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Hindsight is 20/20

The characters in Burning Kingdoms, the second book in Lauren DeStefano’s Internment Chronicles, find themselves stuck between two worlds—and neither are all they’re cracked up to be.

Hindsight is 20/20

BOOK REPORT for Burning Kingdoms (The Internment Chronicles #2) by Lauren DeStefano

Cover Story: Modern Art
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Alternate History
Bonus Factor: Magical Creatures
Anti-Bonus Factors: Bridge Book Blues
Relationship Status: Everyone Has an Off Day

Danger, Will Robinson! Burning Kingdoms is the second book in the Internment Chronicles. If you have not read the first book—Perfect Ruin—turn away now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. If you have read the first book, however, feel free to continue below. I will refrain from major spoilers in my review, but there might be hints at plot points and details about the story.

Cover Story: Modern Art

This cover really appeals to me. It’s different than most YA covers, and mixes photography with digital art. The shattered bust is a moving image, and the way it’s broken near the woman’s eyes gives the whole thing a sadness that fits well with the general feel of the book.

The Deal:

After escaping through the bottom of the “magical floating island” of Internment, Morgan and her fellow fugitives are given refuge in the home of a politician and his five children. Not only does it boggle the minds of those from Internment that people are allowed to have as many children as they want, but also the group is amazed to learn about things such as moving pictures, carnivorous eating habits and thunderstorms. Unfortunately, they also learn about less pleasant things such as war, bombings and the questionable moral practices of leaders who will do anything to make themselves look good in the eyes of their people.

BFF Charm: Maybe

Morgan is a difficult nut to crack, even though Burning Kingdoms is told from her point of view. I’ve now read two books from her perspective, but I feel like I know (and like) other characters more, thanks to seeing them through her eyes. Even when we hear her thoughts, she never quite bucks the narrator mantle. I would like to know her better.

Also, I constantly forget that her name is Morgan, and it takes me a minute to remember who another character's talking about when they mention her name. The lack of stand-out personality might be partly to blame?

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Morgan’s not a touchy-feely girl. She’s betrothed to Basil—and has been since birth—but their relationship is built on the fact that they’ve known each other forever, and grown to rely on each other, rather than any real spark. There’s a bit of love triangle action that continues from Perfect Ruin into Burning Kingdoms, but Morgan follows her head rather than her heart, and so any swoon that she might feel is immediately covered by her thoughts of “what’s right/expected.”

Talky Talk: Alternate History

Breaking Kingdoms verges from the feel of dystopia I got from Perfect Ruin, and into alternate universe/magical realism/fantasy territory. It’s apparent, after the group reaches the ground, that this isn’t a world that is familiar to readers. But certain things are similar, and the world-building feels very 1930s, pre WWI. Lauren DeStefano does a great job of setting a scene, but I wish more had happened in this book, action-wise.

Bonus Factor: Magical Creatures

I touched on this a little in Talky Talk above, but it quickly becomes apparent that Morgan and her friends didn’t land on a ground that we, the readers, know. Case in point: Creatures like mermaids actually exist. Additionally, DeStefano also describes giant, elephant-like creatures called Elegors who can carry five or more people in carts on their backs. Her descriptions of these animals has a very Philip Pullman/His Dark Materials vibe.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Bridge Book Blues

It can be a struggle to create action for multiple books, I get that. But it’s hard to get into a book that just meanders from start to finish, with only a tiny bit of plot-moving action thrown in.

Casting Call:

I cast Morgan, Basil and Pen in my review of the first book, and I’ll add:

Rhys Ward as Judas

Ki Hong Lee as Thomas

Relationship Status: Everyone Has an Off Day

I do enjoy escaping into your world, Book, even when your stories are so-so rather than action-packed. I think we can definitely be friends, and hang out occasionally, but I don’t see this going much farther than that.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Simon & Schuster. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Burning Kingdoms is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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