I usually try to wait a day or so after finishing a book before I start writing a review. I like to let it sink in and process a bit before I start forming distinct opinions.
This one couldn't wait.
I always approach second books in a series with a healthy amount of trepidation. Remember Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest? That's why. It's easy to stall out, delay action and use the second book as a bridge to the third book and it's conclusion. Relationships stagnate and there is usually little to no character development.
Apprentice is not like that at all. Every single one of the characters grows. It's a flipping miracle. Rachel Carter has broken the trend and written a solid and praiseworthy second book.
Ryiah has been chosen as the 16th apprentice in a tradition that only chooses 15. The target is on her back to perform and live up to the high expectations of the country and the Black Mage himself. She is tangled in a love triangle that she neither wanted, nor expected. Ryiah also has a jackass for a Master who uses every opportunity available to belittle her. But Ryiah, while she is not made of stone and immune to all of the hatred and pettiness of Master Byron, she learns to accept it and learn from it.
"I'm not that pitiful little girl you bullied last year."Ryiah is a strong young woman that we can look up to and say "I want to be like her." She learns how to control her magic and becomes one of the best in her year through sheer determination. Comparing to where she was at the beginning of the first book to the end of this one, I could hardly recognize her. Granted, 4 years had passed, but it was astronomical.
But the author didn't just develop one character. Alex, once a terrific flirt, learns that he must change to be better for the woman he loves. Ella shows just how good of a friend she is to both Ryiah and Alex. Everybody deserves a friend like Ella who isn't scared to tell you when you are being irrational or reckless but support and defend you nonetheless.
Ian was the perfect foil to Darren. Where Darren is cold and aloof, Ian is more than willing to display his affection. They are such different characters but the way that they are written shows you how very in love with Ryiah they are. They show off for her and fight for her. Their jealousy over each other is wonderfully played out throughout the book. This is how boys act. It's all posturing and beating their chests.
"“I know exactly who you are.” I took a step forward, and another, until I was standing right in front of him. Then my words turned to ice. “You are the selfish, spineless son of a king who is too afraid to be his own man. You would rather hide behind your status than fight for something that could actually mean something.” There, that felt good. “And it’s a shame, really it is, because, according to you, I was the one true friend you had."I may get slaughtered for saying this, but throughout this book, Darren reminded me of Jericho Barrons. Granted, a younger and much more carefree one, but he was definitely growing up into the strong, silent, menacing type that has everything under control except his own feelings. Some of the action he takes in the book shows that he has a dominant personality that clashes wonderfully with those around him. He acts selfishly outwardly but I never had any doubt of his goodness. It's a case of trying to be the anti-hero while endearing himself to the reader.
In this book, we get to see battles and world building. I still wish that there was a map included but it felt like this story line inhabited a world with depth and history. It's not just about learning magic. It's about fighting a war and surviving it. We learn more about politics of the country and how the other mages work. There is beautiful prose and the danger becomes very real.
I've figured out why I like these books so much. There's a lot going on for them that are wonderful but I've finally got the reason why this sticks with me so much.
Throughout these books, Ryiah and Ella are never criticized (by someone that matters) for being ambitious and determined women eager to earn their place as mages.
Do you realize how rare that is? Besides Master Byron, nobody ever says that Ryiah or Ella do not deserve to be there because they are women and everybody recognizes that Byron is wrong. They are eager to be judged based on their own merit and do not want to be coddled in any way. I love that. I connect with that and it is my ardent hope that more authors do this. I'm sick and tired of finding books where the girl throws everything away for a guy. That doesn't happen here and that's the reason I am so much of a fan of this series.
Can't wait for the next one!