The short version of my thoughts on 'Thorn Queen' is easy: Now this is more like it!
Richelle Mead's biggest strength as a writer is in creating fun, engaging characters that grow and change over time. She does it well with Rose and Lissa in the Vampire Academy series and even better with Georgina Kincaid, Seattle's most interesting succubus. These stories stand out from the crowd in the world of urban fantasy fiction because of the well-drawn characters and the changes they go through.
So when I was disappointed in 'Storm Born,' Mead's first Dark Swan book, I honestly should have known better than to doubt her. I finished that book with just enough curiosity to continue on with the second book, and hope that the characters could grow beyond their limitations. In the second book, 'Thorn Queen,' Mead delivers.
It's refreshing to see a character develop like Eugenie Markham has here. In the first book she struck me as shallow and honestly not very interesting, very much like Anita Blake or any number of other stereotypical urban fantasy heroines who can't stop navel-gazing long enough to see what they're doing. But she had potential, and in Richelle Mead's hands that potential is realized. Rather than diving deeper into the mundane and expected, in 'Thorn Queen' Eugenie learns about the aftermath of her big battle from 'Storm Born' and begins to recognize and come to terms with her new role. Though she tries to avoid it, her basic nature demands more of her than she really wants to give. Eugenie remains a tough girl overall, and she grows further into her inherited power, but she also shows some surprisingly vulnerable sides here.
Mead still needs to work on setting. I've been to Tucson and Eugenie's home still doesn't feel like Tucson. What she describes could be any reasonably-sized city in Arizona, or New Mexico, or maybe southern California. The Otherworld still feels fuller and richer (which may be the point), but Mead's Tucson lacks a sense of place. I know she can do it (her Seattle is well-established from the first succubus book), but it's not showing here.
The story developments are interesting and many are unexpected, taking the story places I really didn't think it would go. Surprising new events reveal more dimension for her, and for others. Her relationships develop as well and by the end of the book she makes a smart move that I've been hoping for since the first book, again defying expectation and stereotype.
And near the end, the surprising happened - I found myself cheering on one character as he does exactly what he should have. Simply put, it was awesome, and the ending of 'Thorn Queen' left me anxious for the third book.
And I come back to where I started - real character development, real story progression, unexpected twists... Now this is more like it!
Thorn Queen (Dark Swan Series #2) I am not going into details so I won’t spoil the ending of Storm Queen, but the follow-up I think surpassed the first novel. There was a lot of inner struggling with Eugenie, which was frustrating. I wanted to just shake her and say…”c’mon I’d kill for this to happen to me, stop whining!” But her struggles are what make her and they shape her into the character she becomes. This book was much darker … more
"Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she's also become queen of the Thorn Land. It's hardly an enviable life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one--except Eugenie--seems willing to find out why. Eugenie has spilled plenty of fey blood in her time, but this enemy is shrewd, subtle, and nursing a very personal grudge. And the men in her life aren't making things any easier. Her boyfriend Kiyo is preoccupied with his pregnant ex, and sexy fey king Dorian always poses a dangerous distraction. With or without their help, Eugenie must venture deep into the Otherworld and trust in an unpredictable power she can barely control. Reluctant queen or not, Eugenie has sworn to do her duty--even if it means facing the darkest--and deadliest--side of her nature..."--P.  of cover.