The Captive is the second book in the Secret Circle trilogy by L.J. Smith. In this book Faye tightens her hold around Cassie, blackmailing her over her love for Adam and forcing her to betray Diana. At the same time the Circle learns that a dark power is on the loose and killing, and Cassie begins to suspect that the crystal skull recovered from Black John’s articles is behind the deaths.
L.J. Smith has written a number of trilogies in the YA paranormal arena, and excels at the format. The middle book of her trilogies draws upon and builds the characters introduced in the first novel, while laying the groundwork for the main thrust of the plot that will be delivered in the final book. There is little overall resolution to any of the plotlines in The Captive. In fact, it ends on something of a cliffhanger, so you might like to have the third book to hand prior to starting, or else risk frustration at wanting to know what happens!
Here, we see Cassie grow and develop as a character. She begins to use her power more, and interact with all the members of the Secret Circle — which, in turn, brings some characters to the fore who were merely brush-stroked in the first book. For instance, we get to know Deborah better and are able to relate to her more.
The reason I like The Captive — and indeed, the whole Secret Circle trilogy — is that the writing is simple yet flowing. It is very easy to read; I swept through it in a single sitting. The main strength in the writing, as pointed out with the first book, is the excellent characterisation. You want to read about these characters; you care about what happens to them.
One negative point for me is that the magic is very simplistic — candles, crystals, herbs, that sort of thing. There is no real evidence of the innate magic that these teenagers are supposed to have within them, and suspension of disbelief is a little hard.
Regardless, the whole trilogy is worth picking up, if only to see how paranormal fantasy for young adults should be written! Recommended for anyone who is currently enjoying the explosion of fiction in the YA arena on the back of the Twilight craze.