Newman’s SPLIT WORLDS series because I didn’t like the characters, felt a little lost in the world, and thought the plot was boring. However, at the end of that novel things started to improve and since I already had the second book, Any Other Name, loaded into my phone (Brilliance Audio sent me review copies), I listened to it.
Any Other Name picks up where the previous book ended (it is absolutely necessary to have read Between Two Thorns). Cathy is trying to adjust to her new (old, really) life as a young woman in the Nether but she doesn’t really fit in because she’s not interested in all the old-fashioned female activities she’s supposed to be doing. She wants to get back to Mundanis where she can finish her schooling and become a lawyer who advocates for oppressed people. Escape is on her mind, but her family is determined to marry her off. Meanwhile, Max the Arbiter and his gargoyle sidekick are trying to figure out what the Agency is up to and Sam, the Mundane, is having marital problems that may be connected with goings-on in the Nether.
Any Other Name is an improvement in almost all ways. Newman seems more confident — her story flows more naturally, the writing is better, and even some humor is present. The world is starting to make more sense, though that may be because we’ve been in it for twice as many pages and not that it’s actually related more effectively. Either way, I felt more comfortable in Newman’s world this time.
The characters are also becoming more interesting as we build up some history with them, though characterization is still a problem area. For example, Cathy is determined to get away from the Nether and get an education so she can help people, yet very little else of her thoughts or behavior seems so noble. It’s hard to believe that her intentions are any better than that she just wants to selfishly do her own thing. If she was truly motivated by love for other people, she would think differently and would treat the people she knows better. At this point in the series it’s hard to like (or even believe in) the heroine of the story, but perhaps Emma Newman has plans to develop her significantly in the next volume. If so, I think it’s likely that Will, the rogue she has to marry, will be the person who has the most beneficial influence on her. That would be pleasantly ironic.
Emma Newman is doing a great job with the narration of the audiobook version of the SPLIT WORLDS series. If Brilliance Audio sends me book three, All is Fair, I will read it. I hope that the improvement will continue.
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