After being somewhat disappointed with the first book in the series, I found myself liking the second one much more. Particularly towards the end of the novel.
Spoilers for the first book.
Picking up shortly after the first one left off, Meira is now Queen of Winter, and the Winterians are trying to pull themselves back together, but overshadowed by the huge debt they owe to Cordell and jackass King Noam who has a specific request - to find the chasm where Magic was sealed. Meira's not so convinced this is such a good idea. Theron has an idea for diplomatic peace between nations. Meira is struggling with the switch from orphan soldier girl to queen, having to put Winter and its people above her own needs. Also dealing with politics and the fact Mather is not there anymore and is now just a regular Lord and not the Prince. Mather is struggling with this change as well.
There's a great deal of character development in this instalment, particularly with Meira and Mather. While I don't really care much about the romance angle, I found it quite interesting to see the shift in power and how they were coping with their new roles. Meira's character grew tremendously throughout the book. There was some more world building as well.
A good deal of the plot involves Meira searching for specific items revolving around the magic chasm plot in all the different Rhythms and Kingdoms outside of Winter. It's really quite interesting seeing how each different one operates. Though the worst is clearly Summer, who deal in pleasure and hedonism, and not much thought for much else. The worst bit is Summer buy and sell people as slaves and make deals with other nations for this and steal slaves if they don't get their own way. Though my favourite new character, Princess Ceridwen of Summer, a spunky snarky spitfire of a princess was pretty damn awesome. She's intelligent and opposed greatly to the way her brother the King runs Summer. She has some secrets of her own.
Other kingdoms operate in different ways, as Meira searches for what she needs, she has to cope as well with the knowledge of how the world outside Winter works. Makes for some interesting reading. And also makes me say thank fuck for maps in fantasy novels. The map in front helped a great deal of getting some perspective on where everything in this fantasy world was and helped for a great sense of place. Though I did the middle of the novel very very slow indeed. It was getting to the point of thinking - a nearly 500 page book and NOTHING is happening. As interesting as the character development and the political side of things were - it needed something else.
Then at the end there's a few terrible plot twists and a big rush of action. In spite of a slow middle, I definitely liked this second book a lot, especially Meira. While not my favourite fantasy series, it's improving with each book and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how it concludes.