Megan O’Keefe keeps the pressure up in the second book of her Devoured Worlds trilogy The Fractured Dark. Following a few months on from The Blighted Stars, O’Keefe picks up the action with an explosion, a broadcast and a new overarching mission for her protagonists, the resolution of which will drive the rest of the action of the book. This is a second book – knowledge of the action and revelations of the first book are absolutely essential to understanding this one. That includes the uses of the mineral relkatite, the ability to transfer consciousness and reprint bodies, and the consequence of two bodies being printed at the same time with the same consciousness. Also as a result, this review may contain minor spoilers for that first book.
The Fractured Dark is once again anchored around the relationship between rebel Naira and Tarquin, heir to one of the five ruling families. Despite not having memories of her previous adventures with Tarquin, Naira still feels drawn to him. And while their relationship rekindles, it is then tested over and over again – this is one of the factors that ups the level of difficulty of their respective missions by making them vulnerable. Naira and Tarquin are facing off against the shadowy force trying to take control of humanity but also trying to track down the ship on which Tarquin’s father has fled and reforming the broken, hierarchical system that Tarquin is heir to.
The Fractured Dark is a very different beast narratively to The Blighted Stars. While the first book was essentially contained for the most part on one planet and was mainly a survival and discovery story, this one broadens out O’Keefe’s universe significantly and sets the stakes for the final volume. The challenges are different, and new revelations, including more backstory for Naira, build on what has come before.
Once again, O’Keefe effortlessly delivers fast paced, action packed, page turning space opera set in a complex and fascinating universe. And while it sometimes feels O’Keefe has just wound her premise up to see where it will go, the well placed twists and reveals show that she has complete control over the plot and pacing. And while the constant see-sawing and travails of Naira and Tarqin can get a little wearying there is often not too much time to think about it.
The Blighted Stars ended in a dark place and things seemed a little hopeless for the central characters. The Fractured Dark opens optimistically and gives the characters somewhere to go. While this volume still ends with plenty of threads unresolved and a huge challenge that still seems insurmountable, O’Keefe leaves a glimmer of hope for her characters (and humanity) for a final volume in this series which cannot come soon enough.