June 4, 2012

Review: Vanish by Sophie Jordan

Vanish by Sophie Jordan
Published: 2011 by HarperTeen
Series: Firelight, #2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Library book
Contains spoilers for Firelight.

It’s with these words that I know what my life would be like if I stayed here. It wouldn’t be a bad life. Cassian would always be my friend, would always have my back, and he would help me regain acceptance among the pride. And I eventually would – if I could do my part...
If I could pretend I wasn’t miserable inside. It’s all up to me.

Based on some other reviews I've read, perhaps I'm in the minority when I state that Vanish provided one of those rare instances for me where I was glad to continue with a series after finding the first book to be less-than-spectacular. Vanish answered a few of the questions I had after reading the first book and featured some strong worldbuilding and character development. 

Sophie Jordan’s Vanish continues right where Firelight ended. By manifesting into her draki form to save Will’s life, Jacinda broke the most sacred tenet of the draki – revealing the secret of the draki in front of hunters, no less. And so once again Jacinda, Tamra, and their mother find themselves on the run. But this time, they’re going back to their pride. They need the protection the pride can provide, but after all the events that happened since they left the pride over a month ago, life in the pride can never be the same for any of them. 

I enjoyed how this book focuses in particular on life in the draki pride. One of my complaints about the first book was that I was unaware of what life inside the pride was like, so I had no basis of comparison for how Jacinda’s life changed when her mother moved the family to the desert town of Chaparral. Since Vanish takes place within the confines of the pride, Jordan is able to provide an in-depth look at the inner workings of the pride and what normal life is like for the draki. It was also really cool to find out about all the different types of draki. 

I loved how Tamra became a much more present and important character in this book. She's no longer the new girl striving to be popular in high school, but is able to become more secure in herself and her abilities, which was nice. In some ways, I wish that the narrative voice could have changed from Jacinda to Tamra. Given her evolution in the second book, it would have been interesting to see her perspective on things. But, regardless of that, I really enjoyed seeing the dynamic that is provided between the twins change as they form a stronger relationship.

The characters in general became more developed over the course of the second book. I began to feel a little more sympathetic for the mother – whom I derided most thoroughly in my review of Firelight. But back in the pride, I can understand the mother and her motivations just a bit more. I also liked learning more about Cassian, who, it turns out, is actually a relatively decent guy. And getting to read about Severin and the elders in some scenes greatly helped my understanding of the pride and pride dynamics.

I complained about the romantic relationship in my review of Firelight, so I would remiss if I didn't point out that a large portion of the second book focuses on love issues; indeed, it is Jacinda's outward denial of her affections that seem to propel this book forward. Will or Cassian? A hunter or a draki? Does this sound a little Twilight again to you, as it did for me? Cassian represents a return to the life she's always liked, more or less. He's safe. He's reliable. He's a good person who seems to actually care about her for more reasons than her status as fire-breather. Will, on the other hand, represents a life of uncertainty. He also is a human and a hunter. But he's the one who "saved" Jacinda physically and emotionally in the first book.

I think I get the love dilemma warring inside of Jacinda. It's part of a much larger conflict, one where Jacinda is questioning everything she deemed important to her life. She goes back to having everything she wanted, only to find out that she no longer wants it. Besides the love triangle dilemma (which shouldn’t really be so much of a dilemma), she realizes that her many acts of rebellion have affected her image in the pride. She’s no longer quite the darling that she once was. I don’t think it would have been possible for Jacinda to have been more depressed than she was in the first book before she met Will, but in this book she’s definitely whinier. Things are not going the way she wants them to, but she still does not always put forth the effort needed on her part to bring about change.

Despite my understanding, I won't pretend that the love triangle is not frustrating to read. Jacinda really does have her mind made up, yet her insecurities cause her to make bad decisions and put both guys through loops and hurdles they do not deserve. Plus we're never given a definitive reason as to why either guy really likes Jacinda. I will admit that as the protagonist Jacinda became a little grating on my nerves for this book. I mean, there's this fantastic subplot involving Tamra. But whenever Jacinda does focus on Tamra, it seems to be as more of a secondary byproduct of the love triangle. 

This book was not flawless, but I think it is an improvement over the first and I look forward to reading Hidden later this year.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

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